October 22, 2011 Saturday, Howell Retreat

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron, and I greet you in light and in love. You are beings of light. That does not mean there's no darkness within you, but your essence is light, and you have come into the incarnation to learn better how to live that light in the world.

You come into the body of a mammal. It's a deeply conditioned life form. In some incarnations, perhaps you were an animal like a horse, which, if a fly bites his back, will flick his tail to remove the fly. He's not concerned about whether or not he kills the fly. He acts instinctively to remove the irritation. I have not experienced this personally but I'm told by scientist friends that if you look at a tiny microorganism under a microscope and move the point of a needle toward it, it will withdraw, pull back. It is deeply conditioned to protect itself.

To protect oneself by withdrawal or by attack, whichever is most appropriate, is deeply conditioned. You have eons of that conditioning. We don't think of the horse as having free will to flick off the fly or not flick off the fly. This is simply what the horse does. A she-wolf will protect her cubs fiercely. This is what the wolf does.

So here you are, born into this human body, this precious human form, with something new added to the mammalian instincts. You have free will, and an enormous capacity of mind and of heart. That means you have the ability to choose rather than simply to act instinctively. When the fly bites you, you can slap it and kill it. You can brush it off, or you can let it bite. I'm not saying you should let it bite you; the point here is simply you have a free will choice, to flow with the eons of conditioning or to make a different choice that is not just in service to the self but service to all beings, with awareness of the needs of all beings and compassion for that hungry fly. It's compassionate to brush it off and say, “No, you may not eat me. Go eat elsewhere.” Perhaps you don't have to kill it.

The movement to kill comes from a deep self-protective mammalian instinct and conditioning. Often by the time you reach human form there's anger involved, even hatred of anything that would assail you.

To quote the Buddha, “Hatred never resolves hatred. Only love will resolve hatred.” This is what you have the opportunity to learn in a human incarnation: how to love even when you are pushed into a corner, and seemingly attacked. How do you hold a space of love? And does love mean you let the enemy kill you? No. It's not kind to let somebody kill you. He or she finds a lot of unwholesome karma in killing you. It's kind to say no. But what says no, fear and hatred, or kindness?

So much of your human experiences are about learning how to respond with kindness, even when something is seemingly attacking you, disturbing you or creating discomfort. Herein is the expression of free will. In the manifestation of that free will is the bringing forth of light, of your true inner light, which has the capacity literally to shift the whole world. There's a song somewhere out there, “If everyone lit just one little candle...” Each of you is that candle hidden in the dark. Are you going to light it? Or are you going to keep it dimmed? It's your choice. It is so easy to go with the habits of thousands of years and keep the light dimmed. To shine your light forth requires real effort and presence, because everything in your history is saying, “Close it up!”

You come into the human experience with habitual patterns of thousands of years, as humans and all that you were before you were human. There is, for each of you, a lifetime of awakening. This is not necessarily the final awakening, the final liberation, but it is an awakening of awareness of your human capacity for choice. You may choose for the highest good of all beings or only for the self. You may choose from the perspective of anger, hatred, and oppression, or from the perspective of loving-kindness. The force of habit is strong. It takes a lot of work to overcome those habits of fear, greed and self-centeredness. First comes the awakening into choice, and only then, the development of more loving choice.

We do an exercise sometimes where we have people move into pairs. One person pushes. The other person sits with eyes closed, experiencing that push, experiencing the contraction that arises when you are pushed. Tension, tension. And aware, just because this object of contraction, of tension, of discomfort, has arisen does not mean you must act it out. What do you do when the world pushes at you and creates discomfort? Can you go against eons of conditioning and choose kindness?

So the awakening is about the awakening into the truth that you do have free will, that you do have choice, and no matter how strong the conditioning is, to pull back or to surge forth and attack, you do not have to do that. You are an awake, radiant, divine being, and the free will choice to manifest and transmit light is always there.

Barbara was reading an interesting book last week, a work of fiction but very beautifully written as though it were a true story and based on true stories. An interesting title, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It's fiction, but the story is real, of people on the Isle of Guernsey off the coast of England during World War II, and the German occupation there. It tells how certain individuals related to that occupation with hatred and fear and some with the ability to say no  with compassion. I'm not saying without fear, but not to become slaves of that hatred. It tells how some of them were able to save others' lives. How people in concentration camps were able to save others' lives by holding the enemy in their hearts as well as their comrades in the camp, and not being swept away by hatred.

There are stories that come out of those years, not just in this book but in other places, about the power of love to choose for the highest good, and the transformative power of love. Fortunately, you are not living in the time and place when you are likely to be imprisoned in concentration camps. But there is constantly “the enemy” around you, terrorists crashing airplanes into buildings, criminals on the street that would attack you. And on a smaller level, the small fly who would bite you. It doesn't matter what scope it is; how do you respond?

There are stories of incredible bravery that came out of that attack on September 11, ten years ago; people who, instead of fleeing to save their own lives, went back in and carried others out of burning buildings.. People did this at great risk to themselves. This is the beauty of the human heart. So many of you doubt your capacity for that kind of courage and love, but it is within each of you, the possibility of love, wisdom, and courage.

And so we practice. You practice each morning on your cushion. You come to a retreat and you practice. You simply close your eyes and sit, and you experience the small unpleasantries that arise in the body and in the mind. Feeling body pain, feeling confusion, experiencing the mind that is agitated. The emotions of anger, fear, and so forth will arise. They will all come. You know they will come.

So your practice is not about stopping these emotions, but changing the response to them. It is literally the practice of how to transform the habitual patterns of eons, changing the karma, literally, from being the one who slaps and reacts to finding that voice that says, “No, I don't have to be reactive in this moment.“ You begin to know, “Right here with fear, with hatred, with impatience, is love. My highest intention is to manifest that loving kindness in the world, and thereby to transform myself and my own karma, and to transform the world.”

It takes enormous dedication to sit day after day after day with this stream of catalyst pouring down on you, and to hold your heart open and trust, trusting deep in the dhamma, “There is liberation from this suffering, and I have the capacity as a human to manifest this liberation, for myself and for others.”

The bodhisattva vow says, “I will save all beings from suffering.” How do you save all beings when you can't even save yourself? But each time you work within yourself to transform the old habits of reactivity to negative experience, you bring that possibility more into fruition in the world. If the room was completely dark and one person lit a small candle, it would remind others that they can light a candle. After awhile there are millions of candles. What if nobody ever lit that first candle? What if they said, “Well, it's just dark and I'm going to have to resign myself to darkness forever.”?

These habitual patterns run deep in you, so the work is not easy. But all of you have had the success of seeing that when you are present with what arises in your experience, and hold it in kindness, there is freedom. This is the heart of what I teach. Most of you have probably read my book, Presence, Kindness, and Freedom, named because that‘s it: when you're present with an attitude of kindness, there's freedom. Freedom in small increments, yes; not immediate total freedom. But it's got to start somewhere.

Free will is a core of this. You have the capacity to observe what arises, see the contraction, negativity, and fear in it, and say, “No, I'm not going to be swept along with it.”

There's a guided meditation I've done before but I think it's valuable enough to do again. Let's go rafting down a river. I've got an inner tube for each of you, and a paddle. The river flows down a mountain; we'll take a bus to the top and start high up the mountain. It flows at a good pace, but the water almost all the way down is open, sometimes swift, sometimes becoming more quiet as the river bed widens.

For the most part you are able to follow the flow of the river, just letting the current push you, but I warn you there's one place where the river has a fork. The current seems to flow directly ahead, and if you go with that current, you're going to go over a series of jagged rocks and small waterfalls. You will be bashed and bruised. It's not going to be pleasant. But if you're watchful you'll see that there's a channel on your right and that you can paddle into it. It flows way around so instead of going steeply down, it glides gradually around and takes you down to the same lower pool without any rocks or waterfalls, and without any bruises. It's a lovely, scenic journey. But the current carries you into the steep channel. You've got to be aware. Before we come to this fork I'm going to call out to you, “Here it is. Be ready.”

“Okay, Aaron,” you say, “thank you for warning me.” Off we go down the river for about a half an hour, going through scenic ravines and quiet pools, lulled by the sun and the beauty of the scenery. Then I call out to you, “We're approaching the fork whereupon you must act and choose.” “Okay, I'm ready.”

But just at that moment, as you see a channel toward your right, a big fish jumps in front of you. “Oh, look at that! Isn't it beautiful!” Your attention is caught by it for a moment, and then it's too late to get into that side channel. Bump! Crash! Scraped elbows, bruised. You come to the bottom, all of you together. Everybody has missed that fork.

Okay. Now you know where the fork is. Are you ready to try it again? Into the bus; up we go. Put your inner tube back in the river. Let's float down again, each of you saying to yourself, “I know I won't miss it this time.” But you're lost in a bit of a daydream. You've been thinking about how you're going to do it successfully this time, how good it's going to feel to get it right. Whoosh! There it went! Bump! Crash! Bruises, blood.

So we try it again. The third time you're certain you can't miss it. You're on to the ego, you're on to the displays like fish. But as you come down, suddenly a bald eagle flies close overhead. Everybody's pointing up to it. And of course, there you go past it again.

How many times will it take you before finally you know the channel is coming, and you prepare yourself. You know you have a free will choice to be pulled aside by the distractions or to stay alert and not be pulled by that current of habit, but to choose in a much wiser and compassionate way. This time you prepare, stay present, paddle your boat into this side channel, and drift down this lovely waterway.

We go up one more time. This next time it's easier. You've done it once. You know how it feels. You're ready for it. At that point where the river pushes you, instead of pushing back you simply note, “Time to swerve. Time not to react and push back but simply to choose a different direction,” and off you go down the side channel. After a dozen more times down the river, you don't even think of going down that steep waterfall, it's simply no longer an option. It doesn't pull to you.

Your life is like that. Today some of you have reflected on the things that push at you, the places where you get caught and why you get caught. Some of you have looked at the opportunity for free will choice to regard that pull and say, “No, I do not choose that.” At first the choice may be made from fear, but after awhile, it's made from compassion for this human self that doesn't wish to be bruised and bloodied on the rocks. Why would you choose to keep being bruised and bloodied? What chooses that? Just habit. In part, the ancient conditioning of eons. Your dhamma practice gives you a chance to transform those old reflexes, those old habitual patterns, and to choose in a much wiser and more loving way.

I spoke in the past year with a man who had been frequently abused by a neighbor. The neighbor was always angry, not just at him but at everyone, and this man responded with anger at the neighbor. He tried to respond with kindness but the neighbor would keep provoking him to the point where anger erupted. He was feeling he was going to have to sell his house and move away, because he didn't know how to deal with this constant assault from the neighbor.

I asked him to focus not on the neighbor's anger and abusiveness but on his own response or reaction. That which is aware of anger is not angry. Could he rest in that awareness, seeing the anger arise within the human without losing touch with that which was truly not angry? As the weeks went by, he felt he could do that more. He could find that which truly was not angry right there with the anger, but he still didn't know what to do with the anger. He said, if there is truly this awareness that is not angry, then there shouldn't be anger. I should be able to control or fix the anger, to push it away.

I said no. There is the human and there is the spirit and they come together. There is deep awareness that is not angry, and there is the habituated human that, when pushed, does experience the arising of anger. The karma is not yet fully purified. The only way to transform the anger of that human and to purify the karma is with kindness. Each time you say, “I shouldn't be angry,” there's a lack of kindness. But when you pause and note, “Feeling anger, feeling anger,” with deep kindness to the self and compassion for the self, eventually you begin to feel the anger in the other as well. It is no longer my anger or his anger, but THE anger. Your heart has the capacity to transmute that anger, literally to change it.

He stopped reacting to the neighbor. He began to watch how strong his aversion was, to simply work with compassion for himself. When the neighbor assaulted him, yelled things at him, he simply nodded and went inside. He said, “I feel like I'm running away.” But he needed to take those months to allow his own heart to transform.

Then one day in the spring, the neighbor came over irate because the man's tree had dropped some branches in his yard during a storm. The man said to me, “For the first time, I saw deeply into his pain, how helpless he felt, how deeply he was conditioned to attack others. And I felt complete compassion and no need to protect myself. I was able to simply say, ‘I'm sorry that happened. I'll pick up the branches. I'll be happy to do that.'”

Through that spring and summer, the neighbor began to be less vocally abusive and to look at him across the fence, just to watch him. One day in the fall our friend had gone to an apple orchard. He came back with a bag of apples for the neighbor. He said, “I picked apples today. These are for you.” The neighbor looked at him and said, “Why would you give me these? I hate you and you hate me.” And the man said, “I don't hate you. It upsets me when you act in such an angry way toward me. But I don't hate you. Would you like the apples?”

This act shifted something for the neighbor. The neighbor actually a few weeks later was mowing his lawn, came over and knocked on his door and said, “I'm mowing. Would you like me to mow your front lawn?” The neighbor began to act in a kindly way.

Our friend had to do the work in himself first, then carry it to the neighbor and open the door for the neighbor without forcing the neighbor to walk through. When the neighbor was ready to consider the possibility of living without such strong antagonism, then he could act in that way. We start with ourselves. We cannot transform the world until we do the inner transformation in ourselves.

This is the power of your innate kindness. It's the power of the free will choice to hit back or to refrain from hitting but in a way that still can compassionately say no. In those days when the neighbor was acting in a hateful way, was verbally abusive, he would say to him, “You may not talk to me in that way,” and then he would simply walk away, not get caught up in the neighbor's anger. It took over a year. It was a gradual transformation and there was no guarantee that the neighbor would transform, only that he would transform his own heart.

So you constantly have free will choice, and each choice gives you the opportunity to transform not only yourself but the whole world. You live in a world where there is enormous hatred and fear, terrible violence, and you wonder, how can we save the world? Only by this work you do on yourselves.

Nothing is lost. No act of violence is without results; no act of kindness is without results. It's hard to trust that, I know.

You constantly come to the fork in the river, the place where you can choose the old habitual patterns or say, “No, this time I'm going to stay awake and see that there are new possibilities.” At first there may not seem like big possibilities. I took you down that gentle branch of the river, but earlier when you missed that fork you may simply have found you could beach your inner tube and climb down a path rather than being thrown against the rocks. It may have taken a dozen tries before you noticed that there was a different fork you could take.

Each time you feel yourself pushed into the old habitual way of thinking, simply note, “Contracting” and “I have a choice. Am I going to get thrown against these rocks and cry and moan, ‘Why me? Who's to blame?' Or am I going to acknowledge I had a choice, and I did not recognize that choice but let myself be swept through?” What sweeps you through? Only the habitual patterns; the patterns of eons.

The release and balancing of karma is about shifting these patterns, beginning with recognizing that they exist, and recognizing that you have the responsibility of choice to go with the patterns or not. Often they're not such sharp patterns as being thrown down a rocky waterfall or attacked by a hateful neighbor. It may simply be the way you react with irritation when there's at traffic jam and you're in a hurry. Tensing, anger.

Is there anybody here who has never said to the slow driver ahead, “Get moving! Get moving!”, or used stronger language? You're in your enclosed car; they don't hear you but the energy is there. Here is this person, you can see them talking on the phone, combing their hair, the light has changed, anger comes up. It's all a catalyst to remind you of your free will choice for more anger and going with that stream, or opening to compassion.

If that driver is still combing her hair-- combing his hair, I don't want to be sexist, here--if he sits there combing his hair and talking on the phone, it's okay to honk your horn. Can the horn be honked with kindness and not anger? Just a gentle reminder, “Look up, the light has changed. There are people behind you.”  That driver may hear it as impatience but if it's not offered as impatience, it does change the energy. It changes the energy in you so there is compassion in you. The next time anger may not even arise!

At each juncture of the road, there are innumerable possibilities. Gradually, within your practice, you begin to see the possibilities. You feel the mosquito alight on your arm, and you feel the tension ready to slap it. You breathe in and feel the sense of compassion for this hungry being seeking a meal. And you feel the compassion for you as a human being who does not choose to be that meal and is able just to gently brush it off. Why should it die just because it's hungry? But it can seek its meal elsewhere, you don't have to feed it.

When someone is irate and yelling, you don't have to throw sticks and stones at him, and you don't have to turn your back and just let him abuse you. We learn how to say no from a place of compassion and kindness. It may not look much different on the surface, but it feels entirely different. “I see your pain, but you may not take your pain out on me.” You can practice that a hundred times a week in small ways, silently and inwardly, and outwardly, with your partners, your children and parents, your friends and neighbors, the people in your workplace.

Somebody comes into your office saying, “This is all wrong. It's not what I wanted. How could you get it so wrong? You're a fool! You're totally inept!”

“I hear how angry you are, and I know it's important to you to get it right because your superiors will be upset if it's wrong. How can we work together to get it right? When you call me inept, it doesn't help me to work with you to get it right. I'd like to cooperate with you and see that we get it right.”

Sometimes that's going to bring further abuse, I know that. But the only alternatives are to fall prey to that abuse with more contraction and hatred, or to react to it, and neither is appropriate. How do you keep your heart open?

Your spouse or partner becomes upset because you're late, planning to meet friends for dinner, and begins to yell, “Why are you always late?” Perhaps the cat got sick on the rug, and you spend 20 minutes cleaning it up, but he or she has not seen that, only that you're late. “I hear how upset you are. You're right, I am late. There were reasons for it, but nonetheless, I am late and I see it's upsetting you. I will get ready now as fast as I can. I'm sorry to see you so upset. I love you.” That's going to get a lot better results than defending yourself, “Well the cat got sick and you didn't clean it up. Why should I have to clean it up, it's not my fault!” Or just, “Why are you picking on me? I don't really want to go out for dinner with you.”

What is your highest intention here? Is it to be right or for harmony and loving relationship? Here we practice clear comprehension. Clear comprehension of purpose: what is your highest purpose in the moment? Clear comprehension of suitability: is what I am about to do or say appropriate to that purpose? Or am I simply acting out my old habits?

This transformation of the human from an aggressive reactive mammal into a conscious, openhearted, loving being is an act of many lifetimes, gradually taming those old habits. For many lifetimes you had no tools for that transformation of the habits, just running down the waterfall, bangs and bruises and blood, saying, “Whose fault is it now? Who can I blame?”

But now you have your dhamma practice. You have a precious tool. And it will bring you freedom from the old habits and reactivity, from the old boxes and beliefs and stories of innumerable lifetimes. The transformation that you seek for yourselves and the world is within you, so don't despair, but practice in every moment with as loving a heart as you can. And pay attention to the small changes.

Keep a spiritual journal so you can look back and see where you were five years ago, and if there has been change. Now when the spouse comes in yelling, “Why are you late?” instead of ruining the evening by saying, “He's the one that ruined the evening. He's the one that yelled first.” and yelling back, you're able to say, “I hear you're upset. You're afraid the Joneses will be angry that we're late. You don't like to be late. You don't want to offend people. I'm sorry I'm late but it was not planned. The cat got sick on the rug and it had to be cleaned up.” Or  the washing machine overflowed, it had to be attended to. Or simply, “I didn't pay attention to the time and I apologize. I really promise to do better in the future.” What is your purpose here. Is it to be right or is it to help create harmony through clear speech? Clear speech that can only come from a clear, loving heart and intention.

In this way we purify the karma of thousands of years, and it does not take thousands of years to purify it. One choice of a quiet, lovely stream shifts the karma and creates new opportunities so that the next time you come to that fork in the road, or fork in the river as it were, you're much better able to choose the loving course. Each time, it becomes easier. So practice with diligence and with love and you will find freedom from these old stories, these old myths about yourself and the world.

I'd like to open the floor now to questions.

Q: I truly believe what Aaron said about free choice and being passionate in our response. But the image that comes in my head is, how do we deal with extreme predatory individuals who some people consider evil, who have no intention of a dialogue, someone like Adolf Hitler? How do we deal with these few <> intractably predatory individuals?

Aaron: This is a very important question. The difficulty now in the world is that there are people at different levels of consciousness, some with a consciousness that is beginning to understand the connection between all beings, and some still in a less mature level of consciousness that sees separation. A certain consciousness believes it's right and everyone else is wrong. It's the whole evolution of consciousness we see in children, that evolve from extreme ideas of right and wrong to opening to a possibility of differences of opinion.

But you can't argue with a 5 year old who says, “No, it's got to be this way.” Only, the Hitlers of the world are not 5 year olds, and they have a lot of power. I can only speak from my experience to say that speaking hatred to that power only enhances the hatred behind the power. Then “no” must still be said, but it must be said from a place of compassion.

Gandhi did this successfully. King and some of his followers did this successfully in the south. The challenge is that all of those who follow the leader may not have that degree of evolved consciousness that's able to say no with compassion, and then the hatred comes into it again. The power of “no” said with compassion is enormous.

Barbara tells a story of a time when she was involved in a sit-in in a small southern town, where people had been beaten trying to integrate a restaurant. She and three others, a white man and a black couple, went inside the restaurant. They heard the angry crowd gathering around them. She could hear at that time. People outside had sticks and stones. They knew that people had been beaten and that they could be beaten or even killed.

All four of them knew that hatred would not get them beyond this situation, that the only course was love and an acceptance, “If you kill me, I already forgive you. If you beat me, I already forgive you because I have catalyzed this situation by coming in and upsetting the applecart, as it were, bringing something to you that you're not sure you're ready to handle. This is the core of “satyagraha” or “soul force.” You realize, “I am asking something of you that may seem beyond you, but I believe in you and your ability to make this shift. I trust you, and yet I also forgive you already for whatever may happen.” The forgiveness has to be genuine.

Finally the four of them got up and walked to the door. By this time the restaurant was completely empty. They walked to the door, and there was the angry mob in front of them. They generated such a strong field of compassion. Barbara talks of looking in people's eyes as she walked out and seeing the fear and hatred in them, and not looking back with fear and hatred but only with kindness, with an open heart. And the people simply parted and let them walk through. This was almost 50 years ago. She was just about 20 at the time. She talks of it as being an extraordinary, transformative experience for her, teaching her the power of genuine compassion, for change.

There was no guarantee. She could have been beaten. She could have been killed. And before she started, she had to accept that possibility. But she knew that it was not an acceptable alternative for her to hate those that were outside, gathered in opposition.

I hope that speaks to your question. Each must make the choice for themselves: do I perpetuate hatred, or do I work toward compassion, whatever is involved in that work?

Those of less mature consciousness in the world will never evolve if those of the potentially more mature consciousness slip down to their lower level of consciousness, just as a child will never learn how to act in a skillful way if, when the child has a temper tantrum, the parent has a temper tantrum back.

Q: When I get triggered into a pattern like anger of judgment, I understand that underneath that is pain of some sort, that I need to treat it with kindness. Now, with me it comes to opening my heart. Inevitably it brings tears. So how do I handle the pain when I'm triggered in public?

Aaron: There is no shame, child, in crying in public. Carry a box of tissues. Simply say to people, “I'm sorry, I'm feeling a lot of pain for a moment.” Excuse yourself and leave the room. Don't be ashamed, because the pain is a reflection of your opening heart. It's something to feel positive about, not afraid of. It's okay to say to people, “This situation is bringing up a lot of pain for me. It's just something personal, it's not about you. But I need to leave the room for a few minutes and center myself. And then cry.

Q: There is a lot of shame around crying in public with me.

Aaron: That's the place where you need to work. Seeing the shame arise, can the heart touch this human who feels shame? It's not about the situation that triggered the tears; the tears were triggered as a way of leading you back into the shame and recognizing, just because shame has arisen doesn't mean I have to believe in that story. The shame is just another box, another story. “I shouldn't be this way, I should be that way.” Really? Just ask after it: is that so? See the judgment, the “should”.

Say thank you to the catalyst and the arising experience of shame because it's giving you the opportunity to transform some very old habitual pattern in yourself by being present with it with kindness.

I want to remind you that what you are asking of yourself here may seem monumental. You are not expected to get it perfectly. Perfection is not what we're after, simply opening the door and seeing the possibility of new patterns and the release of the old unwholesome ones. The manifestation of that movement will come gradually. Don't feel you've failed if strong anger or even hatred arises. Don't feel you've failed if you fall into that old fork over the rocks and waterfall yet again. Just note, “Whoops, I missed that one, and I experienced getting bashed by it. It hurt. Next time I'll be a little bit more present, a little bit more careful.”

This is not an instant fix. There's nothing to fix. You are simply seeing the old habitual patterns, the old karma, and noting that out of your free will there is a possibility of a wiser and more heart-centered choice. If you endeavor repeatedly toward that heart-centered, wise choice, eventually it will become more ingrained in you and easier to choose thusly. Nobody but yourselves is asking you to be perfect.

The work you are doing by coming to this meditation retreat is such a gift to yourselves and to the world. Cherish yourself for your willingness to do this practice, to do the hard work to discover what it means to be truly human, centered in the loving heart and in the innate wisdom and divinity that are your birthright.

For years, when Barbara told her mother she was attending or leading a meditation retreat, her mother would say, “Oh, that's nice. Have fun, dear.” (laughter) You all know what's involved!

Are there any further questions?

Let's end here, then. It will leave you with time to walk and a final sitting...

Thank you very much for hearing me and inviting me to be here with you and speak with you. I love each of you very much and appreciate the challenge of your human path, which I also have walked.

May all blessings of the dhamma be with you and the inspiration of the Four Noble Truths: suffering and liberation. It is indeed possible, so don't despair.

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