April 29, 2012 Sunday Morning, Emerald Isle Retreat, Aaron

Gratitude; the broken shell that is perfect; choiceless awareness; consciousness vs. awareness; feelings; mental formations; spaciousness; akashic field; not fixing but watch any subtle move to fix with kindness.

These instructions are on the first day of retreat, with a group of very experienced meditators.

Barbara: As I was preparing to invite Aaron in, and I said, “Thank you, Aaron, for the blessing of your service.” he said, “Thank you, daughter, for the blessing of your service. It is good to thank each other and not take each other for granted.” That certainly is a very beautiful thought, not just for me and Aaron, but really rejoicing with gratitude this week for the sangha, the dharma, for the beach, for all these blessings.

Aaron will come in. (Aaron incorporates)

Aaron: Good morning. My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. What a blessing it is to spend this week together, with the sea, dunes and the flowers, the breeze, the sangha, and all the blessings of the dharma. It is very rich, indeed, very wonderful.

Barbara does not usually eat for two hours before I incorporate but we did not plan well this morning, that I give the morning instruction rather than Barbara or John, and she ate breakfast. Forgive us if I am a bit sluggish in her body!

We're going to start today with basic practice. Nothing new to any of you, but a good opportunity to relax into that deeper practice. As you practice through the day, you're going to find those areas in yourself that appear to be less than whole: places where the body aches, places where the mind is agitated, where there's anger or remorse. It's good to remember that right there with that surface-appearing brokenness is wholeness. You're also, I hope, going to find areas in yourself that are radiant and beautiful. Is there any difference in the whole or the fragmented?

If I hold up this broken shell, can you see the whole shell there? There's nothing missing. The shell is perfect as it is, and it's broken. When I hold up this polished rock, you can see that it was polished from a fragment. It's radiant. It's beautiful. And yet right there in the radiant rock is the possibility of an experience of fragmentation.

Everything arises out of conditions. When we watch the ocean, the waves move in based on current and wind and tidal pull until they break on the beach, and then they roll out. It's all according to conditions. The tides come in and out. If you sit in one spot close to the water at low tide, eventually you're going to be soaked up to your neck and above. The pleasant and the unpleasant arise, all according to conditions. Aversion and grasping arise too, according to conditions. Stories come when mindfulness is lacking.

Imagine you were to sit on that beach at low tide, warm sun beating down on you, a beautiful day, and think, “This is so perfect. I'm just going to stay here for 24 hours.” Eventually you find yourself underwater; it's a cool night, very unpleasant, strong aversion, and you think, “Why is the ocean doing this to me? What did I do wrong? Am I being punished?”-- No, it's just the outplay of conditions.

The suffering is not in the conditions but the ways that you are habituated to take it personally. If you step on a sharp shell, you don't think, “The shell is attacking me.” But if somebody looks at you with a disturbed gaze, you feel attacked. “Why is this person angry at me?” It's just the outflow of conditions.

Everything is whole and playing its way around, expressing and dissolving, expressing and dissolving. I'm not saying anything new to any of you. You're all aware of the arising of both delightful emotion and unpleasant emotion. You're all aware of the arising of very pleasant body sensation or even the experience of the dissolution of the body, and you're aware of very unpleasant, painful body sensation.

Can all of this be noted simply as arising? Here is sadness. Here is anger. Here is fear. Here is confusion. Here is joy. Here is spaciousness. Here is gratitude. They have arisen out of conditions. Some are pleasant and some are unpleasant. Here is ease of the body, the warm sun on my shoulders, the cool breeze, and here is unpleasant body sensation, aching, pain, stiffness, cold.

The main practice we want you to do today is in three parts. Watch objects arising. Stay with that object until it dissolves. I can't really break it down into three clean parts because this happens, that happens, that happens, that happens, so many branching possibilities. But if it's a simple object like wind blowing-- a bit cold, sensation of coldness, feeling unpleasant. And then the wind stops and the sun comes back out. Warm, pleasant. Be aware of the chain of contact, consciousness and feelings of pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.

As the object changes or dissolve-- let me ask, how many of you use the breath as a primary object most of the time? How many of you use nada much of the time? Spaciousness, space? Light, luminosity? Many; okay. When an object changes or dissolves, if you use breath or some other mundane object as the usual primary object, instead of returning to the breath I want you to simply rest in the space into which the object dissolved.

Let's try it with this (a bell). Note hearing, hearing, and as the sound dies out, don't try to force the attention back to the breath, but simply rest in the space into which the sound dissolved. Go out with the sound. I'm sure you've all done this before.


Just resting in that spaciousness. Again... (bell)

If you rest in that spaciousness for a few moments and then some other object pulls attention away, or the little thought comes up, “What next?” then go back to your primary object. But make it a point to recognize the space into which the object dissolved and out of which it arose. So that is Point 1.

Point 2. If the object arises and it's an unpleasant object, perhaps that cold breeze out on the beach, sun gone behind a cloud, cold, maybe even a few drops of rain—touching, touching, wet, cold. If it's unpleasant, know it's unpleasant. Can it be unpleasant without aversion? You're not trying to force it to be unpleasant without aversion; just noting the possibility. Can it be pleasant without grasping? The sun comes back out—Ah, it feels good, and then is there a subtle grasping, wanting to hold onto that sun?

Just note, contraction. You don't even have to call it grasping or aversion. If there is grasping, if there is aversion, that whole body energy will contract. Be aware of contraction. That becomes the new predominant object. I'm distinguishing here between primary object-- nada, the breath, luminosity, whatever it may be-- and the predominant object of this moment that's caught your attention. That predominant object, if it's pleasant or unpleasant and there's contraction around it (aversion, wanting it to go away, grasping, wanting to hold onto it), feel the direct texture of contraction in the body. That is the new predominant object. Not the jet roaring overhead. That came out of conditions and it will go. What is the relationship to the sound? What mental formations arose and how are they being attended? What's happening in the body right now? Is there contraction? And how are you relating to this contraction, which is also arisen out of conditions and is impermanent and not self? Can there simply be contraction there, and a spacious awareness that watches the contraction with kindness? Not trying to hurry it away, not trying to disguise it. Not afraid of it, just watching it. And that also will dissolve. That which is aware of contraction is not contracted. Without losing touch with the direct experience of contraction, with no denial of it, rest in awareness.

So Point 1. When the object does dissolve into spaciousness, just resting in that spaciousness until another object commands your attention.

Point 2. If there is no spaciousness, if the object itself may dissolve but it's immediately followed by the contraction with grasping or aversion, a sense of self, note that as the predominant object. What is the texture of the attention to that contraction? Is there contraction around the contraction? Is there aversion to contracting? Is there grasping at non-contraction? Who is grasping? Who has aversion?

So I want you to watch this whole play of conditioned mind, sinking deeper and deeper into awareness, into spaciousness, into that aspect of you that is radiant and open and uncontracted. Whatever arises, simply note it and be present with it. Nothing is better or worse than anything else as object, though some objects are far more pleasant.

Part 3. Resting in spacious mind, in what seems a lack of any sense of a separate self. Very pleasant. Note any subtle grasping to hold onto it. If there's grasping, it's not really the experience of emptiness. That doesn't mean you're doing it wrong, just note there's still this subtle self underneath that wants it to be this way and not that way. Can that information be held with a smile, relaxing? Nothing to force; nothing to fix. The heart just open to things as they are.

So that is the practice for today. Two more parts to this.

During the walking periods, as much as possible we would like you to go down to the beach and walk barefoot just where the shallowest water will ripple against your feet. Make a walking path 20 or 30 feet long and just walk back and forth. So don't take a long walk a mile down the beach but just slow walking meditation, stopping, turning, going back, a limited walking path. Be very aware of wet sand, dry sand, water coming up to your ankles, water receding. Touching, touching. Be aware of the physical sensations of the water coming up to your feet, of any preference to be in the water, to be out of the water.

Watching how it feels when suddenly water comes up to your knee. “Oh! The bottom of my pants got wet! Oh my!” Contracting. Waves staying way down. “Oh, no waves are coming. Nothing is touching my feet. I've walked ten times back and forth. Maybe I should get closer to the water.” Watch any turmoil. Just walk. Stick with your chosen path and just walk. Obviously if the tide starts to come in and you're up to your waist, you can move higher up the beach. But just walk. Pay a lot of attention to sensation, the sand on your feet, the wetness, the dryness. Touching, touching. Know pleasant and unpleasant. Know the sensations of the body as feet touch soft flat sand or a shell.

The third part of today's practice. I'd like you to spend some time if possible sitting on the beach. You do not have to be in here for all the sitting periods, you are free to sit on the beach. All of you have worked with the elements. Sit open-eyed and look at the ocean. The water element is quite obvious. Can you see the earth element in the ocean? Watch the waves churning. See the air element in the foam. In the energy, can you feel the fire element? Bring awareness to all of these elements and to their interbeing.

One will be predominant. If you look up at the sky and the sun has come out, the fire will be predominant. Looking at the ocean, the water element may be predominant. Just where the waves are breaking and there's white foam, the air element may be predominant. But let yourself sink into the reality of the interbeing of these elements.

You don't have to know which one is predominant. I would ask you to be aware of them all coming together in different degrees from moment to moment in the ocean. Just sit looking out to sea, watching the waves break, and aware of the elements.

As they come together - and this is the simplest introduction I can  give to the akashic field, and one we've touched on here at the beach and in Venture Fourth - find that which contains them all. What is the ground from which all of these elements are arising and into which they're sinking? Like a breadbasket that contains many kinds of bread and rolls. The corn bread is the corn bread. The raisin bread is the raisin bread. And yet they are all within this container of breadbasket.

It's all arising out of this... it's too simplistic to just call it breadbasket because the breadbasket doesn't have much life in itself. The breadbasket is separate from the bread. The akashic field is not separate from the elements. But use this illustration to help you settle into the experience of the container out of which all of these elements arise and pass away.

So that's the basic instruction for this morning. Are there questions?

I'm smiling because many of you do have questions and you're thinking, well maybe I should understand all this perfectly. No, why should you? You're here at the retreat to understand it, to go deeper and deeper. And even I cannot say I understand it perfectly. We're all learners. Don't try to understand it perfectly. Just sink into the knowing of it; the knowing of dependent arising; the elements that are a part of the conditioned realm that arise and pass away; the whole experience of the Unconditioned. Open into it all; no self; self dissolving with the waves.

Q: About that same issue of the container. This morning as a morning meditation, I was stargazing and the idea of space became predominant. How do you experience space as opposed to intellectualize it?

Aaron: Just rest in it. Don't think about it. Don't ask, what is this space? Simply be there. If you were in a boat and fell out of the boat into the water, not so far from shore that there would be fear, you could easily swim in, but you're wet. You don't intellectualize, what is this wetness? It's just wetness. In the same way, it's just space.

Q: When you experience your body becoming more spacious, it has a feeling similar to relaxation. You become easier in yourself. That's an experience of space, then, as you see it?

Aaron: Yes. We'll talk about this on the beach tomorrow. This is where we'll start tomorrow afternoon, looking at the experience of space and how that relates to the akashic field.

Barbara's been doing some very interesting investigations with her shoulder pain and the connective tissue, the fascia, that are tense and contracted. She has a feeling of coldness in the shoulders often, and she realized that it was not really coldness but contraction that was being experienced as either extreme heat or extreme cold.  So she experimented just getting up at night if there was pain and soaking in the hot tub for 10 minutes. Feeling the whole body relax. She could almost see on a cellular level how these tension-bound cells relaxing. She was able to deeply experience the space, not just the hyperactive cells, but the space between them, and to focus consciously on the space, inviting the cells to relax into that spaciousness. So she would do that for 10 minutes in the hot tub and then return to bed. The warmth helping to ease the body, but more than the warmth, there was conscious awareness of the hyperactive molecules releasing their hyperactivity into their innate spaciousness. She would come back to bed free of pain and go to sleep.

Many of you can practice with this. Use the hot tub out there. The warmth of the hot tub is wonderful not just to ease body distress. But do it consciously, aware of, literally, the connective tissues, the molecules in the bones and the skin and the muscles and the tendons. Bring your awareness to it and finding the real space within them. So use your body as a ground for exploration in that way.

Q: In working with elements in the food, would the potential for the awareness of the akashic field be available in the kitchen as well as outside?

Aaron: Absolutely. A perfect place to explore it. Perfect. Thank you.

All right. There will be more time for questions tonight. I think you all have the general idea. I simply ask you not to get caught up in, “Am I doing it right?”, which is just more tension. You all know this practice. Trust your deep wisdom, your experience, your loving heart, your intuitive knowledge, and your higher self's awareness. Ask your guides for help. Just relax into practice with release of getting it right, which is just more tension, grasping. Relax, enjoy! You're at the beach; a day at the beach!

I have a gift for each of you. It has two parts. One is a broken shell fragment. It once was a beautiful whole shell. Now you see the apparently broken fragment of it. Be aware in yourself of anything that you consider broken. Use this shell as the reminder of the innate perfection of everything, and that there is nothing broken, nothing that needs to be fixed. That you can cherish yourself, your body, your mind, your emotions, everything, just as they are while attending to anything that is causing pain.

If there's body pain, take care of it. Don't just cherish the pain, stop and put a Band-Aid on the blister or lie back on the sand and relax the aching back.  Take care of yourself. If there is sadness or anger, work with it in skillful ways. But remember, you're not working with it to fix it, but to take care of it with love. Move beyond the idea of broken versus whole. Each of these shells is whole and perfect, as you are whole and perfect.

And the second gift: I have a plate of polished stones from the Casa. They're beautiful and yet you can see when you look at them that they are part of what was once a larger whole stone. Each is polished, it's radiant, it's beautiful. Is this really any different from that, except that one has been polished? Not really. Yes, one is a shell, one is a rock. Simply different forms of earth element, different degrees of water element in them, and so forth.

When something appears “broken” in the self, polish it until you see the radiance. Polish it by holding it in the heart with love, just bringing it into the heart place. This pain, this anxiety, this fear, this sadness, bring it into the heart. Let the heart hold it until the radiance begins to shine out.

So I'm going to give you each a shell and each a stone, which are yours to keep. The stones have the added benefit of having Casa energy inherent in them. Enjoy them and let them keep reminding you of your innate wholeness and radiance and beauty. Nothing is broken; there is nothing to be fixed.

(taping ends)