June 17, 2012 Sunday Evening, Emrich Retreat

Path to higher consciousness; present with things as they are; eightfold path of sila, panna and samadhi; the practice of clear comprehension; tarantula metaphor; a bigger container; Milarepa stories: cup of tea and “eat me;” mirror quality of aversion;  tonglen;

Aaron: Good evening. My blessings and love to you all. I hope you have all had a good day and I know you are going deeper into your practice, from the questions that have been raised.

Why are you here? Why are we practicing? Why are you here in these bodies in the first place? What is our retreat about? What is our practice about? What is our lifetime about?

In a very beautiful sutra, the Buddha offered the words, “Abandon the unwholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. If such abandonment led to suffering, I would not ask you to abandon it. But it leads to good, so I ask you, abandon the unwholesome. Cultivate the wholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it...” and so forth.

 Abandon what is unskillful. One can abandon the unskillful. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. If this abandoning of the unskillful would bring harm and suffering, I would not ask you to abandon it. But as it brings benefit and happiness, therefore I say, abandon what is unskillful.

Cultivate the good. One can cultivate the good. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. If this cultivation were to bring harm and suffering, I would not ask you to do it.  But as this cultivation brings joy and happiness, I say cultivate the good.

The Buddha     Anguttara Nikaya, Book of the Twos,  #10

You all hold that advice in your hearts, the intention to abandon the unwholesome, the intention to cultivate the wholesome. The question is, how? If it were easy, nobody would need to be here at a retreat. Unwholesome mind states arise out of conditions, and unwholesome body states as well. Wholesome mind and body states arise out of conditions.

If you eat nothing but fat, greasy hamburgers and milkshakes and lots of junk food on the side, wholesome body states are not going to arise. If you starve yourself, wholesome body states are not going to arise. If you swallow and digest anger, greed, pride, jealousy, and hatred, wholesome mind states are not going to arise. You're not abandoning the unwholesome. And if you go to the other extreme and say, “I will not have anger. I will not have any negative thoughts,”-- how? If you've got a secret, let the rest of us in on it!

When certain conditions are present, negative mind or body states will arise. As the conditions release and dissolve, the unwholesome mind and body states will also dissolve. But it occurs in stages.

If you stepped barefoot on a thumbtack, feeling that tack puncture your foot and the pain and a drop of blood there, nobody in this room would say, “I shouldn't feel pain.” Of course certain conditions arose and gave way to the pain. This is how the body is. But when something brings up anger in you, the response is “I shouldn't feel anger. I won't feel anger.” The conditions for anger have not yet been purified, and you will not purify them with further anger.

The conditions for loving kindness, the seeds for loving kindness and compassion, the seeds of wisdom, the seeds of generosity, of patience, these are all present in you. In some of you they've grown quite big; in some of you they're tiny seedlings.

Several years ago in a class, the first week I gave people an assignment to draw their inner garden. The next class, they were to come back with drawings, and we hung them up on the wall so everybody could see them. I asked people to draw a big picture, use a big piece of paper. I believe we actually gave out sheets of paper from a big pad. What are the weeds in your garden? How big are they? What causes them to flourish or to fade? What are the beautiful plants in your garden? In what ways are you nourishing them?

As we went through the semester people were asked to review, what's happening to my beautiful plants? In what ways am I taking care of them? What's happening to the weeds, the thorns? In what ways am I attending to them? In what ways am I abandoning the unwholesome? Am I letting go of giving energy to this thorny brush?

The exercise was very helpful to many people. It may be something you would like to do. If you don't draw the picture, at least you may reflect, what do I wish to nurture in this heart garden, and what blocks it? Envision this small seedling of loving kindness, and then watch as something triggers anger in you. The first habitual reaction is “No, no anger. I shouldn't be angry.” What does that do to this little seedling of loving kindness? Does it encourage it? Or does it shade it out so it fades away?

What happens when you remember, while feeling that self-judgment, “I shouldn't be angry,” just a kind, “Is that so?” Three little words, magic words: Is that so? “I shouldn't be angry.” Is that so? Step on the tack. “I shouldn't bleed.” Is that so? “I'm a human. Of course I'll bleed. I'm a human, and when something triggers anger, anger will arise. But I can take care of my anger. I don't have to hate the anger. I have to recognize it as a result of conditions, and be willing to attend to the conditions out of which it arose.”

We are looking at the two aspects of conditions and results. Trying to fix the results doesn't work. You will want to pay attention to the results so they don't spill off and cause harm or pain to people. Beyond that, the result is already manifest. Do what you can to balance any overflow of that result, to clean up after yourself as is necessary, and move back to attendance on the conditions.

A part of the conditioning is simply that you're humans. You have nerve endings in the body. You have emotions. The body is born in some ways to be reactive. If you hit the knee, the leg jerks up. You can learn not to be over-reactive without clamping down with tension to control.

We watch the conditions with kindness, with patience, and the results of those conditions. There's a beautiful practice, a part of mindfulness called the practice of clear comprehension. The first part is clear comprehension of purpose. What is my purpose? So there you are judging yourself, angry and feeling “I shouldn't be angry” or “I shouldn't be impatient.” There is a push to keep scolding your self. Pause —“What is my highest purpose here? Is it self-condemnation that leads me deeper into condemnation and judgment of self and others? Or is it the learning of kindness? If it's the latter, then perhaps in this moment I want to hold the judgment spaciously, not take it out on myself or other people.” Just be aware, in this moment, here is judging.

What is judging? It's a kind of thought, and it resides somewhere in the body, also. How does judgment feel in the body? How does judgment feel in your body?

Q: Tight.

Aaron: Tense. How does it feel in your body? (inaudible response) In the belly, feeling it in the belly. Q, how do you feel it in the body? You feel it in the shoulder. So here are three different expressions of tension and anger, judgment. You feel it in the body. Breathing in, I am aware of the tension, the contraction, the judgment. Breathing out, I smile to it. I don't get a stick and try to chase it away, I smile to it.

This is the heart of your practice. It's the practice of relationship, how you relate to what arises in your experience. You cannot always stop what arises. Sometimes you're not in control of what will arise. But you can attend to how you will relate to it.

Amongst a group like this attending a meditation retreat, none of you came into the incarnation seeking power and glory, or to acquire a mass of material goods, or to control the world. You came in to learn loving kindness and compassion. You came in with a conscious or unconscious understanding that your whole world, your whole universe, really, is in transition, moving into a higher consciousness. And, in the simplest phrasing, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Are you going to hold the world to a lower consciousness? Or are you going to be part of a solution nurturing a higher consciousness, nurturing that which is radiant and light, nurturing those seeds in your heart garden? All of you have the capacity to do that, and it is your intention to do that. So it's just old habit that says “I shouldn't feel angry. I shouldn't feel impatient. I won't feel angry. I won't feel impatient.”

The practice takes you through it step by step. When we gather here at a retreat, we have the opportunity to experience all the insults the mind can toss out, and the insults of the body—pain here and there, a pulled muscle, back that aches, knees that throb. “I don't want this in my body.” But this is how it is. Memories, old anger, old resentment, old fear. This is how it is right now. Can I truly open my heart and be present with what has arisen?

The path to liberation is not a path of control; it's a path of presence. The path is being willing to be fully, deeply present with whatever arises in your experience, including how you're relating habitually to it, such as aversion or grasping, without trying to fix anything; just investigating.

The eightfold path lays a clear route to follow. Sila, moral awareness. This is not an “I must be good” or “Thou shalt not” kind of morality. It's based on a deep insight into interbeing and how each of you relates to everything else. If I were to come into the room radiating rage, there's no one in this room that would not feel it. I'm responsible for what I broadcast out. But that doesn't mean that I may not experience anger. If the conditions are present, it will come up. The question is what am I doing to take responsibility for that anger? I can't deny it. I can't throw it at people. How do I hold space for it? So I hold loving space for it.

As your practice deepens you begin to look not just with mundane consciousness but with awareness. I said that the practice supports your growth, and it all flows outward. There are stages. If you all as a group decided to climb Mt. Everest, will you all just pack up your suitcases and fly off to the Himalayas to climb, or will you presume you need certain skills first? You can't say, “Oh, I've decided I'm going to climb Mt. Everest. That's it.” First you have to strengthen the body. You have to acclimatize the body to high elevations. You have to learn the technical climbing skills and then maybe you'll be ready to tackle that peak. If you're not ready in this lifetime, you will climb it the next lifetime.

You're constantly gaining the technical skills and the acclimatization to high atmosphere through your practice. You're raising your body energy. You're raising your awareness. All of this is part of sila. It's not just an “I won't hurt anything,” but “How am I relating to everything in the world?”

Barbara was at a meditation retreat many years ago led by a well-known Burmese monk; it attracted a number of monastics. It was a several week retreat. There was a nun there who had taken a vow not to walk on grass because she would be killing living things. But she wanted to attend the retreat, and it was held at a camp up in Canada. The meditation hall was a, I guess perhaps it had been a big arts and crafts studio. It was an open room about this size. And there was no way to it (without walking on grass). It was in the middle of the lawn. So she would sit in a chair and four men would lift her chair and carry her into the meditation hall and then carry her back. Is this harmlessness? She's fulfilling her vow. At what cost? You're all interrelated.

Sila is based on living that interrelationship between your selves, all beings and the earth. Sila is based in the highest intention to do no harm, and sometimes it leads you into predicaments like which is more harmful: to ask people to carry me across a lawn, to get up and walk by myself, or to cease to go to the meditation hall? What choice should I make if I truly intend non-harm? It's not always an easy answer.

Panna is deepening of wisdom to the point of understanding the whole experience that objects arise out of conditions, are impermanent and not self; understanding that experientially. As that insight deepens, some of the sila questions resolve themselves, because you understand more deeply how everything interrelates and perhaps you cannot ask somebody to carry you across the grass so you don't kill the insects.

Somebody asked me once, this is an aside, what could she have done? Not what should she have done—I would never attempt to say what she should have done, but what might she have done? If she fully understood her interrelationship with everything, she could have started an hour early, taking one step at a time, and saying to all the insects in the grass, “Now I'm going to put my next foot down. I don't want to step on you. Please move out of my way.” Stepping. Then raising the next foot, repeating it. Asking all the insects to move out, making a clear path for her so she can walk to the meditation hall. Making it clear to them, “My intention is non-harm. If you want to be stepped on, if that is your intention, then I honor your free will. But otherwise I ask you to please move out of my way.”

There's a beautiful book, Living as if the God in All Life Matters, by Michaelle Small Wright. She talks about this dilemma in her garden. She's furrowing the garden to plant her vegetables, and she sees that she's cutting earthworms in half. She's upset by it. She goes in to have tea and says, “What am I going to do? I can't continue to kill earthworms to plant my garden, and I can't not plant my garden, because this is how I feed myself and others.” So she went out and said to the earthworms, “Now I'm going to till this row. Please move.” She went in and had another cup to of tea. She went out and she started to till. There were no earthworms. She looked in the next row: thick with them, thick with them. None right here. So each row, she would announce to the earthworms and give them time to get out of the way. She found she could till the garden. They were thick in the next row and the one she had just tilled, but not where she was plowing.

You have this power to communicate. You all have it. So part of panna, of wisdom, and as it connects with sila, is learning how to be responsible in the world. Knowing your intentions; being aware of any self-centeredness that says, “I just want to get there. I don't want to be bothered with other living creatures.” You begin to know that attitude will do harm. A deeper sila is willing to take the time to communicate your needs and intentions and ask beings of all sorts to co-create those highest intentions with you for non-harm to all beings.

This is not the classical way sila and panna would be stated, but I think it's a clear statement of it.

Samadhi, the third leg. Samadhi is deepening mindfulness and concentration and meditation. It's the development of samadhi that allows you to experience your interbeing with all that is, to deepen in wisdom about the emptiness, impermanence and no-self nature of everything, and to live with non-harm to beings. It all joins together, like a tripod. Each leg must be lengthened, going around and around, if balance is to be maintained.

Thus,  part of what you're doing on your spiritual path and on a retreat like this is exploring, is this tripod balanced within me? And if not, where do I need to add extra effort? What's missing? Sometimes you might find something like laziness. “I don't want to step on insects. I want to walk to the meditation hall, but I don't want to have to walk to so slowly.” Well actually, you don't have to walk that slowly. It's enough that you understand how powerful you are energetically, and if you're clear, all you have to do is stand at the beginning of the path and say, “I need to walk here. I don't want to kill anything. Please move.” And then walk. But this woman did not understand that, so she would have needed to start slowly and gain faith that this could work.

But we're not just talking about walking on the grass. If you go out, make the clear statement of non-harm, of the intention to non-harm, and ask that anything that might be under the feet as you walk please to move. Just share your intention.

So in this spiritual path, clear comprehension of purpose. What is my highest purpose? My highest purpose is to live according to the eightfold path, consistent with it; to live with love for all beings and harm to none; to live with mindfulness and presence; to raise my own vibration and that of the Earth.; to offer loving kindness even when there is anger, fear, and contraction.

Clear comprehension of suitability. Is what I'm about to do suitable to that purpose? If it's not, why am I about to do it? Then you catch yourself and look at that which may be lazy or fearful or resentful, not wanting to be bothered, and you address it. When I say address it, you don't try to fix it. You simply note it as an object and understand, this has also arisen out of conditions. How do I best attend to it so it resolves itself?

For each of you as humans, there is a self-centered ego core. One of the great values of vipassana practice is it gives you an alternative experience. Eventually, sometimes sooner, sometimes later, in your practice the solid self falls away, even momentarily, and suddenly you're looking through the eyes of awareness with a spacious loving heart. Then the ego drops back in again. “What happened?” But it gives you a taste of emptiness. Now you know it's possible to experience the world from the open heart.

Then your intention changes a bit. The intention becomes to deepen in your practice so that you can hold that open heart more stably, and live from the place of awareness rather than from the ego. As you practice, this will happen. For some of you it will be a shift that takes weeks; for some of you years, depending on your karma. But now is the place to start. If it's going to take years, you might as well start today and if it's going to take weeks, you might as well start today. Just begin, and please know that nothing you gain is ever lost. There's a constant learning experience that deepens through this and through many lifetimes. Nothing positive is ever lost.

So you come to a retreat like this and you practice. Last night I mentioned Milarepa's story. His demons come into his cave. Is there anybody here today who did not meet one of your demons? (none) I'm not surprised. Were you able, at least a little bit able, to offer them tea? You may have picked up a stick at first and wanted to chase them out, but were you eventually able to offer them tea? Just, “Sit by my fire, have tea. I've been expecting you.” (nodding, yes)

The body sensations, the emotions, the agitated mental states, arise. You have not yet purified all the conditions. These results are going to arise. As long as you are human, they're going to arise. It's not a problem that they arise. They are your teachers. If they did not come out to nudge you, how would you learn compassion? If everything was always flowing smoothly and perfectly and there was nothing that pushed you off center in any way, you might think that would be delightful. But you're not here just to live in bliss. You're here to deepen in wisdom and compassion. And that happens through the nudges, or what may sometimes feel like a lot more than a nudge. It comes.

So the next stage of the practice is literally learning how to sit whatever arises by the fire and offer it tea; not to be overly agitated by it; not to run away from it; not to try to bash it with a stick. Just remember, “Ah, I've been expecting you. Have tea.” We hold what has arisen and watch how we want to distance ourselves from it. Instead, we lift it up into the heart. Instead of judging anger or impatience or whatever it might be, what if you truly opened your heart to it?

A little later in my talk or in the retreat I'm going to guide you in a meditation practice called tonglen. Giving and receiving. The words in Tibetan literally mean giving and receiving. I'm curious, how many here have never done tonglen meditation? Okay, so it's familiar to many of you.

We find ourselves relaxing with the objects that arise, not fighting with them. Open-eyed, aware of them—not literally open-eyed but awake to the arising of these objects. Awake to the fact that they may be unpleasant. If there's fear of them, aware of the fear. If there's strong aversion to them, aware of the aversion. Yet resting in spaciousness.

This spaciousness is vital. An illustration I often use here is that of the tarantula in a box. I would ask you to imagine yourselves, each of you, sitting in a small box, just the right size for your chair or zafu. Here I come with a big bag and I pull out the first tarantula. I'm going to put it in your box! Most of you would be out the door before I got near.

Now try to imagine yourself in a 12x12 foot box. You're sitting in one corner. Can you see as the box increases in size that I may put the tarantula down in one corner, and perhaps you could stay there for a few seconds until it started to move? Then you're out.

Now imagine yourself in a room the size of this one, but empty of furniture, and without any exterior hallway; just a clean room. There are no crevices of any sort; no other people, just you. You're in one corner and I put the tarantula down in the other corner. You would watch it. Big eyes, watching. Where is going? What is it doing? For 10 or 15 minutes it crawls around at the other end of the room, and then slowly it starts to walk towards you. It gets to the 2/3 point. You pick yourself up and walk back to the opposite end of the room and sit down again.

After how many hours do you start to let it get closer to you? Maybe not crawling on you yet, but 5, 10 feet away. You begin to reflect, “It's also afraid of me.” Maybe after a few days of practice with this situation you start to let it climb right up on your lap and let it walk over you.

You have a bigger container. There's space for your fear. You're not judging your fear; you're just present with this “demon.” I don't mean tarantulas are demons, but for you in that moment the tarantula has been a demon. Just be present with it.

So through practice we're building mindfulness, deepening in intention, practicing sila, panna, and samadhi, and helping to -I don't want to use the word create; there's always a big container - beginning to understand the truth of that bigger container, and open in to the fact of its existence; to stop telling yourself the stories of the small container.

Practice deepens. There begin to be deep experiences of emptiness, that there's no solid self. That's a part of your practice that we'll talk about later in the week. For now, I want to stay connected with the various demons that come to visit and not try to escape them into emptiness. That can be a form of spiritual bypassing.  

There's another story about Milarepa. He leaves his cave to collect firewood. When he returns, he finds the cave is filled with demons. They're eating his food, they're lounging on his bed, they're drinking his water. They're making a mess throwing garbage around. The first thing he does is to drop his firewood except for one big stick and he starts to chase after them. They're delighted! “Whee! Look how angry we're getting him! What fun!

He realizes he's not going to get them out of his cave by chasing him with a stick. He sits down to think. “What am I going to do? I've got to get rid of them. I know-- I'll give a dharma talk. That will change them and then they'll leave!” So he begins to talk about loving kindness, generosity, the open heart. They begin to roll their eyes. They're on to him. They know he's just trying to manipulate them in a different way. Perhaps it's a more skillful way to some degree than chasing him with a stick, but maybe not. He's still just trying to manipulate them. “If I just do the right thing, I'll get this demon out of here.”

This is important to understand in your practice. If anger comes up, you can't say, “If I just do the right thing, the anger will go.” You're not trying to make the anger go, you're only taking care of it so you don't inflict it on others, making space for it and creating the conditions for it to resolve, and simultaneously attending to the conditions out of which it arose. Purifying the conditions so it doesn't arise so quickly in a future time.

So here's Milarepa giving his dharma talk, and the demons are rolling their eyes and elbowing each other, laughing. He realizes, “I'm not going to get rid of them this way.” He thinks to himself, “Maybe they've always been here and I just never noticed them before. They're setting up housekeeping. It looks like they're here to stay. I'm just going to have to learn how to live with them.”

So he lets go of the tension about their presence. He might offer some of them tea. He relaxes around them. He doesn't get caught in their stories. They get bored and most of them leave. There's one big demon that stays, a big ogre with big bulging eyes and sharp fangs and huge mouth. Milarepa sees he's just there. He's watching every move Milarepa makes.

A few days go by. He gets used to the ogre's presence. He wonders, what's happening with this ogre? In what way am I still attracting him? He realizes that he's still separating himself from the ogre. “I am Milarepa, the good meditator, the yogi, and that's a demon, an ogre.” So he realizes there's just one thing to do. He walks up to the ogre, looks him in the eyes, says, “Eat me,” and puts his head in the ogre's mouth.

At that point the ogre dissolves, disappears. Why? What is this story about? Your practice asks you to open to all of yourself, both the heavenly beauty and the negative that's in you, without choosing one over the other. Without saying, “I should be this way, I shouldn't be that way.” Of course, with that “abandon the unwholesome” we do want to abandon the negative qualities. But to abandon them doesn't mean to chase them with a stick or to try any form of manipulation to get them to go. Rather, right there with anger is that which is not angry. Instead of paying attention to the anger and trying to fix the anger, can I acknowledge the presence of the anger, hold space for it, and rest in that which is not angry?

I cease to create a separation where I shouldn't be this way, I should be that way, and to acknowledge, “This is the human condition. Emotions will arise. Sometimes they're unpleasant. I do want to take care of them so they do not cause harm in the world, but I do so with compassion for the human condition. Eat me. I'm not separate from you. I dissolve into you and you dissolve into me.” But because this loving heart is so strong, so compassionate, this is what radiates out. The ogre itself dissolves; and it will dissolve.

This is perhaps the hardest step in your practice, to come up to that demon and, instead of trying to manipulate it in any way, to simply open your heart and be fully present with it, knowing, “This is part of me and I am part of this.”

During some of our discussion periods today a person raised the question of people in her experience that bring up a lot of anger; perhaps somebody who's very prideful, or somebody who is vicious in speaking about other people, or somebody who is overly manipulative. You each have certain kinds of people that you don't want to be with. What's happening there?

So often these people are a mirror, not of how you really are in the way you're expressing yourself in the world, but of how you're afraid you could be. You see the seed in yourself, the possibility of harming others, of being overly prideful, of being manipulative, and because you're afraid of that seed and really hate that possibility, when this person reflects that mind state and action back to you, you don't want anything to do with that person. When you can find compassion for yourself that that ogre exists in you, then you find compassion for the other, and suddenly there's no ogre. There's just a human being who's suffering in some way that creates a habitual pattern of slandering others or manipulating others. Compassion is strong and says no to such a person. “No, you may not manipulate me. You may not manipulate them. You may not speak in a slanderous way about me or about others.” But it does it with kindness, not with hatred.

This is the power of your practice. This is the deepest healing. It's the place where you find the wholeness of yourself with nothing that you need to spilt off from yourself because it seems unacceptable. I restate, you are no longer acting out that which you've found to be negative in the self, but you cease to have to split off from it. It just is arising from conditions. It's impermanent, it will pass. No problem.

I'm looking forward to spending tomorrow or the rest of this week, as the case may be, with all of you, to having more time together. For now I'm going to end this dharma talk with ten minutes of tonglen practice. Take a moment to stretch your arms and legs.

I want to lead you in tonglen practice because it's a wonderful tool when there are a lot of demons milling about and you don't know what to do. It's not a way of controlling the demons. It's just a way of opening your heart compassionately to yourself.  We can do this practice with any person who is suffering, but tonight I'm going to do it with you working with your own self. You can envision your present self or your childhood self.

The practice has two parts, the giving and the taking. We take it step by step.

Envision yourself sitting in a cylinder of light. Feel it coming into the crown chakra and coming through the body down into the heart. Radiant light is filling you. Breathing in, draw it into the heart, down into the belly, down into the base chakra, filling you.

This is just preparatory to the full practice. This is the first step, and we'll put the steps together. Breathing out, feel that light growing within you. Breathing in, you've breathed in the light. Breathing out, you've let it fill you. Breathing in, feel the intention to release that light, to send it out to where there's suffering. And with the exhale, send it out. Our normal attitude when we're filled with light in that way is to horde it for ourselves. Here you're just sending it out into the world, wherever it needs to go.

Then the second step of the practice. See a being who is suffering, or see the suffering itself. In this case, as I said, we're working with ourselves. So see your own suffering, and visualize it as a heavy, black, sticky, tar-like mass. The first reaction is, “Ick! I don't want anything to do with it.” There is aversion, pushing it away.

See the heaviness of that suffering, and breathe it in. There probably will be resistance to letting it touch you. If there's resistance, just pause and put your hand over your heart and breathe a few times. Find compassion for this human that doesn't want to be touched by the suffering. Breathe it in and into the heart.

With the exhale, feel the heavy darkness of that suffering, really letting it touch you. Allow the heart to purify that suffering, and then breath in the intention to release. Breathing out, release it. People sometimes ask me, where will I release it, Aaron? Won't it do harm? Send it to me—I'll take care of it. Send it to whatever guides and loving beings you know, to the Buddha, to Jesus, to any of these great masters. But also be aware that your heart has already started the transmutation process with it and has allowed it to fill with energy and light.

Now let's put these together. Start by visualizing yourself now or at a time in your life where there was real suffering. The first step; feel yourself in a cylinder of light. Coming down through the crown chakra. Breathe it in; right down into the heart, and all the way down to the base chakra. You can do this in several steps of breath. For example, breath it in and exhale, breath in further and expand the light in you, and exhale. Use whatever pace works.

Then we come to intention to release it. Visualize that aspect of you who is suffering, or was, and the intention to send that light to that aspect of the self. Breathing out, send it out. Feel that aspect of you receive it. And then focus on the heaviness, the sadness, the fear, the pain, the darkness, of that aspect of the self. Breathing that into the infinite, compassionate heart. Feel the heart retract, if it does so, not wanting to be touched by darkness. Hold the highest intention, literally to purify that which is darkness, negative, low vibration, with love.

Allow yourself to really be touched by it, to feel the heaviness of suffering in the heart. No stories around it. Don't personalize it in that way; just know the direct experience of suffering. Feeling the power of the heart to transmute this suffering. Breathe in with intention to release, and breathe out, release it. Breathe in light.

Since many of you have been at the Casa, I'll use an image that will help those who have been there. When Barbara does this practice she often envisions standing under the Casa waterfall, with its strong energy, purification and light. She feels it beating down on her head and washing away anything impure. She invites that energy down into her heart. Bringing in light. Holding it in the heart. Seeing the place of suffering and intention to release, and sending it out. Seeing again that suffering as a heavy black mass, sticky, oozing. Bring it into the heart. Allowing yourself to be touched by it. Allowing the compassionate heart to radiate light and transmute the suffering.

And then releasing. It's important to release. You don't hold it in you. Sending it out. Calling upon whatever power of light and love there may be to take and further transmute this suffering. But you've already begun the transmutation process. You're not sending out hatred or anger or fear but a transmutation of what has been held in the compassionate heart.

Breathing in light.

Exhale, letting it fill you.

Inhale, intention to release.

Exhale, sending it out where there is suffering.

Visualizing the place of suffering;

Inhale that heavy tar-like mass of suffering.

Exhale, feeling the weight of it filling you and the power of the heart to transmute it.

Inhale, intention to release.

Sending it out with the exhale.

Inhale light.

Exhale to the heart.

Inhale, intention to send it out.

Exhale, releasing it, directing it to the suffering.

Inhale the dark mass of suffering.

Exhale, feeling the weight of it in your heart

and your heart's natural ability to transform it.

Inhale, intention to release.

Exhale, letting it go.

Releasing it from the heart so the heart is empty again and able to take in more light.

Practice on your own here now for a minute or two.

(silent practice)

This is a beautiful support practice. During the retreat, when you meet one of these demons and you're finding it hard to offer him tea, see the self that's suffering in the presence of this demon and just sit down and do some tonglen. Offering the heart to the pain and bringing in light. And don't forget to do tonglen with the demon, also.

I thank you for this opportunity to speak with you tonight. I will end here.

Do use this practice also with other people in your life, with people who are suffering, with those who transgress and hurt you in various ways. You sit with that which is angry or afraid or greedy or jealous or impatient in the self. You sit with other people. You sit with beings who are physically suffering. You sit with yourself with your physical suffering.

This does not replace vipassana. It supports vipassana.

Thank you.

(recording ends)