June 19, 2012 Tuesday Afternoon, Emrich Retreat, Afternoon on the Beach

June 19, 2012 Tuesday Afternoon, Emrich Retreat, Afternoon on the lake Beach

(on the beach with some wind distortion)

Aaron: Good afternoon. My love to you all. We're going to begin with the elements, the traditional elements: earth, air, fire, and water, then discuss the fifth element, which is not really an element but the container for the other four: akasha, or ether.

I first want to acquaint you experientially with the four more mundane elements. When I say mundane, they do have a supramundane aspect to them. There is the essence of earth element, the essence of water element. But what you're seeing here is water element.

Each of the elements contains all the others. None of them stand alone. Feel the earth here next to you. Put a hand on the earth. You can feel that earth energy. Can you feel the dampness, the water element that's within the earth? Imagine how the earth element feels over on that path where it's dry and hot. You'd feel much more of the fire element in the earth there.

This is a bit harder. Can you feel the air element in the earth? It's not baked clay, there's movement in it, air energy. When you get up from here, I'm going to ask you to wade into the shallow water, sit in the sand in that very shallow water, run the sand through your hands, and feel the earth and the water together. And then, as you let the sand loose through your fingers, to feel the wind blowing it, the air element within it, and how as you hold it up in front of you, it picks up the fire element.

Look out at the lake. It's easy to see the air element in the lake, the ripples in the breeze. Visually you can see the sun reflected in the lake. You'll also be able to feel it as you go in. It's not icy cold water; the sun has warmed it. It contains fire element energy.

As you wade into the lake your feet are contacting the base of the lake. Very mindfully walk from the grass across this small stretch of sandy beach and into the water and feel the transition, the change in the earth element as you enter into the lake. This beach, this grass lawn, solid ground, simply continues all the way out, all the way across the lake and lifts up at the other side. It has water resting upon it and water soaking into it.

The important thing, here: once you have identified these elements, I want you to find them in your own body. Sitting here with a hand on the ground, put one hand on the belly. Feel the earth element in your body. Can you feel that it also contains air, fire, and water? Some of you will feel it; some of you may not feel it. That's okay. Is the earth element different in your belly than up on the top of your head? Less water element at the top of the head, less air element. Put a hand back to the belly.

Think about something that might bring up anger. Reflect on that anger, the experience of anger. Not stories, just the direct experience. You may experience additional fire element in the belly as you reflect on the anger. “Breathing in, I am aware of the anger. Breathing out, I smile to the anger. I offer loving kindness to this anger and to whatever triggered it.” Consciously as you do this, open your eyes and draw in water down into the belly, cooling the fire in the belly. Bring it back into balance.

Imagine now a situation of extreme exhaustion, very low energy. Lowering the eyes and looking at the earth, low energy. Now consciously lift the eyes. Look out at the lake and feel the air and fire in the lake, and draw it right into the belly. At this point, raise the hand up to the solar plexus, inviting in air, sun, water. This will draw in more energy.

I'm giving these instructions in brief, as most of you have heard them before. Then we're going to sit for 15-20 minutes and practice with them.

My most important points are:

No element stands alone. Each element is co-existent with the other elements.

Each element has a differing ideal balance with the other elements, in each moment.

When you're feeling energized, peaceful, still, what is the balance of the elements? There's no raging fire inside. There's no flood inside. There's no parched earth inside. There's no hurricane blowing through. It's all settled, grounded, balanced.

Working with the elements like this is a very powerful way of working with your emotions. When you're sitting in vipassana practice and are aware of very strong emotion, you can ask yourself, “What element is out of balance, here? What do I need to invite in?” Perhaps at a time of anger, all of the elements are supercharged with fire energy. Explore them one at a time. Open to the earth element in the body, and feel the fire in it, and invite in whatever is lacking, perhaps more air or more water. Explore the water element in the body. What do I need to invite in? Is this boiling water? Do I need coolness? Space? Grounding? So we're going to work that way with the four elements for a while.

I want to briefly mention akasha. We'll talk more about it after this first practice period. Akasha is not properly an element but a container for the elements. It is an expression of the Unconditioned. Picture a vast container out of which the other elements are arising and passing away. The elements within the akasha are infinite, and you can draw forth whatever is needed. The akasha is the ground.

There are a whole series of transcripts on the DSC archives from the retreat I led in Seattle last, I believe it was October 8-12. There are many talks on the akasha and akashic field. If you're interested in looking further at this, I invite you to read those talks. In an hour here I cannot go as deeply as we did in five days of the retreat. Yes, I know you have a number of days of retreat, but we're more focused on vipassana at this retreat. These afternoons are the only periods where we'll work with the akashic field.

Two terms I'm going to give you. Some of the Buddhist texts use two sets of words. Primordial purity  and All Ground. First, how many of you are familiar with the teaching of the three kayas? Okay, let's talk briefly about these.

The word kaya means body. Nirmanakaya means form body, the outer expression. Dharmakaya means essence body, divine body. It is the place of primordial purity. Dharma of course means the dharma, the ever-perfect. Sambhoga is the bridge between them. Sambhoga  means transition or sometimes “wealth.” Sambhogakaya is grounded at both ends, in the nirmanakaya and in the dharmakaya.

Imagine a simple plank laid over a great ravine, touching the dharmakaya and the nirmanakaya on either end, but not grounded in them. Now imagine that plank has deep pillars going into each. Let's call this end dharmakaya, this end nirmanakaya. When you stand at this (nirmanakaya) end of the bridge, you're still in the dharmakaya, because the bridge is grounded in dharmakaya, and goes over and is grounded nirmanakaya. The further over the bridge you go, the more deeply grounded you are in the dharmakaya, but you're still connected in the nirmanakaya. You don't lose one for the other.

Primordial purity is the dharmakaya. Now we have the second two-word term, the All Ground. The All Ground is not just the dharmakaya, it's the sambhogakaya. It contains everything. In the online transcripts from Seattle we talked about a book with which I worked with Barbara and John last summer, a Tibetan restricted text called Circle of the Sun. It introduces these two terms. I'm introducing them to you so you'll have a better understanding when you read these transcripts. The people participating in that retreat had been introduced to all this previously in the Venture Fourth class.

What is the importance between the distinction between All Ground and primordial purity? The primordial purity is the container out of which the elements are arising, and under that is the All Ground. The All Ground does not just contain the primordial purity but also the distortions within that primordial purity. When I use the word distortion, I use it in a very clear way, not as something bad or wrong. If you would picture a still lake and how at night, if I shined a flashlight beam into the lake, as it hits the water and the density of air to water changes, the light seems to bend. It's a distortion. It's a distortion based on the difference of the density of the air and the water. It's not bad; it's just what happens when you move through a different density.

The All Ground contains all the possibilities, positive and negative, wholesome and unwholesome. The primordial purity is a, let's envision a container within the All Ground that's like a strainer. Only the positive, the wholesome, can come up into it. The negative cannot come into it, only the positive.

I want you to envision this All Ground, all the possibilities. Imagine with me. You're floating down a river with a fast but not extremely rapid current, just floating comfortably. Where you got into the river there was a large waterfall pouring in from a natural fresh spring. So the water here is very pure. As you float down the river, you pass a place where a factory is pumping out its wastes. You can see the water is tinted red there, pouring from a pipe into the river. Eventually it's going to mingle with the river water, but at that point you can see the red flow into this smooth clear current.  Seeing it ahead of you, you clearly want to move away, and go around it.

There are these varieties of streams moving within the All Ground. There is what we call the primordial purity, but you cannot stay locked into that primordial purity. So we become aware of both the primordial purity, that it exists, of the intention to stay within it as much as possible, and the All Ground and the fact that as humans you are much more within the All Ground than the primordial purity. But you do have a choice.

When we look at karma, when we look into the akashic records, which are an expression of the akasha, the akashic field, we see these ripples and disturbances, the place where the factory is pouring out its wastes. We see it all pouring in. I say, “see” but it may not be visual but a different form of knowing. You see these various ripples of disturbance. Something pushes you and contraction comes up. You can see it as an energetic ripple of disturbance, right there within the akashic field. So we see these movements within the akashic field, and that you have the ability to shift into that which is wholesome, and to let go of the ripples of disturbance that are unwholesome.

Push. Anger. Breathing in. Feeling that fire energy come up. Using your practice, using whatever is suitable, to bring yourself back to a centered place. You will literally start to be able to experience the akashic field, and within that field, to move away from that which is unwholesome and toward that which is wholesome, without any strong aversion arising. “Abandon the unwholesome. Cultivate the wholesome.” It really is as simple as that.

We work first with the elements because they give you an entryway into the akasha. They're all pouring out of the akasha. What I want you to do first is, to begin to feel these elements. You can sit on the grass. You can sit shallow in the water. For those who sit shallow in the water, do what I suggested: scooping up handfuls of sand and feeling the difference of balance in that handful when it's underwater, when it's above the water, when it soaks in the sun for a minute or two. Take a handful and put it on your legs above the water level and let it dry there. Begin to feel that in the body, to feel that you do have control over the movements and balance of the elements in your body.

Then, when you're a bit more comfortable with recognition of the elements out there and in the body (of course they're not separate from each other), then I want you to try to follow the elements back into the akashic field to see if you can find the container out of which they are pouring. It's something experiential. It's not intellectual.

If you just sit there, eyes open, doing the pure awareness practice we did yesterday—Ahhh, allowing the pure awareness mind to open, allowing the awareness mind to take the elements as object and watch the various changes and balance of the elements, and then to watch where these elements are coming from. To find the field out of which they arise. Maybe a moment of discomfort as perhaps a motorboat goes by and a wake comes up and splashes you, or as an insect buzzes around your head. Feel that shift in energy. Sun beating down on your back—hot. Lie yourself down, get wet—cool. Sit up again. Feel the sun on your back again. Keep taking this back into the akashic field.

So our first half hour of practice here will have two features to it: becoming more familiar with the elements around you and within you, and with the akashic field out of which these elements are expressing.

Let me hear your questions. And of course this has not been a thorough explanation; it's just been an introduction.

Q: Is akashic field akasha?

Aaron: The akashic field is the field that contains the akasha. And the akashic records are imprinted within the akasha. The akasha is both an element and the ground out of which the other elements are contained.

Ether is sometimes used interchangeably with akasha, so it's more focused on energy. I prefer the word akasha, because with ether you can lose the fact that it is a substance as well as an energy.

I do not expect you all to get this immediately. At the Emerald Isle retreat people practiced with this all week. In Seattle, lacking a seashore to sit on, we sat on the roof of a building where we could see a lake in the distance and a big sky, and the sun and wind, where people practiced with it, many of whom were also at Emerald Isle. So these are people who have been practicing with this a long time.

Don't become discouraged. It will take some of you some time to get it. Others of you who have been working a lot with energy, elements, and so forth, will understand it faster. For some of you it's newer than for others. So don't worry about, “Oh, I'm not getting it.” Watch, if you have that thought, what happens to the elements? What happens when you come back into balance? As soon as the energy is in balance and the pure awareness mind is open, there is the ability to “get it”. But as long as there's straining for it, you can't get it. So you need to relax.

It would have been lovely if we had a dozen of those noodles that you could lie on and rest on in the water. Lacking that, just sit in shallow water or (lost to wind—if you're comfortable in sand, sit there). You can simply lie down in two inches of water, the earth on your back, the sun on your front, and water rippling past. Or float.

Let's try this now for half an hour, and then come back and discuss it.

Q: (inaudible—like, how do you bring the 4 elements back to akasha?)

(wind muffling some words)

Aaron: Find the place where they're shooting out. Let me use as an example a bulb that has shot up from the earth. A small flower on the end, and it's several inches tall. And at first your attention is drawn to the flower. Then you might follow the stalk down into the ground. Feel the hidden bulb under there, and, in this case, the soil that supports the bulb.

Begin to feel the element expressing out into the world and then follow it back down. Where does it originate? At the place that it originates, you'll find all the elements there, and they are in balance, because in the akashic field they are always in balance. So as you invite balance of the elements within yourself, you more fully experience the akashic field. The element practice has value in itself apart from the akashic field simply as a tool, as the Brahma Viharas or work with the chakras, working with strong energy, strong emotions. But beyond that, the element practice serves as an entryway into understanding the akashic field.

So let's go this far and then I'll take you further into the akashic field.

Thank you. Enjoy! Relax and play. Enjoy. This should be fun, not labor.

(recording ends)