October 6, 2012, Saturday Evening, Seattle Retreat

October 6, 2012, Saturday Evening, Seattle 3 day Retreat

Ecstasy, bliss and equanimity; jhana; dissolution experience, ecstasy as full presence; appropriate boundaries; pole meditation; spiritual energy remembering; the Mother

Barbara: Someone passed me a question, and Aaron will speak related to this. Recently the note-writer received a link about a woman having an ecstatic birth. Several of the people here saw that video.

(reading question)

Q: I wonder about this energy of ecstasy and why it's so elusive. Is it possible that the transition of death could be an ecstatic experience? Does the suffering or fear of suffering come from just not being able to let go? Truly there is pain in death sometimes. There's definitely pain in birth a lot of times for the mother, and perhaps for the baby. I have had glimpses that other beings, plants, animals, might sometimes be in a state of ecstasy, that it might be an energy of life. What does Aaron think?

Aaron: My blessings and love to all of you. I am Aaron. I'm going to begin by comparing two words, ecstasy and bliss, and a third word, equanimity.

You've all heard of, if not experienced, jhana practice. When we work with the jhanas, we absorb into an object, most usually a supramundane object such as sound or light or color. The process occurs in the upper chakras, especially the third eye and crown. The energy moves up into the upper chakras. The whole body seems to cease to exist. There's no longer experience of a body. It's an intensely blissful experience, very peaceful, filled with light, but there's no way to ground it into the human experience. One can become addicted to it, to having these very high, blissful experiences as a way of escaping some of the pain of everyday human experience.

Body awareness may cease to exist in some of the high vipassana states where there is an experience of complete dissolution of the body and ego. This isn't blissful in the way absorption is blissful. It's peaceful. There's a state of profound equanimity, peace, ease, and spaciousness.

So these two parts of vipassana practice, vipassana based on the way we usually practice, and vipassana based on jhana and absorption practice, give us similar but truly  different results. The absorption practice, as I said, is much more in the third eye and crown. The vipassana experience of dissolution of ego and of body is also not really experienced anywhere below the heart. It may come down into the heart. But more often that experience is based on a disconnect with the ego and the body. The experiences feel different, but both are based on temporary leaving of mundane experience.

This is why you cannot maintain those experiences when you come back into your everyday body experience. There are these extremely pleasant high experiences; then you come out of the meditation. You're back in the body. The ego is back. And the equanimity and peacefulness to some degree are gone. There's a memory of it, but not the direct experience of it.

I don't want to get caught up in semantic issues, here. I'm defining these words in specific ways, but some people might say that what I'm describing as ecstasy is really bliss, and so forth. I am simply using my best understanding of each term.

Ecstasy is based on complete presence. There is no dissolution of body. There may be dissolution of the ego in terms of self-identity with the ego. But the ego is still seen to exist as something that arises out of conditions and is not self. So there may be an awareness that watches the move into ecstasy, watches the physicality that's still there, including physical pain, including emotional pain, including thoughts, including the ego, but there's no self-identification with it. This is why a form of ecstasy can exist within pain.

This ecstatic energy comes all the way down into all the chakras. It's in the base chakra as much as above the crown chakra. Everything is open. I think of a reed blowing in the wind (wiggles index finger while blowing on it). It fully resonates with any air current that goes past it. In a sense, that reed is having an ecstatic experience. It is no longer self-identified as a reed but becomes the wind, even while it's still grounded in the earth as a reed.

Because the human has a brain and is so mental, you rarely get to the point where you open to that degree, where all the chakras are open, where you are fully present in the moment with everything, with all the elements, all the range of mind and body experience, yet without self-identity with it; so deeply grounded into that All Ground, that you fully are resonant with it.

Some of you have experienced this a bit in dzogchen practice. This is the only place in meditation where I've seen that kind of ecstasy frequently arise, as opposed to the bliss of jhana or the equanimity of vipassana. Have any of you experienced this at all in dzogchen practice and pure awareness practice? (yes) You're releasing the boundaries of the self. You begin to experience the totality of the divine, of the universe, and of the self as one. At that place where it all comes together, the ego structure breaks down, although it still may exist and be seen as a conditioned object that has the potential to arise again. But in that moment it's passive, not controlling or dominating in any way. The true self comes forth and experiences ecstasy.

At death, if there is no strong fear, ecstasy is sometimes experienced, especially as you go through the transition. At the beginning of the transition there may be a lot of contraction because there's fear. Many humans will go through the whole transition with no ecstasy, only fear, as they transition, feel the self move into a dark space. Loving spirit may surround them but they can't see or feel it. It takes them weeks, perhaps, to fully open to the light around them.

One of the fruits of your practice is that as you learn mindfulness and deepen in stability with mindfulness, as you approach that transition moment, mindfulness watches contraction and fear, any pain, sadness, whatever emotions might come. It's more awareness that watches it than consciousness. Just watching this whole progression, not getting caught, because that's your practice. This is arising, it's pleasant, it's unpleasant. That is arising, it's pleasant, it's unpleasant.

Because you have that stability of practice, you become able to move into an expansive space in which everything that's arising through that transition, both seemingly demonic and seemingly angelic, is seen simply as conditioned objects, and you break through into the true light and essence of being, which we could call, as Buddhists, Unconditioned, or as Christians, God, or Goddess, That Which Is, Ground of Being. You open into that and recognize the non-duality of self and that, and that profound shift of knowing the non-duality, not conjecturing about it, knowing it.

In that moment, all the chakras are open. Everything is open. There's a profound flow of energy. And this, interestingly, is perhaps the greatest safeguard you have of moving through that transition experience without getting snared by unwholesome karma and getting pulled back into samsara. Because you're resting in that place of total knowing of your true being, and anything that appears demonic, unwholesome, frightening, is just seen as a conditioned apparition, greeted with, “Oh, have tea.” There is nothing to get caught up in. Yes, those objects will appear. They're simply part of the mirror of the old self. You do not have to be worried about them because you know the deeper truth of the self, and can rest there.

So allowing yourself to experience this kind of ecstasy, which I would say completely equates with connection and non-separation, with intimacy, allowing yourself to experience this in the human state pre-death, is a very powerful factor in how you will handle the whole transition experience.

Now we come to the question of pain. Interestingly, as I observe the anesthetic at the Casa—are you all familiar with the Casa, when I use that term? This is John of God's center in Brazil. He does what would seem to be some painful surgeries there with no usual traditional anesthetic. He may make an incision. If somebody has a tumor, he may cut and remove it. He may hold the eye open and scrape with a knife. He does a number of things that would seemingly be terribly painful.

There are two forms of anesthetic that he uses. One of them Barbara writes about in Cosmic Healing, which is that he energetically blocks the nerve impulse from the brain. So the nerve is feeling the irritation, but it doesn't transmit it to the brain. The brain doesn't recognize it as pain. That's the more mundane anesthetic.

The other one I watched a lot last January after Barbara had finished Cosmic Healing. Barbara and I talked about it. It relates to our discussion tonight. Within that ecstatic experience, pain is not perceived as pain. It's perceived simply as sensation, because there is no longer any ownership of the body. That doesn't mean if you touch scalding tea you don't pull your hand out, but it's not pain or fear that pulls the hand out; it's kindness. So when the knife begins to cut, and there's clearly a tumor or some other issue that needs to be corrected, and that you of your own free will as this human have determined to invite the correction of it, the body moves into an ecstatic state based on the very high energy in which it's being supported.

Again, I'm reminded of that quivering reed. The wind blows it, caresses it. It's moving. I'm using wind as a metaphor for energy. But you are literally moving in this high energy and entering into that ecstatic state where nothing is held as pain.

Some people would argue with my use of the word ecstasy there. But to me, ecstasy does not necessarily imply a sense of bliss. It implies complete connection, acknowledgement of the divinity of the self, and the complete experience of knowing that divinity. This is ecstasy.

For the woman in that film giving birth, she experiences the ecstasy of knowing her oneness with the divine source, with the fetus now emerging as a human being. She and the baby are still connected, even as the baby emerges, because they are both-- as if the divine breath had blown into them both. Like taking 2 balloons and inflating them: one breath, the same breath inflating both balloons. They seem to have different containers but there's only one breath in them. That's how all of you are. You are that expression of the divine held in this container, filled with this divine breath.

There's a Hebrew word, I probably cannot pronounce it correctly, ruach, that relates to the breath and the expression of that breath as source. Can you speak about the meaning of that in Hebrew?

Q: Ruach, it means both wind and spirit. So the wind blowing is ruach, and spirit is the same word. In the first few sentences of Genesis, it describes ruach elohim, the divine, God. The breath or the spirit...

Aaron: The spirit that is the essence of God, of everything...

Q: ...that was blowing over creation.

Aaron: Thank you. It's been a long time since I have spoken Hebrew.

So the woman who fears the birth experience because of her conditioning and says, “It's going to be painful. It's going to be terrible, to be frightening,” and closes off the self and the heart chakras and moves into a narrow space, experiences a great deal more pain than the woman who, due to the depth of her spiritual training, taught or integral to the self—perhaps she was never taught it, perhaps it's just who she is based on her karma and past lives—but she may experience this degree of ecstasy, because she somehow managed to keep the chakra channels open, to breathe in that breath of the divine, and to feel that ecstatic experience. There's no separation. There's no clamping down.

Clench your fists. Close your body. Clench your jaw. Can you feel how everything closes down? Now open yourself. Look at the flowers here on the table and breathe them into you. Give thanks for them, for the radiance, the beauty, the scent. So many magnificent expressions of life, in different colors and shapes. As you breathe it in, can you feel the body energy opening? And this is just a small gradation, because the flowers of course are an expression of the divine, but it's different than breathing in that essence of the divine.

You all have the capacity to open to that essence of the divine. I suggest that we invite the Mother in; I asked her as Barbara was meditating and she said she would be happy to do this. I don't want to set up a grasping pattern for you. You will experience whatever you experience. But this divine Mother energy is so profound, so unconditionally loving, that most people do feel it and respond to it with an opening of the whole central channel. This is not complete dissolution of ego; you don't forget who you are. It's not like vipassana dissolution of self and of body, but a dissolution of self-identity with what you're experiencing as the body and self.

Q: I wonder if mundane experiences bring us into a state of ecstasy, because I think of the Sufi dancers and their ecstasy.

Aaron: Sufi dancing, yes. That brings you into a state of ecstasy.

Q: But even when I have just danced, I have felt this very strong connection with All. And it used to sometimes happen when I painted paintings.

Aaron: When you're painting you can experience ecstasy. When you listen to music you can experience ecstasy. Dancing, music, painting, these creative arts, if there's an ego doing them, there's no ecstasy. But as soon as the ego dissolves, you're still grounded there in the body because you're there painting, but the ecstasy is there because the energy field is open.

Q: Painting is painting.

Aaron: The painting is painting. The dance is dancing. The music is music playing, singing. There are other ways in which you may experience it. Sometimes people experience it simply when planting a garden or walking in a woods. Barbara sometimes experiences very profound ecstasy simply floating in the middle of the lake on her boat. No sail, she's not moving, she's just drifting. And the sun is sparkling on the water. Her feet are hanging over the side of the boat into the water. The self is gone. And yet she's also aware; she's not spaced out. If the boat begins to drift up against the far shore, she picks up her paddle and brings it back into the middle of the lake without losing the ecstasy.

Q: The opposite of spacing out.

Aaron: Exactly. Full presence. For ecstasy there has to be full presence.

Q: Attunement.

Aaron: Attunement, yes. It's the zenith of attunement, the heart of attunement. It's the place where you're so totally attuned to everything that you lose any sense of separation with it. And in that depth of attunement, you experience the ecstasy of knowing it yourself.

Q: Can you experience ecstasy during sex?

Aaron: You can. Most people don't. Only if you can step aside from the self, move into an awareness that watches the self within the sexual act without trying to control it or make something special happen. It is not the physical sensation that leads to the ecstasy. It's the dropping of separation.

You can experience it making a cup of tea. However, it becomes easier to experience it when you have some guideline about what it is. So what I've been finding in these spiritual energy healing sessions (in Jackson, MI) is people are awakening to a deeper truth of themselves, because they see the Mother reflecting that truth. And they begin, sometimes not the first time but eventually, to open and become aware, “Yes, I am also that.” Not, “She's the Mother and I'm this little poor human.” But, “I am that. We are that together.” And that allows them to open into an ecstatic experience.

Once you understand the experience then you pick up traces of it where you missed it before. Like just walking in the autumn woods and seeing the vivid colors. The self drops away. There's nobody saying, “Oh, I want this. Can I take these leaves home?” etc. Just, “Ahh...” and an experience of ecstasy. As we do this with the Mother today, be aware within your vipassana practice of what's happening with the chakras. What are you experiencing in the body. Is there tension and contraction, or is there more spaciousness? What supports spaciousness? What blocks spaciousness? What happens if you find yourself really sinking into the Mother and she into you and some fear comes up, wanting to close yourself off and maintain individuality? Of course we would not do this if it were not safe, because you are loved and the Mother would never harm you.

Q: In energy healing practices, we talk about closing up yourself a little so that you are not wide open all the time and vulnerable to spiritual attack, or something.

Aaron: Because if you are acting as the healer, you need to maintain a slight separation. There's a fine line. If you maintain too much separation, you cannot help the person open. But you also must maintain a certain amount of boundary so that you're not, for example, taking negative energy, or literally negative entities that have attached to that person into yourself.

Q: Are there people who are walking around in a state of ecstasy most of the time because they are so present?

Aaron: There are some. My experience, based on my final lifetime: there was a prolonged state of ecstasy within which I could not really function well in the world. Then came the intention to come back and share the dharma, and live in service to all beings. Letting go of any attachment to the ecstasy, and yet constantly experiencing the edges of it. Grounding myself.

Do you know of the pole meditation? (Not everyone.) It's a meditation in which we ask people to ground themselves into the earth and up into the heavens. Ground into the base chakra and into the highest chakras. To feel the flow of energy. A tree must have its roots deep into the earth or it cannot grow. But if it dug its branches also into the earth, it would die away. If it lifted its branches up into the light, into the sun, and it said, “Oh, this is so nice. I'll pull my roots out, too.” it would die. We need to be grounded in the mundane and the supramundane, in the lower base chakras and heavier chakras, and in the higher chakras. We need to keep open to both. You are a pole.

So ecstasy is a beautiful experience, but like anything else it can be overdone. If you cling to it, it's not true ecstasy. Then there's a pushing something away, wanting this in place of that. But true ecstasy is grounded and centered and able to be so open and compassionate, so present in the world, because it's fearless. Or if not fearless, at least comfortable with the experience of fear and not taking it personally.

So yes, I have known people that have walked around in that ecstatic state, and I have done so. But I also had to learn how to temper the ecstasy in order to come back and really touch compassionately on human suffering. And where to find the balance between awareness of suffering and awareness of connection.

For me it stimulated enormous compassion for those humans who had not experienced that full realization and were still suffering. So it enabled me to stay quivering, so to speak, letting the breath of the divine fill me and be fully moved by it, and yet open and aware of and not negating human suffering. And not trying to fix it. Just loving those humans who were still suffering.

That's really where I am now. I love you all. Your suffering touches my heart. I know you each have the capacity to move beyond it. And I'm here to help you do that, to whatever degree each is ready.

Are there further questions in this talk phase?

Q: I had the experience of being with a healer who was so powerful, I felt her energy so strongly I had to step back away. In awe, actually. At first I felt kind of like not worthy to be in the same room with her. Then I came to understand her love was unconditional. It was a very profound experience for me.

Aaron: Remember that this or any “healer” does not heal. Love heals, God heals, however you want to name it. And you are part of that love, part of that divinity. I do not call the work that Barbara and I and Mother and others have been doing “spiritual energy healing,” although that's our formal title for it, but “spiritual energy remembering.” Our work is to help you remember who and what you are, and to ground deeply enough in that that you can't be knocked out of that. That you know it.

When you experience that kind of strong “healer,” what you're experiencing is that human being as a channel through whom divine love can flow and make it accessible to you. But he or she, the healer, is not doing anything except being a flow-through. I'm not diminishing the skill, and it's beautiful, but he or she is not the one who is divine, or at least not uniquely so. The divine is the divine and is awakening awareness of that divinity in you. Okay?

So, what we'll do here is simply to ask you to take turns coming up. When the Mother incorporates, to take her hands. You'll feel her energy perhaps as different than mine. I have a very powerful energy, in some ways perhaps more powerful than the Mother's. But I've learned through the years to soften that energy so I don't knock people out. With the Mother, we are inviting her to bring up a higher energy, so that you feel her energy more. It's gentle. It is all-embracing.

Simply sit and look into her eyes. Take her hands. At the point where she lowers her head and releases your hands, get up and move back to your seat. Those of you who are not in that moment holding the Mother's hands and with her—darshan, you know the word darshan? It's a Hindu word that means “spiritual connection”-- those of you who are not meeting with the Mother at that point, be aware of all the loving entities, your own guides and other spirit, in the room. Ask for support for your own highest intentions, your own highest values. To open your heart. To release some old fear and holding. To learn how to be of more pure and complete service in the world. Just ask for help with that, and trust that there are going to be many entities, not just the Mother, in the room, all supporting you in whatever ways are appropriate.

Also, as you are sitting there and the Mother is working with one or another, work with your vipassana practice. If you're feeling joy, know there's joy. If you're feeling overwhelmed or frightened, know there's overwhelming feeling or fright. If it's unpleasant, know it's unpleasant. How am I relating to it? Ask for help not to get caught in the stories.

Q: Should we sit in the grounded position, with feet on the floor?

Aaron: Yes, feet on the floor so there's more energy flowing through you and through the room.

So I'm going to turn this off... And I do want you to keep this related to your vipassana practice. Watch what happens if the Mother seems to spend longer with somebody else than she spends with you! Watch if grasping comes up. Old stories: “I'm not worthy!” It may be that after the Mother goes around, she'll welcome you to come up a second time, if you wish, if anybody has the need. She will speak for herself. Her English is not as fluent, but she does speak.

Q: What is her primary language? Don't say “love”!

Aaron: She will explain it to you herself.

(She said: telepathy)

(recording ends)