April 14, 2012 Saturday Evening, Stone House Retreat, Aaron

Karma; releasing and balancing karma; habitual tendencies; intention; feelings of unworthiness; karma with anger; emotion as a result of conditions; resolving the conditions for the emotion; fear as one condition for anger; anger as one condition for feelings of unworthiness; smokescreen; how to bring love where there is negativity and fear; ‘shout' exercise; Barbara's story of healing feelings of unworthiness; intention not to enhance suffering; vipassana; not fixing but attending, free of contraction;

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. I have enjoyed the opportunity to speak with some of you today in the small groups; I'm looking forward to speaking with other small groups tomorrow. Meanwhile, tonight, I am happy to share some thoughts with all of you.

Several questions were raised today on karma: what karma is, how it works, what releases and balances karma and what this has to do with your vipassana practice. In vipassana we often watch the arising and falling away of different kinds of actions and speech that are habitual tendencies. One person, if somebody comes at them raging and angry, will rage back; another person will turn and run. One person will spit in the face of the attacker and another will cry. And you do those same actions habitually. One person will say to himself or herself, “What's wrong with that person?” and another will say, “What's wrong with me? Why are they attacking me?”

A friend calls these karmic tendencies the Top Ten Hit Parade. What energies do YOU have that are repeated over and over, such as thoughts of unworthiness or ineptitude? Feeling helpless? Need to control? For some of you, the strongest habitual tendency is the one who must save the world, and save everybody in the world.

The Buddha resolved to eliminate suffering, to find freedom from suffering, and some of you have taken a bodhisattva vow to free the world from suffering. That can come from a very loving place, but it doesn't work so well when it comes from the place of one who feels inadequate, angry, and afraid, and is out to save everybody because of frustration, “I don't know what to do about myself or the world.”

Some of you grew up in households where you were the helper in the family, the caretaker, perhaps the eldest of many siblings, or with a parent who was often ill or incapacitated. And if you didn't step in, everything was going to crash, so you learned to step in. You learned to subdue your own anger about the situation and to divert the angry energy into being the helper, and perhaps you did enormous good. Perhaps you raised a houseful of siblings almost singlehandedly or took care of a very sick parent.

We're not saying it's bad to be the helper. We're not saying it's bad to be brave or to be competent. We're also not saying it's bad to feel helpless and inadequate. Only, these are ongoing habitual patterns and even the positive ones do create suffering for yourself and others, when you “must” be good, or competent, or in control.

Whatever you do in the world comes from different motivations; often, from multiple motivations. So there can be a very authentic aspiration to serve others from a loving place, and there can simultaneously be an aspiration to take care of others from a place of, “I have to do this or I won't be loved. I have to do this or it will not be done.” Or, “I'm not good enough; I cannot do it so I must try even harder.” It can be done out of fear that you won't be loved if you don't do it, or it can simply be out of fear, “If I don't do it, nobody will, and everything will crash.” So it's not really the action itself but the motivation that's important.

You may recognize yourself as I talk about some of these tendencies. I'm sure there's nobody in this room who has not at some time or another felt unworthy, just, “I'm not up to this situation. I'm not adequate.” Perhaps that is a realistic assessment. If so, one will recognize the need to master new skills.  But it can go from that, “I'm just not up to it” to “I'm no good at all.” It swings back and forth. I'm sure there's nobody in this room that has not at some time felt with fear, “I have to take charge. I have to be the strong one.” And that again can range from one who develops a very controlling personality to somebody who is simply willing to step in and take charge in a balanced and skillful way. What is the motivation?

Barbara spoke this morning about the idea that everything arises out of conditions, and when the conditions cease, the object that has arisen will cease. Today was a day of beautiful weather. Certain atmospheric conditions were present that brought clear skies, sunshine. If different atmospheric conditions come in, we'll see storm clouds and we'll get rain. I'm sure there's no one in this room who takes it personally when it rains. Even if you have a picnic planned, you don't say, “Why is the weather doing this to me? Am I being punished?” You know better. The weather is simply the way the weather will be. You may not like the weather as it turns out, but you don't take it personally.

But when somebody is angry with you, probably most of you give some thought to, “Why is he angry at me? Why is he doing this to me?” Your boss may seem unfair to pick on you at work. Looks at your projects and says, “Not what I wanted.” “Why is he doing this to me? Not fair.” It's just the nature of that human. Maybe he picks on everybody, but you don't see him picking on others, only on you, and you take it personally. That's one kind of karmic tendency that brings suffering.

Now, don't get me wrong. If somebody criticizes your work, it's important to look and see if there's validity to that criticism and if there is, to clean it up. That's your responsibility. But the other person is also responsible for their input, and some people are simply perpetually angry; if you come across their path you're going to brush against that anger.

We could take it a step further and say yes, it was your karma to bump into that anger. Why? Well, perhaps there's something you need to learn about anger, about being compassionate to yourself and to others when there's anger. So perhaps you keep placing yourself in a situation where others are abrupt, angry, even abusive to you because your intention is to learn how to say no to that kind of abuse in a compassionate way and not get hooked into the stories. That's one karmic stream.

Of course you all have many karmic streams. There's not just one stream. They all come together. Each of you is like a river being fed by many streams. Some of the streams of input to the river are very clear and pure. Some are somewhat muddy, and some even polluted. If you want the river to be clear, you will check out where the pollution is coming from and what's needed to clean it up. You don't start by trying to clean up the river itself as long as pollution is still running into it. You have to go back to the source.

If you experience unworthiness, or if you experience a lot of self-judgment when anger or other heavy emotions arise, then you want to go back to the source. In this karmic stream of being-- let's just choose one object; people who are afraid of anger - you're working hard to keep the stream clean but you're doing it by dredging it constantly, trying to get rid of the anger. But anger is a result. What are the conditions that give rise to anger?

Within each of you, when anger arises, what's really happening? Is there sadness? Is there fear? Is there confusion? If I were not feeling anger right now, what might I be feeling? What is this moment's present experience beyond anger? What does this anger protect me from?

Looking at this years ago with a large group over a weekend, there were many people doing this as a central investigation, working with anger, working with unworthiness. Many people reported to me through the weekend: the feeling of unworthiness comes when there's anger. When does the anger come? Looking at it, they started to see: when there's fear. Fear that I will not be able to meet others' needs. Fear that my own needs won't be met. Fear.

So, each served as a smokescreen. I remember one young man with whom we spoke who, throughout his whole life, had had extreme, excruciating feelings of unworthiness. He talked about being verbally abused as a child, how angry that made him, but any verbal response he made to that abuse was simply met with stronger abuse. So he had to turn the feelings of unworthiness on himself. “If the person abusing me is not bad then I must be bad.” And then when we looked together at what might lie underneath that anger; the fear, “I won't be loved.”

If I swallow my anger, so to speak, and turn it on myself, if the other person is telling me how bad I am and I agree, “Right, I'm bad,” and I act in the ways to acknowledge I'm bad, that seems to buy some acknowledgment from the other, “At least he's listening to me and hearing me say how bad I am.” At least there seems to be some connection with that adult from whom the love is needed. But if the child goes against the adult and says, “No, I am not bad,” the adult will just come down harder on the child. Finally the child learns to internalize the belief, “I am unworthy. I am no good.” How can one look directly at that terrible pain of not feeling loved?

A hard thing here is that one cannot blame the adult. We don't condone the adult's behavior, but probably that adult was equally abused as a child and knows no other way to give attention to the child than to pass on the abuse. Who do we blame? The whole culture is at fault, and yet we can't even blame that. We simply let go of blame and open our hearts with compassion to the sadness of this human condition, that so many people in your culture and in cultures around the world have not learned to speak with love from their hearts. That they too are afraid of exposing that tender heart so they armor it, and instead they express negativity and fear.

From my perspective, you are here in the incarnation simply to learn this: how to bring love where there is negativity and fear.

Fear is a very contracting emotion. I'm going to do an exercise with you. Some of you have done this with me once or many times before. I'm going to shout, a loud shout. You are forewarned. You know it's coming. Sit and relax, be as open as you can. And then watch what happens at the time of the shout. What happens to your body energy? It will probably startle you. And then what happens?

Remember, if you contract, that's not bad, it's just (shout!) Gotcha!  I don't think anybody here did not contract. Now, what do you do with that contraction? The contraction is normal; what do you do when it comes? Can you feel it still reverberating in the body? Tension, tension. You don't have to get rid of it. It's not bad. “Breathing in, I am aware of the tension.” Put your hand on your heart. “Breathing out, I smile to the tension.” Bring kindness to this human being who has the reflex to startle when there's a loud noise. It's really a mammalian reflex. If you see a wild animal out on the lawn and you yell, it will freeze like that. It will startle, contract.

However, you as humans are a step more evolved. When you contract in that way, you don't have to fight or flee. You have the opportunity to just stop and say, “Startled, contracting, tensing. This is not my most innate natural state. It arises upon conditions. When I am not contracted I am open and spacious. There's ease. The heart is open. I choose to come back to the open heart.”

However, because of the long-term karmic conditioning, many of you, when you contract, instead move into a pattern of, either, “Look at me. Look how bad I am. I shouldn't have startled. I shouldn't be afraid. I shouldn't mind that.” or into a pattern of, “Why did he do that? Who can I blame? I didn't like that.” or into a pattern of, “Oh, look at me. This is always happening to me, people banging into me with words, with body, hurting me in different ways. I'm so helpless.” There are more patterns, of course, but those are a few of the prevalent ones. Maybe you recognize yourself.

So, the human has the opportunity to see the karmic conditioning, to investigate it in meditation, and to make a clear decision to work with it in a skillful way. I want to use Barbara as an example, here. Barbara grew up with a strong sense of unworthiness. She experienced the loss of a primary caregiver when she was a young child, through no fault of hers or the caregiver's; through the caregiver's illness. But it left Barbara feeling abandoned. Then she was told, “Don't be angry. It's not her fault. She got sick.”

Well, “Don't be angry,” then what is she supposed to do with her anger? Where do you put it? So instead of being told, “Of course you're angry. I understand, and let's make space for your anger,” she was told, “Now don't be angry.” She figured, “I am bad to be angry.” That was the ground for the feeling of unworthiness.

She actually had an interesting experience when she was about 6. She had an emergency appendectomy. She was not warned at all. She had no idea what was going to happen; only that she was rushed to the hospital in severe pain and into surgery. The next thing she knew, she woke up with an enormous pain in the lower abdomen and a kindly doctor standing over her saying, “Don't worry. There was something bad inside you but we got it out.” Now of course she knew they hadn't gotten it out. The anger was still there!

Many years later at a month-long meditation retreat, she began to notice how, when she looked at somebody and they looked away, following the retreat instructions, a feeling of unworthiness came up. All that was happening was she was meeting somebody's gaze and, because they were told not to make eye contact, the person looked away. Then the thought arose, “Oh, I'm bad.” Contracting. “If I were loved, they would want to look in my eyes.” Of course, the retreat instructions were there. She knew that.

It made it clear to her, “this is not about me.” It's old conditioning and it just keeps coming up. It has nothing to do with me. They're looking away because that's the retreat instruction. Each time it happened, she would ask, “Is there anybody unworthy here? Is this just an old story?” She asked me at one point, “If I'm not unworthy, I must be worthy.” And I said no, that's just another story. No worthiness or unworthiness. Just be here with the pain of feeling cut off from others; with the sadness that brings up. The sadness of the loss of the caregiver, the anger the fear, “I won't be safe,” and the way you learned the story of unworthiness and bought into that myth. What did unworthiness protect you from? Anger. And what did the anger protect you from? Grief.

So she was able to look at the whole package that month. Many times a day she went out of her way to violate the retreat instructions and try to make eye contact with people. It was good she had a month. It took three weeks before it really started to drop off. By the end of the third week she noticed that when she made eye contact, there was a brief moment of that experience and thought, “I am unworthy,” and then almost a laughing at it, “No unworthiness, just old conditioning. Let it be.” And by the fourth week it really ceased to come up. When she looked at somebody and they averted their gaze, it was just somebody averting their gaze. There was no issue with it at all. In these almost 20 years since, it's never come back. It really was healed.

In this way, through paying attention to the predominant karmic streams, and understanding its nature as conditioned, you release the conditioning and move into a different space where that same trigger simply arouses compassion. It doesn't lead you into those old stories anymore.

This karma grows from the smallest seed. You look at a newborn baby, it doesn't feel unworthy. If it cries and it's picked up, it begins to know it's loved and its needs will be met. But if the parent is a little bit abrupt, harried, perhaps with 4 or 5 children, and the baby is left in its crib to cry longer than is ideal - in other words, you can't rush to the baby at the very first squall, but after a minute or so, if it starts to express pain, you go to it. You take care of it - if it's left alone for any length of time without its needs being met, it starts to move into a conditioned response: “I'm not a loved human being. There must be some flaw in me.” Of course, the baby doesn't think that in words but the seeds are planted.

I'd like you to visualize something with me. Picture a very freshly raked field, fresh dirt raked with a fine rake. There's just the very slightest incline. One big drop of rain falls, hitting a place on the dirt. It's going to go somewhere. It might just go straight down. But if it's big enough that the earth can't absorb it, one kind of condition, that lack of possibility of absorption by the earth, then it's got to run off. Where will it run?

Perhaps one little ant has etched a tiny little ant trail there, just below where it landed. It's going to follow that ant trail because the soil is a fraction of an inch lower than the surrounding soil. Perhaps the wind is blowing in a strong direction, so it pushes it that way. Wherever it goes it makes an indention there. Then another drop falls in the same place, and because the soil is entrenched ever so subtly there, it's going to follow the first raindrop. And a third, and a fifth, and a hundredth. Pretty soon you've got a ravine. Eventually you have the Grand Canyon. All from that first drop and certain conditions that directed it.

Think, then, of yourselves and some predominant karmic tendency, like needing to take care of everyone, or feeling unworthy, or feeling helpless. You don't have to know the first condition. You may never know the first condition. But the direction of the unfolding of the karma points you out to the fact that there was some first condition, someplace in this or past lives where, for the one who feels unworthy, you did not feel loved or you did not feel it was safe to express your feelings. You began to feel, “It's bad to have these feelings.” The trench got deeper and deeper because there was not care given to it. You did not know any other way but to just keep going that way. So it dug itself in.

Now you're suffering because whenever there is that catalyst, that particular karmic stream opens up and you feel helpless before it. Here is that old pang of unworthiness again, or here is that old pang of needing to be the one who takes care of everyone or the world will crash around me. Needing to be the strong one.

The first step here is to see, “This is old conditioning. It's a story. And perhaps it's time to look at this story. If I wish to release this suffering, it's time to stick my head in the ogre's mouth. To really be present with, ‘How does this feel?'” This is what Barbara had to do at that retreat. It was very painful the first week to feel-- she had worked so hard to avoid situations in which she might feel unworthiness. This is over 20 years ago. She was just starting to work with me then. She had worked so hard to avoid situations in which she might experience unworthiness, to always please others, to take care of others, to be the good one, the compassionate one. And here she was, gently inviting this situation that would trigger feelings of unworthiness. She knew she had to be ready to sit with it.

It was very painful at first. There was no place to go. She couldn't escape into a good book or something else; she was on retreat. She had to be there with these feelings. But through kind persistence, the whole thing did open up. What she did, essentially, was to fill in the trench so that when the next drop of water fell, it went in a different and more wholesome direction.

I like the metaphor of a trench because these unwholesome karmic streams can feel like trenches in your being, dug so deep. If you understand them at all, there's a feeling of helplessness about how to shift them. But mindfulness is the key. Mindfulness, and the deep and loving intention to become free of this particular form of suffering. It creates suffering for you and for others. Being around somebody who is always controlling or always feels helpless or always feels angry is not pleasant.

So we use the practice in this way. We bring attention to just one pattern. This is not a self-fix-it program. It's simply asking, what is the suffering? What is the source of suffering? Where is kind attention needed in order to release the suffering?

We start to watch what the catalyst may be. One student reported to me once, whenever anybody criticized her, such as a boss at work, not in a highly critical way but just looking at something and saying, “Well, this looks okay but I think you can get me a cleaner copy,” or “It could be more complete,” she would feel enormous shame. Anger would come up. And yet the boss was not being inappropriate. He was not being abusive. He praised what was strong about it and asked for improvement. When her spouse said something to her about, “When you do this it upsets me,” she became very defensive, very scared, very angry.

As we talked about it on and off during a week-long retreat, I asked her, “Whose voice do you hear when you hear these comments?” She took that into meditation and she said, “My father's.” So I asked her to say-- what did you call your father? Papa-- “Thank you, Papa, but I'm not going to take that today.” So when she heard something that she felt as highly critical, and moved into this mode of defensiveness and anger and fear, instead of moving into the story, “See, I'm no good,” to keep her heart open and just say, “No. No, Papa. No thank you. No criticism today.” And the papa really was critical. She could never get anything right with that papa. “No thank you, not today.”

In saying no to the papa, she became able to say no to the incessant repetition of the story, “See, I'm just no good.” That allowed her to get into better touch with the anger she had felt at the father and that she had turned on herself.  I cannot say it completely healed in a week, but she understood it to a much greater depth. And through the coming year, she was able to largely release that pattern of belief in herself as inadequate, unlovable, and so forth, and also to be able to respond appropriately to appropriate criticism.

It's all so workable. You just don't believe it is. You get stuck in the old stories. And I'm here to tell you there is freedom from these old stories, these old habits, this old karma.

So we begin to understand the particular karmic streams—this one and this one, and sometimes how they come together. And, as with the river, we go back into the source of the pollutants, not to fix them but to heal them. There's a difference. Fixing is a contracted energy. “Let's get rid of this.” Healing is an embracing energy that holds space for it and allows it to purify itself.

The papa's anger at the daughter: compassion sees the father in a whole different light and remembers how angry the grandfather always was, and realizes, “This is what my father was raised with, and so this is how he raised me. I don't condone his verbal abuse to me but I understand how it happened, and I don't hate him anymore, and I don't have to build defensive stories anymore. Instead, I can just let it be.” This is a way of cleaning up that particular karmic stream. That in turn purifies the river. Eventually all the poisons move out of the river and the water is pure again. So as each input is purified, it allows the ever-pure river to manifest itself. The toxins just melt away.

We work with karma at two levels; releasing karma, which I've been talking about, and then balancing karma. For the person, let's use the woman I was just talking about, who found it very hard to accept criticism from anyone, her way of balancing karma was to begin to work with some of her coworkers. The boss could be pretty strong, pretty negative. He never spoke in terms that one would call abusive, saying, “You're just inadequate. You're hopeless.” He would just say, “Nah, I don't like this. It's not what I wanted.” But he would come on strong, and some of her coworkers also didn't know how to handle it. When she learned how to handle it and where her reaction was coming from, she began to teach others how to find more space. How not to take what he said so personally, but how to have compassion for him and the way that he must have been raised and taught to create this negativity in him.

Balancing can take many different aspects. A few of you are in the dharma teaching program. This is one of the ways that you're balancing your karma. You're learning how to teach others this precious dharma. And as you learn it and pass it on, you balance your old karma through helping others who are working with the same kinds of karma, and stuck in similar places.

There are many ways of balancing karma. It all comes down to making choices that pass wholesome response on to others and help mirror for others the possibility of not being stuck in the old stories. It's not really what you do but the way you do it.

I think the most challenging thing about karma for many people is the fact that there are many streams pouring into this river. You're often confused, and you don't know where to go. Here's anger and feelings of unworthiness and fear and helplessness; what do you do with all this? So, the next tendency that comes up is simply to want to bury your head in the sand, to disappear.

We start where we are. If you have disengaged yourself from life, to some extent, then simply note, “Disengaging. Wanting to distance myself because things feel so hard, so painful. I feel overwhelmed.” We start where we are, and that might be with feeling overwhelmed. Instead of judging yourself, “I shouldn't feel overwhelmed,” can you just allow yourself to feel overwhelmed and ask, “What is overwhelmed? How does it feel? Where do I hold this in my body? What am I experiencing in this moment, feeling overwhelmed?” Asking that once in a group, one response was, “crushed,” and I found that very interesting, as if one is crushed in a landslide. One response was “trapped.” One response was simply “terror.” So overwhelmed is not just one thing but how are YOU experiencing it?

And then we do the same practice. “Breathing in, I am aware of this feeling of being crushed or trapped or terrified. Breathing out, I smile to this, I hold space for it.” It's okay to feel that. We start with giving ourselves permission to be who and where we are, not constantly trying to fix ourselves but trusting, “I'm okay just as I am. I am lovable just as I am. And yes, there are some unskillful things that pour off of me; I will work very hard to clean up those pollutants so they don't do harm in the world. But I won't criticize myself because of them. I'll know it's simply the way the karma is flowing through me, and I'm doing my best to take care of it now, to be responsible.”

You don't have to be afraid of anger. You don't have to be afraid of desire. You don't have to be afraid of the judging mind. These simply are results arising from conditions. Pay attention and be present with them. Don't take it so personally, but do take care of them in a loving way so that, in this river again, you find a factory that's spewing poisons out into the river. What are you going to do? You need to go up and talk to the factory owner. Show him the poisons that are coming in. Show him what it's doing to the river. And if he says, “Tough. Too bad.”, then put a cap on his outlet valve so his poisons that would overflow into the river back up into his factory. Let him deal with them. He has no right to poison the river. When he's faced with the poison directly himself then he'll probably learn to handle it in a better way. This is what I mean by saying no with compassion. You don't hate the factory owner but you make it clear, “You may not do that.”

Taking this to yourself, you see certain of these karmic streams that are predominant. And I said a difficulty can be that there are so many, you don't know where to turn, but something will be predominant in any moment. As you bring attention to what is predominant, it reveals itself. “There is this energy and it's frightening to me. It's uncomfortable. I don't want it.” (breathing) Ahhh... Here is this human experiencing the human condition. Can there be compassion? Compassion and forgiveness heal so much.

So karma is a complex topic. The healing of karma is perhaps the core work of your vipassana  practice, although we don't often state it in that way, because you are healing the habitual tendencies that give rise to the suffering. And as you do that, you start to come back to the clear, radiant stream.

If this window got covered with mud somehow-- maybe a hose sprinkling the ground out front and mud spattered all over the window—you could hardly see out the window, is there anybody here who would believe we would have to break out the window and install new glass? The nature of the glass is inherently clear and pure. You wash off the window. First you just rinse it, and then you see where smudges remain and you begin to polish here and here and here, releasing the smudges. And you recognize that while the nature of the glass is inherently perfectly clear and pure, the nature of the glass is also that smudges can stick to it and have to be attended to.

You're not trying to maintain a perfectly clear apparent surface, but to know, “his is the human experience and certain smudges are going to reveal themselves again. It's simply pointing out karma that remains to be purified. I don't have to be afraid of it, just to take care of it.”

Thus, an equally important part of the vipassana practice, along with watching conditioned objects arising and passing away and seeing their nature is impermanent and not self, simply arising from conditions, is to see what remains when the object passes. When anger passes, what's left? That which is aware of anger is not angry. That which is aware of fear is not afraid. That which is aware of desire is not desiring.

Begin to know also this inherently clear, radiant and beautiful part of yourself. This is also a fruit of the practice. The practice is not just to be a watchdog watching for contracted expressions, for distortions in the stream, and cleaning them up, but also recognizing the radiant clarity and divinity of the stream itself. Of the being that you are, and of the beings that each of you, looking around you and truly seeing God in every face and every being.

When anger arises at somebody, can you look at this person and see this is also an expression of the divine? Yes, right now it's expressing some distortions. But in its heart, here is God. Can I open my heart to this divinity? And say no—as I pointed out with the factory spewing garbage into the stream, cap it off! One can say no to abuse simply by saying, “You may not talk to me that way. I do not accept that kind of abusive talk. I hear your pain, but please don't dump it on me.” Then walk away. It can be said with kindness, and it can be an enormous kindness to another person not to allow them to keep spewing garbage into the stream. We have to learn to say no with compassion.

When you say no in that way, it's with recognition of your own divinity and the other's divinity, and asking the other to be all that they can be, as you are asking yourself to be all that you are; to reflect only the highest and most beautiful. “I do not accept the ugly from you. I love you. I hold space for you. But you may not dump your pain, your anger, your fears, on me.”

Once when I was teaching in this vein, somebody spoke up who was a counselor and said, “Well, what do I do with my clients who are so filled with fear and pain and anger?” You listen. Listening is different from allowing them to dump it on you, to abuse you. A competent counselor does not allow herself to be abused by his patients. One listens with a compassionate heart and learns how to say no.

We have about 5 minutes left here. I could probably go on for another half hour and put you all to sleep. I will stop. There's a lot more that could be said about karma, but I want you to see how this applies directly to your practice, and how by observing certain arisings of the mind and body that are recurrent—the mind that constantly wanders into a certain fantasy or a certain chain of negative thoughts and fears-- how this is just the karmic conditioning. It's time to choose otherwise.

You have all come into this incarnation for just this purpose. No matter what specific karma brought you into the incarnation, what specifically you are learning, overall you are learning wisdom and compassion. How, when you feel pushed, to relate to it not by pushing back and not by running, but by swaying with the push, holding space for it, saying no when appropriate, and not taking it personally, with compassion for yourself and for the one who's pushing. And if that person keeps pushing, walk away. It's as simple as that. Why would you keep inviting yourself to be pushed?

I love you all. I thank you for hearing me tonight, letting me share my thoughts with you. I hope that tonight and tomorrow your practice will bear you many fruits, of wisdom, of insight, of compassion, the open heart. Through your practice may you find freedom, and may all beings find freedom.

(session ends)