November 12, 2016 Saturday PM, North Carolina Retreat

(This talk not yet reviewed by Barbara and Aaron)

Post-Election: Abandon the Unwholesome; Aaron's Story of Awakening

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. Many questions in all of your hearts about what is the most wholesome and skillful response to your own pain and others' pain. What is wholesome and skillful response, when you see people really bullying other people, saying hateful things, and so forth. Your world feels like it's in turmoil and you wonder, how do I respond to this with non-harm to myself and others, but also with the courage to speak up where it's appropriate to speak up?

The Buddha gives us very specific words on right effort. Summarizing, not to quote the sutra, the effort to support wholesome mind and body states, not yet arisen. To nurture wholesome mind state that have already arisen. To act in ways that do not bring up unwholesome states. And to abandon or release the unwholesome states that are already arisen. So we have wholesome states that are already arisen, wholesome states not yet arisen, unwholesome states not yet arisen, unwholesome states already arisen. Four categories, as it were. On the one hand we need to treat them all differently, as unique, and on the other hand, there's just one answer: love. But what does that mean?

Many of you are feeling sad, angry, frightened, confused, weary, all of the above. Another piece of the dharma that's important is to remember, in this conditioned realm everything that arises out of conditions is impermanent. It will arise if the conditions are present for it to arise. When the conditions cease, it will pass away.

We can ask ourselves as we look at the world today, out of what conditions has this present situation arisen? What needs to be purified or attended to so that this releases? And to remember it's not about you, each of you individually. It's really a national, and really a worldwide, karma.

I thought of a number of tracks that this talk could go on tonight. I'm going to start with one, but I'm probably going to switch mid-stream to another. Space for it all.

You are spirit, loving radiant spirit, here within a human body, with a human mind, feelings and so forth. Before you came into the incarnation, from my perspective at least, each of you reflected on your readiness to come in and certain work that you intended to do within the incarnation. Some of you may not see it in that way, and certainly your view is as valid as mine. I can only share my view. But from my perspective, consciousness does continue after death, and then this consciousness takes— it's not even quite this way but this is the best I can articulate it, this consciousness takes birth into a new form.

Why would you do that when you know it's going to be hard? Because you are love. You are loving and your essence is love, is light, is goodness. And there is such a deep aspiration, especially for all of you in this room who are truly old souls, such a deep aspiration to bring healing to this earth plane. To release and awaken from your own karmic pattern. To support the transition of the earth into a higher consciousness. All of this is part of your intention.

The earth is moving from a much heavier, denser consciousness into a higher consciousness. All of you have committed to be part of this transition, and also you are here to release your own unwholesome karma. So it's to take care of yourself, to find liberation for yourself, and to release this whole earth from its patterns of negative karma.

This may be a bit of a different topic for a dharma talk, let's say stepping out of the path of traditional Buddhadharma. Eons ago, before there was the earth as you know it today, many of you came from other places in the universe, material and non-material. And that which was experienced as “earth,” there were the, I don't know what to call them— cultures, of Lemuria and Atlantis. You don't have to take my word for any of this. If it seems like nonsense to you, throw it away and just return to your vipassana practice. That's sufficient. I'm just trying to offer some explanation of why you are where you are right now.

Lemuria was a quasi-material plane, a crystal plane. Not the heavy density that you have now but an energy plane. Those who were Lemurians had the ability to literally think something into existence, which is perfectly harmonious with the Buddha's statement, “You are what you think. With your thoughts you make the world.” But now you've lost the ability to think something and say, “Oh, I want a house and it will look like this,” and imagine it, and there it is. Why have you lost that ability? If you had the ability to create anything you thought, your world wouldn't be here anymore because those who are filled with fear and hatred would have destroyed it.

As you evolved, and through the period of Lemuria, there was a deep intention to live from your own free will as a path to maturation. Let's use the simple metaphor of the Garden of Eden, in which it was a heaven realm, everything was given. But you were children in that Garden, and there was the intention to mature, to co-create with the Creator. You knowing yourselves also as creators, shaping a world according to your vision. “You are what you think. With your thoughts you make the world.” Now if everybody thought harmonious, loving, peaceful thoughts, that would be fine.

With the metaphorical stepping out of the Garden of Eden, and I would not make that synonymous with stepping out of Lemuria, although there's a comparison, but the movement from Lemuria became a movement to know your own power. To create love. But as you stepped out of that Garden, you also knew fear. Suddenly there was a self and another, self and God/Goddess, self and divinity, and the yearning to move back into the Garden, to come back to the divine self. Where has it gone? Because now there was negative thought. When there's no self and other, there's no negative thought, there's oneness. On the ultimate level there is still only oneness, but you are all here in heavy material bodies knowing duality, living in what seems like a realm of duality in which fear, hatred, and greed arise.

Many of you were there at that time. Others perhaps were your karmic ancestors. When I say many of you, I mean this specific expression of the Light, of the One, that you are. As you moved into a heavier density earth, you agreed with your guidance to diminish yourselves temporarily. To cease the ability to more or less snap your fingers and, “I think it, I create it,” because you understood that anger did arise and you had not yet resolved the ground for that anger. You were not yet able to be fully responsible for negativity. Acknowledging that, there was a willingness, and this is going to sound a bit farfetched to some of you, and others are going to say, “Ah, yes,” and it's fine either way. There was a willingness to cut certain links of the DNA chains to limit you into the more heavy density mundane human, no longer with a crystalline structure but a carbon-based body on a heavier density planet. It was to be a temporary change— temporary, looking in the long view, so we're not talking about 100 years but millennia.

You could understand why it was necessary or you would have destroyed each other, if you had retained the power and not resolved the roots of negativity. So all these ages have passed, with heavy density earth. Many of you coming back again and again and again, trying to learn how to hold the heart open when there is painful catalyst. How to truly respond with love, with compassion.

The second part of my talk is going to be what it means, but first, this bit of history.

Fast-forward eons of time, and here you are, finally at this turning place where there is truly a possibility for liberation from negative emotion, or, said more clearly, liberation from the dictates of negative emotion. It may still arise but ceasing the self-identity with it and the impulse to act it out. This is where your vipassana practice is so important. Because as you sit there, so peaceful— ahhh, wonderful!— and then bzzzz!, and a murderous rage comes up. Well you can watch. Hearing, hearing, unpleasant, wanting to swat the fly. Who's got the fly-swatter?! Anger! Ahhh, I open my heart to this small sentient being. It may live. I just let it be.

So you can see how you've grown. Your ancestors of 10,000 years ago would have swatted the fly. Maybe you don't have to swat the fly. And that may seem like a small step, but my dear ones, it is enormous because it means you are beginning to live more deeply from the pure awareness mind, the Buddha nature, the Christ consciousness, from the loving heart. You have developed the tools to be present with unpleasant experience without contracting around it. With very pleasant experience without grasping and contracting. This is the whole shift that your earth is undergoing today, now, literally now, possibly in your lifetimes.

Those who are of more negative polarity will not be destroyed, of course. The work is to help all beings learn the potential of living from the loving heart. In order to do that, you have to do your own work, literally to awaken to the point where you are at least not slave to your experiences, but are able to say no in an openhearted and loving way to your own fear, anger, and so forth.

We've been talking today about being present with pain, with grief, with confusion, holding space for yourself. This is a vital foundation to being able to hold space for others who are lost in anger and pain. People ask me, “Aaron, can you still be optimistic?” Not just about since the election, but about the whole climate of our earth today. Yes, and again yes, because you, all of you, have had the courage to come into this incarnation knowing it was going to be challenging, and love brought you here. You may feel like you only succeed that much of the time, but that's more than you succeeded the last time, in giving a loving response. But there are so many beings incarnating now who are so deeply committed to helping shift the earth into a truly positively polarized planet, an awakened planet. Literally the Eden that was promised you. And you are all participating in that shift. Just your being here this weekend is proof to me of your commitment and your love, and your ability to do what you have intended to do. Nobody ever promised that it would be easy. To wake up is very hard work.

Some of you have heard me tell the story of my final human lifetime. The one who I had loved as a son was killed in anger by one who was my brother. Not intentionally. He threw a knife. He actually was aiming at me, because he was angry at me. But the one who held a place in my heart as son, the child of my heart, stepped in the way and intercepted the knife. I was in despair. For 10 years I wandered the earth, asking, where is love? Where is awakening? Where is the end of suffering? I was a Theravada monk in Thailand. I had a very deep practice, and many up until that time had looked to me as a teacher. But I stepped aside from that teacher position because I realized that I had to do my own work.

Fast forward a ways in that lifetime. This monk who I was, I was walking down a path in the forest at night, a path that was familiar to me. The rainy season was coming soon so I was eager to get back to a place where I would spend the rainy season. But I had mis-figured the timing of it, and as I walked that path, heavy rains came down. I hurried along the path. When I say “I,” not Aaron, but the monk who was the expression of this essence of my being in that lifetime. He hurried along the path. A big thorn tree fell down just as he walked past. He fell to the ground. The thorn tree pinned him down, face in the mud. The thorns were not piercing his skin, just barely touching it. Big thorns, many of them against his back, against the back of his legs, the back of his head. He could not move.

Even then his practice was very well-developed and he had equanimity. He knew, It's not so cold. I will not die here on this path. If i don't move, the thorns won't hurt me. And eventually, somebody in the next day or two will come along the path and find me and free me. So he just lay there, meditating.

Everything was fine. I won't say he, I will use “I”, because I am a different expression of the essence than this monk was. I am more of the core of the essence now, in my awakened state. But I use the term “I” because it's clearer.

Everything was fine until I heard the footsteps of the tiger. A low growl. I knew it was a big tree, and the tiger could not get in anymore than I could get out. But eventually she would find her way in. I could hear her snarling. I could hear digging, trying to find a way past the thorns to get this helpless piece of meat.

At first I was terrified. Then I was angry. Hours passed. She went to my feet, she went to my head, to one side, the other, trying to find a way into me. What is she going to eat first? Will she eat my feet? Will she start on my head, or a hand? Terror!

At a certain point I realized I did not have a choice whether the tiger would eat me. I did not have a choice for how long I would lie there in the mud, rain pouring down, under this big thorn tree— not heavy, not lying on my body or breaking my body. I had no choice about that. I had a choice about how I would respond to it. I did not even have a choice about whether I would live or die, only how I would live or die. If my commitment was to awaken, then even if I died it needed to be with love.

I decided it was a female, a tigress. Maybe the mother with cubs seeking meat to feed her cubs. So I made the decision: I choose to live, but if I must die, I give this body willingly and graciously to feed that which survives. I will not be filled with hate and fear.

Well, certainly there was still fear, but as I was more honest with my fear, I saw that it was possibly right there with the fear to find that which was fearless and loving. And to respond from that place, not to be carried away by the stories of fear.

So I lay there like that for hours, I suppose, no wristwatch. I felt myself move into a light-filled space of love. I ceased to be separate from the tiger. I was the tiger and she was me. I was feeding myself. I was all the hungry creatures of the earth, and I was all the victims. We think of them as victims, but all of those that have offered their lives that others might live. All the tension left. Suddenly I understood the whole path really of becoming, what brought me into each incarnation, and that I was free. I did not have to do that anymore. And in that moment, I was truly awake.

I lay there for some longer time, still hearing the tiger at times, still feeling the rain, lying in the mud, but filled with so much light and love and gratitude that the courses of these many lifetimes had led me to a place where I was truly awake and could support awakening for others. And I repeated the intention: if I may live, I consecrate this body to sharing the dhamma, to helping others to awaken.

Eventually the sky began to get a bit light, and the tiger left. The rain, while still coming down, diminished in intensity. And then I heard footsteps on the path again, human footsteps, other monks walking down the path. Of course they immediately helped to free me. They gave me dry robes to wrap around myself, since I was shivering. They were coming home from their alms rounds. They brought me back to their living place and gave me food and blankets.

I share this experience with you because if I can do it, you can do it! The human being has the capacity to awaken. The catalyst of a Donald Trump is no greater or less than the catalyst of being eaten by a tiger. Can you hold yourself and others in your hearts and promise to yourself not to enact negativity, to speak up in clear and loving ways against the negativity of others?

So the right effort, it's not just about you, it's about all beings. To support the beautiful in the self and in the world. To give rise to that which is wholesome. To nurture and cherish that which is wholesome which has already arisen, and there is much that is wholesome and beautiful in your world. To support the arising of that which is wholesome in yourself and in the world, that has not yet arisen. To look at that which is not wholesome, which has not yet arisen but could arise, and to work to release it in yourself and in your world. To look at that which has already arisen, unwholesome and harmful, and to say no to it from the compassionate heart.

It's not just about you, it's about your whole earth. And as you do this, many of you, given the present catalyst, the practice of saying no to anything that is unwholesome and not getting lost in fear and negativity, you have the capacity to bring this light through to the whole world. All of you literally lying in the mud, chased by the tiger. How are you going to respond?

Now let's look at part two of this talk. Many of you are feeling weary right now. So much negativity in the world; is there no end to it? We have the wonderful Greek myth of Sisyphus pushing his boulder up the hill. Do you know that myth? I won't tell you the whole story, but simply put, Sisyphus was given this task that he must perform, always to roll this heavy boulder up the mountain. From dawn, every day, pushing, climbing, pushing more, climbing. But as soon as it was dusk, he must stop pushing it. And of course as soon as he stopped, the boulder rolled back down. He couldn't get it to the top where it would be level. So every day he was condemned to push the boulder up the hill and then to watch it roll down.

We might think that he was suffering. You would probably be suffering in this situation. But perhaps he wasn't suffering. Consider that possibility. Consider that he just accepted this task. “I may never get it to the top, but each day that I do this, I bring loving energy into the world. Each day I truly change the nature of the world. And I'm willing to do this until eternity if it will truly help.”

You are all living lives in which it seems like you have pushed the boulder up the hill, and up the hill, and watched it roll down again and again, endless. I can't promise you you're going to get the boulder to the top. I can promise you that if enough of you persist, your earth will move into a transition consciousness, will become truly a realm of light and love, the heaven realm that you seek. I promise you that. I can't promise it will happen in your lifetime, or the next, or the following human lifetime. But when I look back at the eons that have preceded today, I see that it's happening. Now, I don't ask you to take my word for it, but instead look into your own lives. Is there anyone in this room, even those who are among the newest meditators amongst you, who is not living in at least a little bit more love now than you were 5 years ago? Some of you may say, “Aaron, I'm filled with despair.” But you're handling that despair with more spaciousness. You're not raving and screaming through the streets and throwing rocks. Yes, others are doing that. If you can learn, they can learn, truly.

But it's going to be a long project. It has been a long project. I can't tell you how much longer it will be. But are you willing to get back down there tomorrow morning and roll the boulder up the hill again? To literally go out and see how you can best support those candidates of your choice that were elected, and that have supported a more peaceful and respecting world, a world where beings may be safe. Can you just go out and support those candidates? Just because the election is over doesn't mean your work is done.

There are groups, I'm not sure the names of the groups, but I know there are groups supporting, for example, working with illegal immigrants, to help them be prepared if somebody tries to oust them from the country, what legal grounds they have, what they can do. There are many groups helping in many ways. Just person to person talking to those people who are terribly afraid that they won't be safe, that their families won't be safe. Hearing them. Supporting those really many agencies that are working for human rights and human good. But do this not with a “I'm right and they're wrong” viewpoint. Not to try to diminish any group and their opinions and beliefs, but simply to stand where you are. “This is my truth, and I will not permit any being to be diminished. I will not permit anybody to name-call or bully anyone based on their religion, culture, place of birth, sexual orientation. I will not permit this.”

I'm not asking you to make martyrs of yourselves. I'm asking you to let your voices be heard. But always in a loving way, holding the vision of what this earth can become, and knowing we had hoped that our work was further on its way, and it's not. Okay. We'll work with it where it is.

Use your vipassana practice, your loving hearts and the Brahma Vihara practices. Teach these to others. Share with others. When you're involved in a group that's promoting human welfare, and you hear people in that group speaking negatively of what I call the loyal opposition, stop them and say, how can you expect them not to shout hate-filled epithets at us when you're shouting it at them? People may not like it when you say that, but if you reach out to those who are receptive, you can change the world.

“Abandon the unwholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. If such abandonment led to suffering and pain, I would not ask you to abandon it. But because it is good, 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.

Don't let it all be work, either. Find the joy in it by coming together in groups like this, both in a silent retreat and also just in sangha. Not getting together and saying, “Look how good we are, and they're the bad guys.” But getting together and rejoicing for the light that is in each of you, knowing and trusting that light. Enhancing that light. Try to do it with your neighbor who had a Trump sign in his front yard. Knock on his door with a plate of coffeecake or bagels and tell him, “I just want you to know that although I disagree with your political choice, I still respect you as my neighbor. I baked this for you.” Just step out of the ordinary patterns and make loving gestures. You never know where it will take you.

The work needs to be in your own heart, to abandon the unwholesome, to abandon hatred, negativity, and fear. By abandon, we don't mean get rid of but move through it. Hatred, fear, negativity, greed, right out there is love. Can I see past these in my consciousness? That which is aware of hate does not hate. That which is aware of fear is not afraid.

You are created of light and of love. Be the light and love that you are. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. I thank you.

(tape paused)

The neighbor is a tyrant. The only thing to do is to start loving him. The question is not what to do but how to do it. How do you love him? And it's very important that you not condemn yourself or push yourself. “I should be more loving. I should do this or that.” If you need to back away from him, give yourself that space. That's compassionate to yourself. If you force yourself so you are not treating yourself with love, you cannot treat him with love. But as you more deeply respect your own discomfort with him, you may find not only the ability to love him from a distance, but the ability to approach him, to talk to him. You don't have to agree with him, and you don't have to speak out your disagreement. When I said don't be afraid to say no, we know where our statement of no will be fruitful, and where we know it won't be fruitful we can refrain and just listen. Perhaps that's more fruitful than trying to argue. Avoid the argument and find something that you have some common ground with— the ball team that you both like, or how beautiful the woods are right now, or just a few words said with harmony. Opening doors.

Q: So it's an art.

Aaron: It's a gradually developed skill and wisdom. A friend tells a story of a dog that she and her husband rescued from the pound because it was going to be put to sleep, because it was deemed totally vicious. It snarled and lunged at anyone who came near. They had a metal kennel behind their house. They couldn't bear the thought of this very beautiful animal being put down. And they said they would give him a chance.

They brought the dog home with a muzzle on it. They opened the gate, pulled the muzzle off and put it into the pen, a large pen. They spent weeks bringing food to the dog, sitting outside the pen talking to the dog. Every time they approached, the dog would lunge at them, snarling. Gradually, and it took months, the dog began not to lunge at them. It would still snarl but would accept the food. It would eat the food in their presence, after some months, rather than waiting until they had left. Before it was just bashing itself against the bars, ignoring the food that was slipped in through the gate.

It took a long time, a lot of patience. There were times they said they despaired, thinking maybe we just have to have him put down. No, we're not ready to give up on him yet. They spent many months, especially not just feeding the dog but sitting outside its pen talking to it, singing to it, chanting to it, just getting it used to them. Doing metta with it, acknowledging this dog must have been so seriously abused that it developed this disposition. Finally the dog began to warm up to them, began to allow itself to be touched. Began to come toward them wagging its tail rather than snarling. It took over a year for them to fully trust the dog to bring it into their house. And they did not have small children or I don't think they would have brought it into the house, because the dog had been so badly abused, was so violent, that it would have been hard to trust it, and unfair to the dog. But with time they borough it into the house and it became— Loverboy, they called him. Would climb up on the sofa next to them, snuggle, lap at their faces. They could never have forced the dog to accept them. They had to have the patience, and not judge themselves, “Why isn't this happening faster?” Just trust.

If it can happen, it will happen. If it can't happen, then it can't happen. We'll see.

Other questions or things you want to share?

Q: I need some advice on how to extricate myself from the guilt and self-loathing I feel.

Aaron: With your vipassana practice. Each time such a thought arises, know this is a thought.

Q: That, and then actually, especially when it comes to dealing unskillfully with anger. How to forgive myself.

Aaron: This another whole retreat! Anybody here who doesn't sometimes feel guilt and self-anger, shame, and find it hard to forgive themselves? Nobody? I assumed as much. So maybe it will help you to know you're not alone. The question though is when you don't deal skillfully with a painful catalyst, and then you are angry at yourself, that's two episodes of not carrying forth with kindness. When you notice it the first time, can you stop the impulse to move into the stories of shame and self-loathing and just say, “Here is intense anger. Oh, I'm so angry! I'm so angry at myself. I really blew it. I'll never learn.” Stories, stories.

Did I really kill anybody just now? No. Did I tell terrible falsehoods that are going to create terrible harm in the world? No. I experienced anger. If you were walking on the floor and there was a tack face up, somebody dropped a thumbtack, you step on it. Ouch! Would you say, “I shouldn't feel pain.”? Would you? Maybe you would. This is how the body is. If you step on a tack, it's going to bleed. There's going to be pain. Anybody here who would say, “It shouldn't bleed. I forbid it to bleed.”? “Oh, my poor foot. Oh.” Pulling the tack out. Giving love to the foot.

Use this as a metaphor. If you can do it with the tack in the foot, you can do it with the painful emotions and the unskillful words and actions. Hold the intention to be more mindful so you don't repeat the situation, so that you can learn. Don't give up on yourself. But instead, cherish yourself and every even slightest effort to grow in loving kindness. It's an amazing thing that the human has the capacity to do that.

(session ends)