Morning Session
with J. Baraz's Senior Dharma Group
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Berkeley, CA

Keywords: freedom/liberation, awakening/enlightenment, awareness/pure awareness, citta/consciousness, contraction, dependent origination/arising, dzogchen, emotions, Physical body/earthsuit, presence/mindfulness, unconditioned, vipassana, (access concentration)

James: Barbara and Aaron asked if I’d say a bit of what I had said on Thursday in introducing them.

It might seem a little bit of a stretch for some people to think of a disincarnate being sharing all the wisdom that comes through. First, I ask people to just suspend their disbelief, because I’ve known Barbara and have been appreciating the teachings through Aaron for many years. I get their newsletter, and I’ve always found the wisdom to be just right on. Personally, and I didn’t say this on Thursday night, I’ve gotten a lot of benefit from, first, Seth–Seth Speaks, Emmanuel–a teacher of mine that I’ve gotten a lot of benefit from, and I really love the teachings of Abraham these days, so there’s a lot more than meets the eye on this little band of the spectrum of consciousness that we call this plane. And to think that this one little dot called Planet Earth is the whole story is, I think, a great misperception.

I had mentioned on Thursday that in the Pali Canon and in the Buddhist development of teachings there is a whole history of beings from other realms coming and sharing the dharma and of being instrumental in the dharma being propagated. After the Buddha was enlightened–perhaps you know, perhaps you might not know–that first he was very reluctant to teach but then Brahma-god came down from the deva realms and asked the Buddha to take a look and see about all the people who might benefit from his teaching. And the Buddha looked with his divine eye and saw that so many people with just a little bit of dust covering their eye, could benefit from what he taught. And that was at the beseeching of a god from another realm.

The Blessings Discourse that you might be familiar with starts out with a deity coming down and asking the Buddha for his fuller blessings, “What are the great blessings?” and the Buddha responds by giving that discourse.

There are a few other instances–the Buddha going up to the deva realms and teaching the Abhidhamma to his mother, supposedly that was the whole beginning of the Abhidhamma. And certainly in the Mahayana tradition, loads of instances where this deity or this bodhisattva would come and share the teachings, or ask the Buddha, or in one form or another teach in different guises. So Buddhism is replete with this kind of intervention and channel of wisdom. I take my wisdom wherever I can find it, and I’ve been finding that Aaron and Barbara are great transmitters of wisdom. So it’s really nice to have them here with us.

(Barbara’s introduction, not transcribed; see general introduction to these Berkeley talks on web site)

Aaron: My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron. Those who had your eyes open saw Barbara’s body shake as I came in. It’s because I have a high energy, and bring it into the body of a lower level of energy. It’s not hurtful to the body in any way. People sometimes ask me, what am I doing to her? It’s like putting on a tight girdle, to bring this energy into a confined space.

I am so happy to be with you today and to have this opportunity to share the dhamma with you. As Barbara said, anything goes. There is a lot of deep practice and deep wisdom here, and I want to especially address your practice and be of help to you in supporting your path of liberation. But there is a broad scope of words that can be helpful.

We spoke the other day of the Buddha’s handful of leaves teaching. You certainly don’t need to know everything I know, but now you’re 2500 years older than you were at the Buddha’s time and more mature, and perhaps we can benefit by adding a few more leaves to that handful. It’s all dhamma, just different aspects of it.

We have in your linear time a limited amount of hours but I don’t dwell in linear time but only in this now, and in this now we have all the time we need.

Let’s start with the teaching I gave Thursday night with the hand, that some of you have mentioned (the morning began with a check in, each person sharing their practice). We have two simultaneous realities, relative and ultimate. Your practice asks you to be present in this conditioned realm, present in the body, present with all the skandas. Objects arise and pass away, and you come to know them as impermanent and not self. But often you are fixated on the objects and there’s still some sense of wanting to control that comes from the place of ego, even if ego only wants to control because of the intention to do no harm. But there’s still this self that’s trying to make this just right and that just right.

You often lose the space between these objects. Many of you–perhaps not in this group, I don’t know you yet, but many people with whom I talk–have the idea that somewhere at the end of years of committed practice they’re finally going to have some awakening experience that’s going to shift everything, give them the direct experience of the Unconditioned and change their lives. And yes, that experience does come and it is life-changing. But don’t look for it at the end of 20 years of practice because it’s right here in this moment.

People have these profound experiences and they don’t know how to integrate them into their daily lives because they’ve created an artificial separation between relative and ultimate reality. When you start to experience the simultaneity of ultimate and relative, the problem of integrating resolves itself. You still will need to have increasingly deeper experiences of emptiness and to understand what that means, and you will need to have the sila-based commitment to bring that back into your daily lives. But there’s no problem integrating it. You see how it comes together, because you’ve been living it together.

Let me ask a question here before I continue: how many of you use, I know you must use different primary objects in your practice–how many of you use the breath as the predominant primary object? Do any of you use nada as a primary object? Does anybody not know what I mean by nada? Do you know what nada is?

Okay, let’s backtrack. First, I want to say with great respect to James, these are your students and I don’t want to move them in a direction that doesn’t feel appropriate to you. (James: Not at all…) Is my teaching this direction appropriate to you?

James: Absolutely, and I can just say that Ajahn Sumedo teaches using the nada as a primary meditation technique and so I like people hearing about it.

Aaron: We’ll return to the hand in a few minutes. Let me put some foundation in place. Do you know the Pali word citta? Consciousness? There are mundane and supramundane citta, so-called, kuttara and lokuttara citta. They are not on a horizontal scale, it’s not that you move from one to another back and forth, it’s rather like looking down through clear water, the surface is there and the middle is there and the depth is there. But if the water is cloudy, you’ll only see the surface. That doesn’t mean the depth is not there, only in that moment it is closed to you.

When you practice watching the arising of mundane objects, you’re working with the conditioned mind and conditioned citta. Let us consider basics of dependent arising. There is contact, the sense organ making contact with the object. With contact, consciousness arises. Feelings of pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral will arise. Perception, sometimes bare perception, sometimes a perception based on old conditioning. So there’s the contact with the bare object, the feelings, the perception, and then there are mental objects. There may be craving or aversion. There may be tension, a reaction to the object.

By way of example, there is the object, let us use a bad smell. Nose organ touching odor. Consciousness; smelling. Perception; a skunk; “Ew! Feeling; unpleasant!” Then there may be aversion, which in itself is a new object. Contact through the body sense; tension. Consciousness of the tension. Perception; knowing tension in the body. Feeling, unpleasant. In the scent, there is just the scent; in the aversion, just the aversion.

There’s no space for a self in there, there are no stories about how did the skunk get into the house or how am I going to get him out, there’s just scent, awareness of unpleasantness of the scent, awareness of aversion if it arises, and then possibly there’s judgment, “I’m a dhamma practitioner, I shouldn’t be feeling aversion! I should be more centered!” Judging mind now has arisen out of these conditions.

Awareness. Ajahn Chah called it the “one who knows,” and I love that phrasing. Awareness is not synonymous with mind consciousness. Mind consciousness is that which is in the conditioned realm. Awareness–the Native American tradition sometimes calls it Grandfather awareness or Grandmother awareness, different traditions give it different names–awareness has no perspective of self. It doesn’t consider “I” am experiencing this; it simply looks at what is passing.

What I’m describing here is not access concentration. Do you all know the term “access concentration”? Is there anyone who doesn’t? Okay, taking it back one more step, here… no, I’m going to return to access concentration later. Let’s continue with the flow of what I’m saying. Later, we will distinguish between pure awareness and access concentration. Last Fall and the Fall of 2006, Barbara and I gave a series of classes on “Consciousness and its objects,” in which we talked of these issues, including the relationship of access concentration and pure awareness, at great length. You can find transcripts on the DSC web site.

Awareness is simply present with what has arisen with no self-story in it. It watches an object arise and pass away. It knows it so deeply as impermanent and not self that it doesn’t contract around what has arisen, all of which is also true of access concentration but it takes it a step further because there’s a vast spaciousness to experienced with the arising of the object–I do need to talk about access concentration now, I was wrong, and apologize..

With access concentration, the practice deepens into a focus, not absorbed into the object but deeply aware of the object arising and passing away and with equanimity with the object. There’s a sense of ease, objects are just arising and passing away. Sometimes when I talk about this, I use a children’s bubble wand–blowing bubbles, and pop! There’s nothing solid there, it pops and it’s gone. It seemed to be there. There’s no reaction to it–you don’t go out to it, you don’t pull back from it–there is just relative reality expressing itself. It is a close-up view, not absorbed, as I mentioned, but there is only room for the one object at a time, and no sense of how objects inter-relate. There is no space for reflection or insight at this stage. The reflection must happen out of the access concentration experience, while reviewing it.

With access concentration, which you are working toward in your practice–it’s the door to the higher vipassana experiences, to the higher insights–as practice settles down, the practitioner will experience equanimity with arising and dissolution. Does that sound familiar to you as an experience? There’s a focus on watching the conditioned realm arising and passing away and not so much attention to the space between the objects.

Awareness, when it’s nurtured, rests deeply and simultaneously, with both the object and the space between the objects, without making much distinction. The objects are arising and passing away and the space exists. Awareness holds both.

Here we come to the hand exercise. Hold your fingers in front of your face and wiggle them. Think of them as the different skandas. Look hard at the fingers. Best to hold them up so that you’re not looking down at the floor through them. Body, mind, and so forth. They’re solid, they’re real.

Now soften the gaze and look through the fingers while keeping them wiggling. Look at the space beyond that has always been there but not been brought to the attention. Come back to the fingers. The fingers are still there. And let go of the fingers and go into the space.

If suddenly a bee landed on one finger, you’d feel the tickling of it and you’d see it, and you could attend to it by giving a blow, lightly noticing it. We’re present with relative reality but we’re fully present also with ultimate reality.

Now of course the space is just a metaphor for ultimate reality, but what I’m emphasizing here is to begin to pay attention to the space between objects as well as the objects themselves.

The mundane citta open to mundane objects: the finger, the touch of the buttocks on the cushion, the thought that arises, whatever it might be. Mundane objects. As long as you hold to these conditioned citta, you cannot open into the Unconditioned because it’s like looking through that murky water; the depth is there, but the water is cloudy. You can’t see through.

So in order to have a direct experience of the Unconditioned, the lokuttara citta need to be opened. There needs to be notice of the inherently clear water, right there with the murky water. There’s no key that I can give you. The key is simply the texture of practice, relaxing into the present, opening in spaciousness, non-grasping–in a sense, non-meditation. Full presence. In the sutras this is called the supramundane citta. I like to use the word awareness rather than supramundane consciousness just to clarify there is a distinction between mundane and supramundane consciousness. It’s not ordinary consciousness and yet in some ways it’s very ordinary consciousness. Awareness is the most basic aspect of your experience. You probably can’t remember lying on a hillside at age 4 looking at a cloud float by but most likely you all did this and you were resting in awareness. You weren’t thinking; there was no self story there; there was just full presence; “Ahhhhh,” resting there. Just that.

One can use a conditioned object such as the breath as a primary object, that’s fine; but one can also become more aware of what we call signs or expressions–nimitta in the Pali–of the Unconditioned such as spaciousness, in the ultimate sense; or nada, the sound of silence, a sound like cicadas singing. It is just a soft sound. Barbara hears it all the time; you don’t have to have ears to hear it; it’s just there. Many of you probably hear it. When I ask people about it, sometimes people say to me, “Aaron, I’ve been hearing that for years. I never paid attention to it.”

Each of the physical senses has its equivalent supramundane expression: we have nada as a corollary to human hearing; luminosity, radiance expressing from everything. It’s there. I’m sure most of you have seen that at times. Perhaps the most frequent place people experience that is coming out of the meditation hall into bright sunlight, but it’s not just the sunlight. As you come out of the dark hall, you’re in a quiet place and suddenly everything is radiant. You look at it and say, “Why have I never seen it like that before?” Have you had that experience, some of you? (yes) What you’re seeing is ground luminosity. What’s happened is you’ve allowed the lokuttara citta to open to the point that awareness is able to view luminosity, to be present with it, to touch it.

There’s a scent much like honeysuckle only much sweeter. There’s a very sweet taste. Those of you who have worked much with body energy are familiar with how it feels to center yourself into the chi energy of the body, which ceases to be MY body’s energy and is simply THE energy; centering into that energy.

I ask people to practice, then, by becoming increasingly aware of the arising and dissolution of conditioned objects. When the object dissolves, do not come right back to the breath, which is another conditioned object, or to any object, but rest in the space that remains when the object dissolves; just rest in that space. It may remain for just a moment; it may remain for an hour. If the thought comes, “What is this?” then you’re out of that space into thinking. Note it and return to the primary object.

If nada or luminosity become predominant–these are the two signs that are most frequent for people, although body workers often find that energy becomes the predominant one–if these become predominant, how would it feel to let go of the breath as object while retaining focused awareness on whatever is arising? If there’s pain in the body, you note the pain. If there’s heat or cold, you note that. It arises, passes away. The sign, as nada, energy or luminosity, continues, just as with the fingers and the space in the hand.

Behind the conditioned objects is this vast spaciousness which may come to your attention as nada, the sound, or as luminosity, or as energy, or even as scent. That becomes the primary object. I want to make sure that I’m using these words in a way you’re familiar with. I use “primary object” as that to which you return, and predominant object is that which has arisen and temporarily taken attention from the primary object. Of course you don’t bring attention to every object that arises, only if it becomes predominant.

So we start to find the vast space between objects.. You don’t absorb into nada or luminosity or whatever; this is not a jhana kind of practice. Simply, present with awareness, open, allowing objects to arise. If an object arises and you over-focus, , it pulls you from resting in awareness back into access concentration. Or if there’s a reaction to the object, you’re no longer in access concentration. Then there’s just this human sitting on the cushion, struggling with a knee that hurts, or a challenging thought. Unpleasant, want it to go away. When awareness simply notes what’s happening, mind relaxes again and there’s more space, eventually there’s just pulsation in the knee. Heat, unpleasant. Even unpleasantness dies away, just pulsation, heat.

At that point the whole spaciousness opens out. Perhaps the sound of nada becomes so strong that you just are invited back to rest there. The knee pain doesn’t necessarily go away, it’s just no longer asking for your attention. So this is not a state of absorption into nada, it’s just full presence but different from access concentration in that the primary object is the openness that invites these expressions of the supramundane. This is the doorway to deeper direct experience of the Unconditioned because if the lokuttara citta is not open, there can’t be an experience of the Unconditioned. Every citta needs an object. Mundane citta take mundane objects; the supramundane, the lokuttara citta, takes a supramundane object. So we’re giving it a supramundane object in terms of nada, luminosity and so forth. We are exercising the lokuttara citta, we might say.

I know there are questions about what I just said but first I’d like to take this a little bit further out of the direct practice/”how do we practice” realm and into the “why do we practice” realm.

You are spirit. I call you “angels in earthsuits.” The divine radiant angel is there and there’s the earthsuit of the body, the mind, and the emotions. Many of you are committed to a practice that leads to liberation, and that brings me great joy. As Barbara said, I have a firm, I would not say belief, but understanding, that each of you can find liberation, and really can find it in this lifetime.

But you are not practicing only for liberation; you are practicing because there is the deep intention to live your life with increasing love, with more kindness; to heal yourselves and the earth; not just to grab that gold ring on the carousel, leap off and leave, but to give back, literally in the way the Buddha gave back. We talk sometimes about the difference between the traditions. Do you understand that the Buddha was the original bodhisattva? He had his enlightenment experience and he didn’t say, “Okay, I’m done. You work it out for yourselves,”? He worked with the suffering around him. He taught what he understood out of his great compassion. You are here to become masters of compassion.

There are the physical, emotional, mental, and spirit bodies. The heavier 3 bodies can bring you a lot of challenges. These are not problems, they are teachers. You are here to learn to relate to these teachers with compassion because as you relate to your own discomfort and confusion with compassion, you develop compassion for the whole world, and it is only this level of compassion that can ultimately save the world and end suffering. People say to me, it feels like going to retreat or doing my practice for so many hours is selfish. But each insight and each heart-opening heals the world.

When you practice in this way, you are not practicing just to attain liberation but practicing with a deep commitment to open the heart in compassion, to be present and intimate with all the suffering of the world.

What does it mean to be intimate with the suffering of the world? No human is really capable of total intimacy. There is always something that you need to push away, but can there be mindfulness about that impulse to push away? Can there be compassion for the human, that it needs to push away, and coming back into the moment? Right there with the one that needs to push away, is the one that doesn’t need to push away. This is the one who knows, from Ajahn Chah, coming back to compassionate openhearted awareness that doesn’t need to push anything away; that has the ability to be intimate with everything.

This is where your practice is leading. No surprise, when you get to the point where you are thusly intimate with everything, you’re going to find that somewhere along the line you’re also free. Keep the horse in front of the cart. Grasping at liberation will never lead you to it, but compassionate involvement with the world, and your deep practice, will open the experience of liberation, will lead you to realize that which is already free. Your lives give you the perfect opportunity to practice. Each of the edges that each of you mentioned today, these are your practice points.

I would invite you to practice gratitude with that edge instead of fear with it. You’re not trying to fix or control at that edge but to remember, “This is my practice; I’m holding my bowl out and this is what my bowl has been filled with. This is literally what will nurture me today in a direct way because this challenge that’s been put in my bowl, along with my practice, will bring me to clarity, compassion, and wisdom.”

There is so much I would like to say to you. I’m watching this clock ticking away and I want to leave time for questions. And this afternoon I know we’ll cover many different topics as you bring your own personal question or practice.

Can you feel the difference when I say bring gratitude for what’s coming to you, and tension, how the body contracts with the stories, “I don’t want this.” Or “I should take it. Stoically, I WILL take it.” This isn’t practice, this is just gritting your teeth and forcing the self. Be present in the body. Feel that contraction that says, “I should take it.” Note, “fear, anger, sadness”.

That which is aware of anger is not angry. That which is aware of fear is not afraid. When these challenges come to you, you don’t have to get rid of, or conquer, the challenges in order to come back to an open heart, but you will find the open heart and full intimate presence that’s right there with the challenge.

So here is anger, big anger, and the thought comes, “I shouldn’t be angry,” so we’ve got anger and judgment. And then, “Maybe I should be angry, they provoked me,” self-righteousness. It’s all coming up.

Right there, if you’ve been practicing with spaciousness in its different forms, right there you come back with the reminder, that which is aware of these objects is not caught up in them. That which is aware of anger is not angry. Right here without suppressing or denying the anger and without acting out the anger, can you find that which is not angry? It’s a constant balancing act. There can’t be denial or suppression, and of course you’re not going to hurt somebody. But anger is just energy. You don’t have to be afraid of it. It arose from conditions. It’s a result. Don’t try to fix the result, attend to the conditions.

If you spilled water on the floor, you’d wipe it up, you wouldn’t just let it sink into and harm the floor. If anger arises, we must attend to it. If greed arises–you’re walking down the street and you see a child with an ice cream cone, “Oh, I want that!” Are you going to grab it out of her hand? –You understand you don’t have to enact an emotion that has arisen. But for many of you there is still some feeling, some concept, “I shouldn’t be feeling this. If my practice was deep enough, I wouldn’t be feeling this.” My dear ones, you are in a human body. If you put your foot in the water, would you say it shouldn’t feel wet? No. The nature of the body, is to feel sensation. The nature of the mind is to give rise to thought. Through your practice, the thoughts do become more purified. Negative thought does arise less and less frequently and stays for shorter time. But just because a negative thought arises doesn’t mean you have to contract around it and say, “Now what did I do wrong?” This is the basis of practice, not to condemn the self when something negative arises in the self but simply to note, “Oh, here is a result of conditions. I don’t have to be afraid of it. I don’t have to enact it. I will rest in the spaciousness that has watched it arise, and I am willing to stay with it and be literally intimate with it until it dissolves.”

Sometimes at retreats I walk around the room the first day with an object, a shell from the beach, or a pebble, depending on where we are. I ask each person to close their eyes and hold out their hands. I place the object into the hands, or perhaps Barbara does it. I ask them to take the object, touch it to the face, smell it, even taste it, and then when they’re ready, to bring it up into the heart without trying to name the object. They don’t know what it is. We don’t know what this object is, just here it is–can I become intimate with it?

Then as the days progress, I ask them, when a difficult object arises, instead of pushing it away or trying to control it or moving into thoughts about it, can they simply note, “This object has arisen. It is a result of conditioning. I don’t need to fix it or change it, I just bring it into my heart.” Move into an intimacy and direct presence with it that can hold it until it dissolves. They may reach for the actual pebble or shell to support the practice, as reminder of the capacity to hold the unknown object.

In order to do this, the spaciousness that we’re talking about is so important, to nurture that awareness, that spacious mind. So we watch these conditioned objects arise and pass away and simultaneously we experience the deep spaciousness that’s possible. And suddenly everything shifts. There are just objects arising and passing away and the spaciousness is vast. At that moment there’s the possibility to move deeper into spaciousness and into the direct experience of the Unconditioned. It’s very powerful.

We have about 15 minutes so I’d like to hear your questions at this point. Each of you, this afternoon, will have a chance to address me with your personal practice or life questions. So what I’m looking for here are questions specifically about the instructions and the talk I’ve given. It can be something different, too, but more universal than personal questions, for this morning.

Q: When the anger arises, it’s very hot, like a desert wind, and there doesn’t seem to be time to do anything with it.

Aaron: The ability to work with it more skillfully is based on your deepening practice. When it’s hot and feels like that desert wind, know it as hot. Feel where the heat sensation is in the body. Be very aware of it in the body. Stay present with it in the body. Know it as unpleasant, if it is so. And then gradually open the attention out without abandoning that heat or tension in the body. This is the simultaneity of it. There’s heat, tension, probably strong unpleasant feeling, even aversion. There is also Awareness.

I love Thich Nhat Hanh’s simple statement, “Breathing in, I am aware of the anger, breathing out, I smile to the anger.” It is a small loving reminder to be present, with kindness. For so many people the habit energy with a difficult emotion or body sensation is force and contraction, to try to control it. So we’re inviting the shift of that into a more spacious presence that watches the contraction also. It may be that the anger is predominant at first and then the aversion to the anger, wanting to control the anger. You need to see that flow as it happens.

If wanting to control the anger is predominant and it comes as tension, then anger is not so predominant; tension is predominant. Become aware of the tension. Ask yourself, “How am I relating to this tension? In this moment can there be kindness for this tension? Can there be kindness for this human that experienced such anger and then tension around the anger?”

In this way you are inviting spaciousness, allowing the mind and experience to open up a bit. There’s no force. This is why I say there’s got to be the willingness to take the object in and be intimate with it, not to try to keep it going; just to hold it and stay present with it.

I love the teaching from Milarepa on this. You probably all know this story. He was sitting in the mouth of his cave when the demons of fear, anger and greed appeared. They were hideous. The flesh hung from the bones. The bones rattled. Gore dripped out though the rotting flesh. They had a horrible stink. Milarepa simply looked at them and said, “Come, sit by my fire. I’ve been expecting you.” “Aren’t you afraid of us?” they asked. “No, your hideous appearance only reminds me to be aware,; to have mercy. Sit by my fire; have tea.”

But when we invite the demons in for tea, we don’t get into a dialogue with them. This is where people get confused. So in your question, what you’re saying to me is there’s some kind of inner dialogue going on with the demon. And what I’m asking you to do is to sit it down for tea but when it tries to dialogue with you in any way, just say, “Shhh!” Invite the self and the demon both into the spaciousness. Do you understand?

Q: My question is about the spaciousness, advice about to connect with the spaciousness at home. It’s easier on retreat.

Aaron: There are 2 different suggestions. One is, I’m trying to find a good illustration for this. Keep the refrain close to you, that which is aware of fear is not afraid, that which is aware of confusion is not confused. When something comes up and the body contracts, first there has got to be presence in the body. The body is your strongest ally here. Be in the body and be aware, “contracting.” You don’t have to call it anger or fear or confusion, just tension, contracting. That which is aware of contraction is not contracted.

Just noting that brings you back the recognition of the uncontracted. You may not fully open to it immediately, you need to be there, just present with contraction. Breathing; right there in the breath there’s contraction and non-contraction. Breathing, present.

In the outer world I love the simple statement, “Is that so?” When something comes up that’s unpleasant and the mind builds a story around it, ask,“Is that so?” That helps to bring you back to spaciousness.

Barbara, more than me, often teaches people the very simplest practice of dzogchen meditation and resting in awareness. Sitting with the eyes open, soft and unfocused. Letting the breath go out everywhere and drawing the breath back in. Everything is coming in; everything is going out. No separation. Here is the practice of letting go of boundaries.

One stabilizes this practice, it’s not something I plan to teach here; there are many places you can learn it if you wish to learn it. I don’t find it helpful at this stage to teach it as separate from vipassana; it’s just resting in awareness. But learning the precise meditation practice as taught in the dzogchen tradition can be helpful to people, and it doesn’t take long to learn for somebody who’s an experienced dhamma practitioner.

The practice is taught in 3 phases. Seeing the view is first, just resting in awareness, the Tibetan word rigpa, resting in the spaciousness of being. The stabilizing of meditation comes next, in which one is taught how to see objects that pull you out of that spaciousness, how to attend to those objects and come back into the spaciousness, until eventually you no longer lose the spaciousness. The object is still there but the spaciousness doesn’t go. At this point one brings it into the action phase, taking it out into the world. So stability with these 3 phases of awareness is helpful.

So we’re doing this practice sitting outside, looking at the sky, eyes open, looking at the trees, looking at the gardens. Not seeing trees, branches, leaves, flowers, but all boundaries falling away. As this practice becomes stable, when you are out in the world and contraction comes up, or strong emotion comes up, one has an extra tool. It’s not a tool that’s lacking in the vipassana practice, but it’s more emphasized here. So it becomes a helpful tool to remember the simultaneity, not abandoning whatever has pulled you into contraction, but not losing the space beyond. This is a very helpful practice.

I want to note that the practice, practicing with nada, can have very much the same results because right there in that moment of tension, as you breathe and listen, hear nada, hear the sound of silence, it opens up the spaciousness immediately.

It is 12:30, shall we stop here for our lunch? We will pause for one hour… (recording ends)

Copyright © 2008 by Barbara Brodsky