July 13, 2008 Sunday afternoon, Berkeley

Aaron: Life was simpler in those days when there was an oral tradition and no buttons to push! (working digital recorder)

I want to hear from each of you, but also, I know some of your questions and issues will resonate with each other and we'll have some dialogue about certain topics. So I'm simply going to trust that whatever needs to come forth will come forth. I ask whoever would like to, to start...

Q: An unusual question. I was on retreat with a friend who was on the retreat as well and my son, who died 15 years ago, came to that friend. They didn't know one another and she had never had an experience like that. It was very disturbing to her; she had to go to the teacher for help. After the retreat, she told me of her experience and gave me a message, which was that he was fine and happy, and I should go to North Beach!

Signer: ...which is a neighborhood in San Francisco.

Q: We have no connection to North Beach and it's totally mysterious. And I did go to North Beach and nothing happened. And I don't know what to make of it.

Aaron: Did you see anything that caught your attention in North Beach?

Q: Nothing relevant.

Signer: Anything? Even if you think it's not relevant, anything?

Q: We saw a suit that was interesting, that would look nice on someone...you know, no.

Aaron: Is it a suburban neighborhood or a beach?

Q: Not a beach, an old beatnik neighborhood...


Aaron: Is there a center to the neighborhood, a park or something of that sort?

Q: Yes, it's old beatnik. Bohemian...

Signer: There is an old Bohemian neighborhood, Alan Ginsberg, lots of poets gathered there.

Aaron: Daughter, please go back on a pleasant day and take your folding lawn chair, a thermos of water, as you might require. Sit yourself in your chair in the park and simply plan to spend the day there until whatever needs to come through, comes through. Don't try to figure it out, don't look at each passerby saying, “Is this the messenger?”, just sit. Meditate. Close the eyes and be still part of the time, open the eyes and just be present part of the time. You'll know when you get the message.

Q: Notice my doubt!

Aaron: Maybe that's exactly what he had in mind! Because he is no longer on the earth plane and in a body, he has a broader perspective, as the person at the top of the mountain can see further than the person at the bottom of the mountain. It's not that there's better vision, it's simply that the perspective is clearer. So in sending you this message, he has something to which he is hoping to awaken you, something he wants to share with you. Maybe the message is simply to open yourself more fully to the world and not get so caught in doubt. I don't know; I don't know you. But what harm is there to spend such a day sitting in a lovely park and meditating and see what comes to you?

As to your friend who was surprised to be chosen as the messenger, some beings are more open than others. When we wish to speak, when he wishes to speak to you and you're not open to him, he's going to tap somebody else on the shoulder and say, “Hey, please tell her....” You can shift this by opening more to him yourself. Ask him, “Next time come to me directly,” and he'll tell you, “I can't; you have too much doubt.”

Since you have started, would you please tell me a bit about your practice?

Q: Well, his death was in many ways the crossroads to the beginning of my Buddhist practice. And now I have a very committed, enthusiastic sitting practice and active (inaudible) in my life as well.

Aaron: Two questions, daughter—was his death sudden and unexpected or was it to a lingering illness?

Q: Sudden...

Aaron: Traumatic... In your sitting practice, what are you experiencing?

Q: Well, my last long retreat I actually had a very profound part with him, another layer of forgiveness and integration.

Signer: On her last retreat she experienced integration and forgiveness for him.

Q: That's one thing. And then I'm working with nada, on cushion and off. I'm doing metta practice for a year.

Aaron: You said you experienced integration—can you explain that further?

Q: When I started the metta practice, old guilt and difficulty arose around his death. So my teacher directed me to do forgiveness practice daily and also equanimity practice daily. And he was very present and it was very emotional. After about 4 days there was a very profound 4-bodies integration: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

Signer: Around your feelings about his death?

Q: Yes.

Aaron: I am happy to hear of the integration. So you were able to release a lot of the anger that you'd been carrying about his death, some of the pain around his death? Is this what you're saying?

Q: I don't know about anger. Guilt and grasping.

Aaron: But not anger?

Q: I don't find anger.

Aaron: Anger is an odd word, there's only one word for it in your language, but all of these aversive emotions have a lot in common. They're contracting. They carry stories with them. There's can be a wanting to blame, whether it's somebody else or yourself. Guilt is a form of anger against the self.

Where I'm going here is that when there's a traumatic circumstance, what comes up is a reflection of the habit energies that come with lesser events. You can see it so clearly in this big event because it's so strong.

Now that there's more release of that guilt and grasping, and more equanimity, it would be helpful for you to regard that contracted energy as a habitual result and ask yourself—not ask in a conceptual way but begin to observe in your daily life, when something difficult comes to me, especially emotionally, what is my relationship with it? When you are disappointed, as simple as when there's supposed to be a picnic and it's raining, or you're supposed to spend a lovely evening with a friend and the friend calls you saying, “I'm sick,” disappointment, sadness, wanting it to be otherwise. And then the question, “How am I relating to this?”

I think if you look, you may find that there's some degree of self-judgment, “I should be able to relate to it with more equanimity. It's not his fault he's sick. It's not anybody's fault that it's raining. I shouldn't mind.” Instead of, as I was talking about earlier, taking that disappointment, sadness, whatever it might be, and just being present with it. Begin to see how when you divert yourself with a feeling like guilt by saying, “Okay, here is guilt; I'll work with metta with the guilt.” Well yes, that's helpful; that softens it. But it also becomes a diversion protecting you from the need to be intimate with the underlying feeling of sadness or disappointment or fear, and with a whole sense of a separate self that's experiencing that sadness, disappointment, or fear.

As you allow full intimacy with it, not only is the object seen clearly as arising and passing away but the self that was experiencing the object begins to break away. Nothing solid there. Do you understand what I'm saying?

Q: I do.

Aaron: So you've had a breakthrough here on the retreat. There's more space. Now take what you've learned back into your daily life and practice. When something challenging arises, how are you going to relate to it? Can there be kindness and intimacy with whatever object arises? And if it's an object that's very hard to get close to, can there simply be kindness to this human who finds it hard to get close?

New Q: I want to know about karma having to do with my family. I have suffered an enormous amount of rejection from my family and extended family, so much so and for so little reason that I feel it must have some larger meaning than just in this life.

Aaron: You're talking here about parents, siblings, that aspect of your family?

Q: Parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, nobody left...

Aaron: But may I ask in what areas you experience the rejection?

Q: They refuse to have me in their lives.

Aaron: How was it when you were a child?

Q: Horrible. My parents fought almost all the time. My father was rough and angry with everyone, born as a Jew into Nazi-occupied Vienna.

Aaron: Do your siblings experience the same sense of rejection?

Q: No. Some but not nearly ...

Aaron: Did they experience the father's anger?

Q: Yes.

Aaron: But not rejection.

Q: Yes rejection but as adults my father is in touch with my brother but not with me.

Aaron: How about your mother?

Q: My mother is in touch with me and my brother, but separately.

Aaron: And you are not in touch with your brother...

Q: No...

Aaron: At what age did the break come with the brother? I don't mean the exact year, but in childhood or as an adult.

Q: As an adult just after the birth of my child. Three years ago,...

Aaron: ... Okay, I understand the situation. First, remember I'm not a psychotherapist, my role here is how to bring this into dharma and into opening heart and healing. Clearly there's something under the surface that needs attention. You don't know what and it's heartbreaking because everybody wants to be loved, and this is your family and you'd like to be connected. May I ask you, daughter, how is your relationship with, you said your daughter who was born 3 years ago?

Q: I was going to say, three years ago I decided to have a baby on my own with a sperm donor. So it's just me and my little baby girl. It's intensely filled with love.

Aaron: Good, good. And you have relationships with friends where there is love and connection, sangha? Okay. So looking at that with a clear mind, you see that this is not about you; this is about them.

If you live on a street where some vandals come and throw toilet paper rolls all over your trees, you don't think, “What did I do wrong?” you just note, “There were some vandals here.” Even if you are repeatedly the victim of such vandalism, you don't just assume it's your fault. Perhaps somebody said something negative about you to these vandals, and they're just young hoodlums; they don't know any better. They believe what they heard and they toilet-paper your trees or throw eggs at your windows.

You have the opportunity here to develop compassion, but I want you to understand what I mean by compassion. Compassion is not being a wimp and standing in the path of a steamroller and saying, “Yes, mow me down!” Compassion is strong. Compassion has the ability to say no, but it says no with kindness, not with fear and not with unwholesome emotion.

Your family may not be able to hear your “No” at this point, and part of compassion is knowing when the other is not yet able to hear. This comes back to Gandhi's very beautiful teachings of satyagraha, soul force. One asks, for example Gandhi asked the British to give freedom, but he knew they were at that point incapable of doing what he asked. He had to forgive them in advance, to know he was going to ask something they were not yet ready to do and they might react in harmful ways, in angry ways. He had to acknowledge to himself  that he was part of the conditions creating any anger or destructiveness that came. There was nothing to forgive himself for because he was acting from a clear place, but he had to forgive the others in advance. He had to ask as clearly as possible from that openhearted place, because maybe they were capable of hearing and responding, as ultimately they turned out to be.

You ask about past life karma, of course there's past life karma—there always is, but you don't need to know the details of that past life, only to know that here you're given the opportunity to practice deep compassion, deep listening, and not creating the story, “What's wrong with me and how do I fix it?” Or “what's wrong with them and how do I fix it?” and so forth.

Take delight in your friends, in your sangha, in your daughter. Find that which is beautiful and radiant in the self and keep expressing it out into the world, and then speak, one at a time, with your family members. Call your mother and ask to have lunch with her. Sit at the table and ask her, “What's happening?” If she says, “You said stupid things, such and such,” reflect on it. Is there any truth in what she's saying? Maybe there's something I need to atone for, to ask forgiveness for. But if your reflection leads you to understand that she's simply speaking out of her own fear and conditioning, then don't buy into her story.

Without buying into her story, you are able to say to her, “We are mother and daughter and I don't want our relationship to be filled with anger, hatred, and rejection. How can we reach out to each other? In what ways can I be in loving service to you and connect to you?” Not, “What can you do for me?” but “What can I do for you?” Do the same thing, one at a time, with your brother and with any relatives where this feels appropriate.

If they are filled with anger, seething, lies, this is the opportunity to practice compassion. One might say, “He or she said you did this.” You're completely innocent. Simply know, “This was all the result of conditioning. I can hold space for all of this pain and turmoil and respond with compassion, and yet be able to say no, this is untrue, I did not do this.” If they say, “You did this,” and there's a bit of guilt, seeing how something you said or did became twisted and misinterpreted, then apologize to the appropriate people in appropriate ways.

Nothing is every beyond the beginnings of healing. How far that healing can go will depend on your family. Your self worth does not depend on your family's acceptance or rejection of you. If they are not able to go that step, you may temporarily need simply to deal with the pain--I would not say the pain of rejection because that's an emotional story; the pain of loss—can you feel the difference?

Q: It's hard.

Aaron: Rejection is a story.

Q: Yes. I feel the absence, loss.

Aaron: So there's sadness, loss, but don't get caught up in the story of “They're rejecting me” and the additional “they're bad,” or “I'm bad;” believing, “If they're rejecting it's either their fault because they're making some invalid judgments or it's my fault because in some way I am marred and you don't realize it.”  They are simply acting out their own conditioning in ways that are hurtful. There's sadness. Can you be present with the direct experience of sadness without the stories? This is what will lead you to the ability to respond with compassion and this is the karmic learning. Does that sound workable to you?

Q: The tricky piece about that is, it seems so important for the family members to have me be wrong. So my compassion is not good enough.

Aaron: Child, I hear you. Simply feel the intensity of your need not to be wrong. What if nobody is wrong? You're not wrong but they're not wrong either, they're just caught up in their own confusion. That's the way it is right now. The more you get caught in, “How do I fix this? Why are they so intent on making me wrong? etc,” the more you lose track of the real issue. Can you see the way that these stories offer an escape or diversion from being present with the experiences of pain and loss? As long as the mind is spinning, trying to think, “How do I fix this? What's wrong? How can I change something?” you don't have to really feel the sadness. I'm not saying you don't feel the sadness, but you may be edging around it.

Let go, at this point. Just be present with the direct experience of sadness and take it into your heart. Nobody's wrong, everyone's simply acting out of their conditioning. The only way that you can help yourself and others in this situation, is to get to a clear point where you're not trying to place blame, but simply know everybody is confused and angry and this is how it is.

From that perspective, then begin this one-on-one discussion, but not until you're in a clear space. You're not starting the discussion with any expectation of any kind of result, only to help each being open a bit more to whatever their deeper truth is. And, if you are spoken to abusively in that kind of discussion, just say no and end the discussion.  Say no with kindness.

Q: Okay. Thank you.

New Q: There are many things I would like to know. Two, I can think of. The first is, being open to hearing what is available as truth. I haven't had it in awhile and maybe because I've been busy and sleep-deprived, but I used to hear things, I used to see things.

Aaron: Q, it is not the sleep-deprivation or the 5-year-old or any of these mentioned factors that are stopping you from hearing at a deeper level; it's your anxiety that you are being sleep-deprived, and so forth. You cannot release the anxiety as if it were a switch you could turn off, but you can begin to bring attention, first to how much you want to be more open, to move deeper in your practice and so forth. And bring attention to the feelings of frustration that are being triggered by your present life. Explore how you can open your heart to things as they are now with more acceptance, without putting such high expectation on yourself. Relax a bit. Take the 5-year-old to the park and push the child on the swing and while you're pushing, relax and open your energy to whatever spirit wants you to know. It's right there. Are you able to meditate with the child? I don't mean with the child, I mean are you able to find time for meditation with a young child?

Q: I don't know.

Aaron: Okay, here's an idea. Do you have a daily job? Okay, and now it's summer and the child is home, I assume.

Q: He's always home, yes.

Aaron: Start something with your child. I take this from Barbara's practice through the years with her children. A 5 year old is very ready to do this. It is harder with babies. Make it clear to the child, “This time is important to me. You are welcome to be in the room with me but you must be quiet. Here are crayons. Here are some books. Share this sacred space with me in whatever way you wish to do so. You're also welcome to come and sit on my lap.” Barbara would meditate in the morning with a candle burning and the children would come in one at a time until she had 3 little boys sitting on her lap. Sometimes they would sit there in silence for 5 or 10 minutes. They knew they were not to talk or run around. They were free to go into another room in the house and do something more active but if they wanted to stay in that sacred space with her, it was with quietness. And it was quite amazing how long they would sit, just enjoying this loving energy.

So instead of considering the time with the child, and the sleep deprivation distractions from your practice, make loving the child and sharing dhamma with the child your practice. Allow yourself to go deeper in that way. It's not going to happen right away! You have to introduce it gradually. What do you think?

Q: I feel torn and sad. I've been very tired and so I use time in the afternoon to take a nap. So imagining taking more time to make him be quiet or sit while I do more for me, I'm torn.

Aaron: Daughter, it's not for you or for him, and this is your difficulty. You're breaking your life into “What's for me?” with the grasping, and,  “What's for him?”, what's for the other people in your life? If you can -- I won't say stop making those divisions -- begin to see the mind jumping into these divisions and feel the contraction, fear, “What am I getting? My needs are not being met,” fear, because it's this ongoing tension and anxiety that are keeping you closed. How can you hear spirit, how can you find deep insight and peace when you're carrying this heavy contraction around? So it's the contraction that needs to be witnessed and held with love. All the fears—“I am not safe. My needs will not be met. I don't have enough sleep. I don't have enough time for my own interests. I don't know what to do.” Fear. Fear.

Can there be kindness with that fear, not condemnation, “I should be a better mother. I shouldn't mind this”? Just opening your heart to yourself for the fear that's there. The practice I'm suggesting is to support the move beyond the duality of, “my time, his time.”

In the summer here I would imagine there are many opportunities to get beyond that. Find something that you enjoy doing—gardening or taking a walk in the woods or to the beach or lake. Go with the child and find that experience that ceases to be for him or you, but that you're both enjoying together. Right now you're at war and it's time to end the war. And you can end the war, but first you have to acknowledge that there's been a war and it's not wholesome.

Are you married, or is his father part of this picture, yes? (Q: Yes.) And does he take care of the child? (Q: Yes, right now.) One child, yes? It's hard raising young children. It takes a lot of time and energy. And at 5, will he be going to school? (Q: Not yet.) Pre-school? (Q: No.) So he's home with you all day. Maybe for your own sanity it's time to put him in pre-school a few hours a day, good for him to have that time with other children. Is there anything to prevent that?

Q: He's got a lot of allergies that we're working with.

Aaron: So you'll need to find a special environment for him that's safe for him. So it takes a bit more work. But it will perhaps be more wholesome for him to not be constantly with you. And it will take looking to find a place where he might be safe for a few hours a day.

I'm glad you were able to talk here about the extent of the tension about this, and to bring it more into the consciousness mind. I think now that it's in the conscious mind you're going to find more wholesome ways of working with it.

Q: I'm grieving because the Christian monastery where I used to live just closed.

Aaron: Were you a monk?

Q: No. An associate. I miss my community and I don't know what to do now.

Aaron: How frequently were you a part of this community in the past few years? Was this a daily or weekly community? (Q: inaudible) And what's happened to those monks and others who were part of it? The building is closed, where are the people?

Q: The last 2 monks have moved to a retreat house in Santa Barbara and the other lay practitioners are trying to figure out what to do. There is a different religious order living in the house now.

Aaron: Son, this is a building, this house. The heart of your group is not the building. Certainly you miss the building. The heart of your group is the people, the sangha. It's up to you and your fellow lay practitioners. You can find a closely-related religious order, or perhaps you don't really need the religious order. Perhaps what you value most is simply your coming together. Coming together as this group is coming together on a regular basis, talking and singing together. What is it that each needs?

It feels to me, son, that you are projecting the old feelings, “I want the building. I want things to be the way they were,” as a way of avoiding some of the feelings of the present. I think that which you wish to avoid is multi-faceted. One is the reality, everything changes. We can't hold on to anything. It's all changing. That's a very hard truth for people to accept. There may be anger about that truth; feelings of  loss of control, helplessness. These are very deep feelings and it's important that you use your dharma practice to be present with these feelings and honor the reality of these feelings without any stories attached to them. Do you understand what I mean by that? What is the direct experience of disappointment without a story, without anyone to blame? Just disappointment. Loss, sadness.

When you're able to acknowledge the heart of the feelings, to acknowledge what's really happening in you,-- when you and your brothers in the community are able to do so -- then I feel certain you will find an answer for yourselves. You can't find an answer now because you don't know what you're looking for. What you're looking for is what you had, and that's gone. What is it you're really looking for?

Q: I have a neurological disorder that makes walking difficult at times and I've been told it's progressive. I'm actually living with a lot of peace with it. And it has informed my practice immensely partly because it's inconstant and so it forces me to be in the moment with however it is. It varies a lot.

Aaron: Did the doctors say there is any cure for it?

Q: No. That it's due to... (inaudible)

Aaron: Will you come over here and let me see?

(long pause)

Aaron: I don't know if you have considered the possibility to go to the Casa but <lost to laughter; she had been talking about just that possibility> ... the entities there can help with both the distortion and karma relating to the physical distortion. And the work needs to come together. Meditation time down there and the support of the entities could be helpful to you. I don't mean to push you, I'm offering this as a suggestion.

Q: That was the reason for my question because I've been feeling fairly well at peace with the disorder. But hearing Barbara talk this morning about her deafness shook me up because it brought this sense of hope...

Aaron: Exactly...

Q:  ... really bound up with fear.

Aaron: Resignation and equanimity. Resignation poses as equanimity. That is not equanimity. Can you feel the difference?

Q: No.

Aaron: Resignation is bound up in fear and contraction. Equanimity is truly peaceful.

Q: What I feel on a daily basis seems pretty free of fear and resignation.

Aaron: I believe you but both can come together. I don't want to pull Barbara out of her trance here so I'm going to speak for her.

She spent many years finding equanimity with her deafness. Many years not grasping to hear, reaching a place where she was at peace with the body and knowing, this is how things are. Then she began to realize she was also hiding in that truth, that by saying, “This is how things are,” there was still some fear, “If I think that it can be different, and I try and it's not different, I'll be hurt again. I'm just going to stay in a safe space.” But you can't just stay in a safe space, you've got to keep moving. The next step is to consider not, “How can I heal?” but “How can I more fully open to the Ever-Healed?” and to find out the extent of that Ever-Healed. Maybe it will be on a physical level; maybe it won't. But there's always more healing possible.

Not “How can I heal?” which implies one has to go from here to there, but “How can I more fully open to the Ever-Present, the Ever-Healed?” Opening into that space of Ever-Healed without any expectation with how it's going to be. You have done a practice of equanimity, to be with things as they are. That's important, but still can hold limits.

So what you're doing makes perfect sense to me. Now that there's equanimity with what's happening, you're ready to take the next step, which is to take that equanimity and look at, “What limits am I holding myself into and what's possible?” But without expectation. “I don't know what's for the highest good.” If your prayer, daughter, is “for the highest good for myself and all beings,” if that is your intention, maybe there is a belief that there's some reason why you need to carry this burden at this point. What is that belief? It's like Teflon and Velcro; you've got Velcro patches all over. It's sticking to you. Maybe you need to shift and become Teflon, release.

A good question to ask is, besides the very deep preference to be free of this pain and physical impairment, is there anything it protects me from? What if I could stand tall and free of pain and walk freely? Don't try to answer me now, look at it in your meditation. For Barbara, when she asked that question about her deafness, she had to look at the ways that the deafness protected her from hearing things that were hard to hear. If somebody was angry at her she could look and say, “Could you please repeat that, I didn't get that.” Her husband struggled with that for quite awhile. (laughter)

It was more than that; it was a way of being the ostrich with the head in the sand and not have to open completely to the suffering of the whole world. Through not hearing she could just stay separate and apart. I'm using this only as an example; for you it will be a different answer. But the question, “Besides my deep true aspiration to heal, right there with that aspiration, is there anything that this woundedness protects me from? And how can I more fully open my heart to whatever that is?” What does it mean, for example, to stand on one's own feet?

Barbara went through this once with balance at a retreat. At that stage of her life, if she closed her eyes she would fall over, and in the dark she would fall over even with the eyes open. And in snow she would fall over because there was no way to balance herself. She was feeling that the practice was too tight, too controlled, and I asked her in the middle of the night in a blizzard, “Go out and stand in the deep snow and close your eyes.” And she said, “But I'll fall over.” And I said, “Precisely. Go and stand in the deep snow.”

So she went out, she put her walking sticks aside at my request. Tension, wanting to stay upright. And then she closed her eyes and she fell. And the snow was hip deep so it was easy to fall into, no hurt from falling into it. She fell, and she stood up. Again and again and again. Watching the tension, “I must stay upright.” What does it feel like to fall? What if one allows oneself to fall? Can falling just be falling without any story?

She did it 20 times or more, falling over into the deep snow until finally falling was just falling. And then she went back inside to sit again. The energy was very different, not tight anymore, not trying to control in any way. So she had deep insight into this aspect of herself that she had not seen before, the one who needs to control, to be upright, and saw how she was bringing that into her practice. And the body had also released that tension.

I'm using this only by way of example. Just work with that question: “what would it mean to stand upright, to be fully on my feet,” and see what comes. Ask the question lightly and not try to figure it out with the brain, as you said. In the asking, you're expressing the willingness to receive an answer. Then trust your practice to give you the answer, for the insights to comes. Okay?

Q: Okay. Thank you.

New Q: Did some Casa entities enter the room with Q?

Aaron: No, it's just Aaron, me, in the body. I was just looking to see what was wrong and whether it felt like something that could be helped by the entities, and I feel it is. And that the karma that's involved is a very direct karma and the healing of it will be supported at the Casa also.

Let's take a short break here.

(break)

Q: My question has to do with maintaining my vitality in these days as I get older. I feel I have become lazy in regards to practices of vitality. I part I'm seduced by the warmth and comfort of my husband. He's 74, he's a homebody, and he prefers not to go anywhere but just to enjoy me... (laughter and joking) He doesn't participate in any of the practices or interests that I have outside the home. So I've gotten to where at 5 or 6 each evening I'm at home and I'm there until 8 the next morning. I feel like there are so many hours of my day that I'm not doing the practices to create vitality.

Aaron: Please describe to me what you mean by practices of vitality.

Q: Exercise, engaging with friends in the evening or learning...meditation group...so I'm feeling in some ways a little lonely because I am spending my time with my sweet husband.

Aaron: Are you out of the house during the day, at a job, work...?

Q: I have let go of my consulting and have become an artist who's not earning any money anymore.

Aaron: Are you enjoying it?


Q: Yes...

Aaron: There's your practice of vitality right there.

Q: I'm busy everyday. But money is a problem...

Aaron: Your husband strongly wants to stay home himself and wants you to stay home with him. Has that always been the pattern?

Q: We've been together for 13 years. I'm free to go anywhere I want.

Aaron: You are free to go,so it's your feeling “I should stay home with him,”  and not his demand?

Q: I truly am seduced...and I feel like I'm falling asleep in my life a little bit. We do need more money.

Aaron: Daughter, if you're going to fall asleep, fall asleep mindfully. See how it feels. What is there that's seductive about it. There are 2 sides to this. One is the joy and ease of being with your husband, the comfort. But also, when you're with him in that comfortable environment, it means you don't have to be out in a more challenging environment. The seduction has 2 sides. With mindfulness, begin to explore that which wants to be out and the roots of that wanting, also that which does not really want to be out.

I would strongly suggest that you discuss this with your husband, these feelings. And he'll almost certainly say to you, “Go!” And then that you commit yourself, one evening a week, to something, whether it's going to the gym or going to a class or your meditation group or whatever it might be. Once a week. But with mindfulness. How does it feel to go out? What is the resistance about? It's not just about, “Oh, it's comfortable at home,” it's more about the fear that something might be uncomfortable out there. What might be uncomfortable?


This is not about vitality. You have plenty of opportunity to develop vitality at home. Right there at home, start doing yoga every night. Work in your garden while he is sitting in your yard reading the paper. There are many things you can do to develop body exercise and other activities. And you're doing creative work during the daytime which enriches vitality.

This is more about part of you that wants to withdraw from the world, and what that withdrawal is about. Ask yourself in a very gentle way, why would I want to withdraw? What doesn't feel safe in the world right now? Because it's that, that makes staying at home feel so seductive.

Twice a week, maybe—once on your own and once get your husband to go out with you. Just go for a walk in a local park. Be silly, go play miniature golf! Go to a pinball arcade; frivolous, silly, at ease. Just play. Go to a children's playground and swing on the swings. Just get out together with him. It will do him good, too.

My sense here is that he is somewhat withdrawn from the world, and it's that which is seductive. His withdrawal from the world is not entirely wholesome. And you intuitively understand that. You sense, not just a refuge which may be wholesome, but a hiding place. Just explore it all, with no sense of “right” or “wrong,” and give yourself freedom to see what is behind it.

Q: Thursday evening, Aaron said we all had guides, and I want to know how to access my guide.  

Aaron: A very precise process that we teach.

First, get yourself a pad of paper and a pencil and put it beside you.

Begin by bringing forth a question, something that you really want to know, such as,  “How can I get along better with this or that person?” or “What is the meaning of my life? Why am I here? What is my life's work?” Something you don't really understand.

Second step. Center yourself in meditation, and when you are feeling centered, state your own deepest values. If there is some great master with whom you feel an alignment, the Buddha or any other master, state that alignment, that your value is for your life to be in full harmony with this Master, to live your life in resonance with this Master. You may state, “For the highest good of all beings,” or “with love.” It ca be the Buddha or it can be Jesus or any master. Make a very clear statement, “This is where I stand. This is what my deepest values are.”

The next step is to ask for help. Make a clear statement that whatever guidance comes must be harmonious with your own highest values. Let it go and come back to your breath, to nada, just to presence in this moment but with a pencil in your hand.

Normally when you write you think of what you're going to say and then write it down. Here you're just going to feel an impulse moving through your body, wanting to write, and just let the words flow. It might be 2 or 3 words, it might be 2 or 3 sentences or pages. Don't read back, don't try to monitor it, just let it flow.

When the impulse stops, when the energy stops, then read it. If it speaks to you, makes sense to you, and leads you to a further question, ask the next question. Sit back again, wait for a response. If conversely what you read feels off in some way, maybe you've asked, “How can I establish a better relationship with so-and-so?” and the response comes back, “This person is always wrong,” this is clearly some more negatively polarized entity trying to speak and using your own ego as a doorway. Re-center yourself, repeat your deepest values, and make the statement again, “I am asking for the highest energy that can come through me to answer this question that's in harmony with my own deepest values.”

Eventually you will find a link there, feel that you're connecting to this entity, hearing it with some clarity and that the answers are helpful. At that point you can say, “What is your name? How can I reach you more readily?  ‘Hey you' is a little awkward. Do you have a name?” You'll find that you start to connect with this entity to feel it's energy and connect with it.

I would ask you to consider if you're sitting in the room with a friend how you can feel that friend's energy. You know this is this person or that person. It's not just seeing them. If your eyes are closed and a person walks into the room, you feel the energy and you have an idea, this is this person or that person. You start to feel the energy field of this guide. It will feel familiar.

Each time you sit and open to the guide, you must state your highest values, and the statement - we call it a challenge¬†- “Nothing may come through and speak through me or to me that is not harmonious with my highest values,” because you're opening a door and you don't want to just open and door and say, “Anybody can come in. Hey, free beer; come on in!”

So you are stating that you are in charge here, and stating what is acceptable to you. Whoever comes through and speaks to you must be harmonious with these values, coming to speak for the highest good and with love.

After some sessions like this with writing, you'll be able to put the pencil down and just listen. You'll form a relationship, a friendship. You guides are here. We can't hear you through closed doors. We don't close the doors; you close the doors. If you want to hear us, you have to open the doors; it's as simple as that. So this is a way of opening the door but with enough control that if something negative is coming in, you're not giving yourself over to it entirely. You're listening carefully, and aware, “Something in me is inviting this negativity. What do I need to take care of to purify myself in order to ensure that what comes in is positive?”

Q: I wanted to ask Aaron what my life's work is.

Aaron: Don't ask me, ask yourself! (laughter) What do you think it is?

Q: Be on the path, keep going.

Aaron: That's part of it. Imagine somebody climbing a mountain, two people climbing from opposite sides of the mountain. Each has looked at the top and said, “I intend to get there.” Both are a bit sore from the climb, muscles aching a bit. One is gritting her teeth and saying, “I'm going to get there.” Each time there's a clearing, looking up. “Where's the top? How much further? How many more hours? I'm going to get there.”

The other is walking and stops when she gets sore. She finds a shady place to rest, feels the cool breeze on her face. Ah, pleasant, pleasant. Enjoyment. Recalling the intention to climb. “Am I ready? Yes.” Keep going. Walks a bit further. Feeling tired but realizes, “I don't have to stop now, I can just be present with ‘tired' for a bit.” So climbs for another half hour. By then, really tired, body hurting. It would be kind to pause. “Resting, resting,” maybe a snack. She doesn't keep looking for how far the top is, she'll get to the top when she gets there. She's enjoying the journey. Sometimes the body is painful, sometimes there's tiredness, but overall the experience is gratitude for the journey.

Your work is not to be the climber who grits her teeth and continues, as you sometimes tend to do, but to nurture gratitude for the path itself. If you stay on the path and enjoy the path, it will take you to the top. If you grit your teeth and get to the top, will you even notice that you're there?

Q: There is no top.

Aaron: Correct, there is no top! But there is still grasping. Can you see that energy in yourself?

Q: Absolutely.

Aaron: Your life's work is not so much what you will do in the outside world but how to address this contracted state in yourself and begin to live each moment of your life - I emphasize - with gratitude, with joy. Make a practice when you get up in the morning, to stop, look out the window, whether it's blue or gray sky, regardless, whether the body is painful or painless, to know the joy and gift of a new day, and to express gratitude.

Throughout the day, pause frequently. If your back hurts, sit down and ask, “Do my teeth hurt?” No. No toothache right now. Ah, gratitude—no toothache! Don't get so focused on, “Oh, my back! Why me? Not fair.”  Just, “No toothache!” Joy and gratitude. You're not denying the pain in the back, you're shifting the focus, reopening your energy.

So much of your practice right now is about reopening your energy. I think of a tree that's been transplanted and its roots necessarily cut for the transplant; now it needs to put down new, longer roots. Let yourself connect with the world around you, not forcing your way through it. When there's a challenging experience, physical or emotional, instead of the belief, “I have to get through this,” why not just stop and be there in that experience with gratitude. “My teacher has come. Right here in this moment. And I don't want this teacher and I don't like this teacher but nevertheless, my teacher has come. Can I relate to this teacher with love and with gratitude?” As soon as your energy field opens in that way, everything becomes easier. Stop pushing.

Q: You sound like James! (laughter)

Aaron: Wonderful; then you hear it twice!

Q: My question is about, I've had an experience of an identity, a self I've created that was working well. Then it fell apart, a lot of suffering, and I'm in a place now of, I think I'm confused about how to practice now. I don't want to make another successful self or another unsuccessful self. The other piece that's gone with it is, my body has, in this hard time, really a lot of intensified physical pain, a lot of physical dukkha coming along.

Aaron: So you've experienced a sense of self and self-identity. It was comfortable. And then it fell apart, as is inevitable. Then you suffered. Now you don't know where to go because you're afraid you'll create another sense of self.

Just seeing the tendency to do that is an important deterrent to doing it. Just watching mindfully for the impulse, wanting to create a self. Do you understand impulse energy?

Q: Yes, I am very impulsive.

Aaron: I'd like to do an exercise with all of you. We will need water for everybody...

Take a mouthful into the mouth and very mindfully, feel the contact, touching of the water. Pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. And then swallow. Just feel that process. Okay, now we're going to break it down. Before you take the next mouthful, let me finish speaking.

I'm going to ask you, when I say so, to take another mouthful into the mouth and hold it there, aware of the touch. Touching sensation. Watch how impulse to swallow arises as a second object. The water in the mouth and the impulse to swallow are two different things. Watch that there is impulse and that you don't have to act out the impulse. It's just impulse. So hold the water in the mouth. Of course if you feel you must swallow, it's okay.

And then just take another mouthful but hold it in the mouth as long as you can. Two objects: first, touching, sensation, the water in the mouth; pleasant or unpleasant or perhaps neutral. Second, the tightening of the throat, wanting to swallow. Just breathing in and out and aware of that tension that we call impulse energy, wanting to swallow.

Impulse energy is an interesting thing. It can be very strong, and the habit is so strong to simply mindlessly enact the impulse—to scratch the itch, to shift the posture. In this group, because you are more senior practitioners, you are used to not shifting the posture. But where does that not shifting come from? Where does the not scratching or swallowing come from? Is there any suppression of the impulse or can you be fully present with it and still not scratch or swallow? Hold yourself in your heart and be intimate with that impulse and its causes.

And now you may swallow. Aware of the experience of swallowing, the physical sensation. Open the mouth, stretch the mouth for a moment... Now take another mouthful of water and repeat the exercise.

Know impulse as impulse and see what the relationship is with impulse. An impulse is just an impulse. There's a small body tension. You can relax around that tension. Like all other conditioned objects, the impulse will pass.

And then swallow. Please share with me a bit, what did you experience?

Q: I found the first time of noticing the impulse that I went to the swallowing motion without swallowing the water, but the motion happened before I was aware of it. The second time, I could sense the tension in my throat start, and just notice it, and then I didn't have the impulse further to swallow.

Aaron: Thank you. Others?

Q: I noticed that if I took a small mouthful of water it was fairly easy to do.

Aaron: Yes.

Q: I noticed holding the water in my mouth, I would begin to salivate and the impulse would become very strong. And I would panic.

Aaron: And after the panic?

Q: I'd swallow!

Aaron: Take another mouthful. Please take another mouthful. Others?

Q: I noticed at times it was easy and at times I noticed my mind fought it, thinking I should not be swallowing. And as soon as I noticed that was a thought, I didn't need to swallow, it became easier. And that would go back and forth.

Q: I noticed it was easy because the water temperature was neutral. So I was aware of thinking, “I'm glad it's not cold.” I have aversion to cold.

New Q: Actually, unlike her I had cold water and it was unpleasant. I noticed there was all this unpleasant, and I swallowed it right away. But then as I held it in my mouth it became lukewarm and it was much easier to just keep it.

Aaron: We see the link between the unpleasantness of the condition and the arising of the impulse energy, but you are also talking about the awareness that just because the impulse is there doesn't mean you have to enact the impulse. You took another swallow. What happened?

Q: I panicked and sat with it. Then there was a little bit later an involuntary contraction. I held the water and then I felt relaxation.

Aaron: Using metta there, when there's a panic or an involuntary spasm, is helpful. Even just bring the hand to the throat, noting the thought, “Kindness to this being.” Offering kindness, not judgment but kindness. That helps ease the feeling of panic and pressure. Any others?

(They note Aaron didn't finish answering the Q's question leading to the water exercise.)

Aaron: No, I'm going to come back to her... Are there any further sharings about the exercise? (no)

Okay. Coming back, then, with this exercise as background. The movement into the concept of a solid self is part of an impulse energy. One finds oneself in a space that feels uncomfortable and the habit energy is to create a ‘somebody' around that discomfort. The more you watch the arising of impulse energy in varied ways—wanting to scratch the itch, to shift the posture, and so forth—and relax into the experience of feeling an impulse energy and knowing it's just impulse, knowing you don't have to believe everything you think or feel, you don't have to go along with the impulse just because it's there—the more assurance you will have that as you move into this space of emptiness, there may be the discomfort as with the full mouth, but you don't have to create a self just because there's discomfort. It's just an impulse.

So that you begin to see the impulse to become a solid self arising. Breathe with it, hold space with it. There's the simultaneity of the emptiness and the impulse, and the impulse is trying to bring the self with it, but the emptiness doesn't go anywhere; it's still there. Stay connected to both. If you try to pull away from, ignore, or deny the impulse, then in a roundabout way you're creating a self. When you can be fully present with the impulse it can be simply seen as just an object, arising, impermanent, not self, and there is no need to enact that impulse.

This wanting to create a self, this is part of all of your human habit energy. Do you know Thich Nhat Hanh's poem, The Burning Hut?

Q: The one about the river when he sets the <> on fire?

Aaron: No... I'll find it and read it to you, it's not long. I think all of you will find its value to this issue.

I shall say that I want it all.

If you ask me how much I want,

I should tell you that I want it all.

You and I and everyone are flowing this morning

Into the marvelous stream of oneness.

Small pieces of imagination as we are,

We have come a long way to find ourselves,

And for ourselves, in the dark,

The illusion of emancipation.

This morning my brother is back from his long adventure.

He kneels before the altar and his eyes are filled with tears.

His soul is looking for a shore to put an anchor,

My own image of long ago.

Let him kneel there and weep, then cry his heart out.

Let him have his refuge for a thousand years.

Enough to dry all his tears.

Because one of these nights I shall come.
I have to come and set fire to this small cottage of his on a hill,

His last shelter.

My fire will destroy, destroy everything,

Taking away from him the only life raft he has, after a shipwreck.

In the utmost anguish of his soul, the shell will break.

The light of the burning hut will witness, gloriously, his deliverance.

I will wait for him beside the burning cottage,

Tears will run down my cheeks.

I will be there to contemplate his new existence

And hold his hand in mine,

And ask him how much he would want.

He will smile at me and say he wants it all,

Just as I did.

Do you understand the relevance of this?

Q: I think so.

Aaron: Tell me.

Q: Sadness came (Signer: she is feeling sadness) and the thought, I had a memory of, a recognition, like that is what's happening. My life all burned up, my world...

(Signer requests rephrasing for clarity)

...had an experience in the past 3 years of maybe, like my community, my sense of self, my refuge that I had made in this identity that was acceptable, burned up. So the question that he asked, I understand now that there's the possibility of a not-self, the awareness or the spaciousness in the experience, but I still need help to know how to practice because often I'm not there.

Aaron: Practice with the impulse exercise, that's one piece of it. The other is to be aware, you and all of you, when there's a strong experience of emptiness of self or dissolution of self, then fear comes up. “Will I dissolve? Will I annihilate myself?” You are mammals,  human animals, and the survival instinct is very strong. So we see the impulse energy, wanting to come back into a more solid self again.

When mindfulness is there, it watches the impulse and can simply note, “Here is fear, here is tension,” the direct experience of fear without any stories. “Fear, fear.” Where is the fear felt in the body? If the body has dissolved and there's no body to feel the fear, simply acknowledge the energy of fear, “Feeling fear.”

What happens to so many people at that stage of practice is that they try to get away from the fear, expressing the self that's saying, “No, no fear,” instead of acknowledging the fear and that it's also just a conditioned object arising and passing away. As soon as there's a conceptual somebody to make the fear solid or to try to push the fear away, it brings back the self-notion. But when awareness notes the fear -- talking here about the distinction I made between mundane consciousness and awareness, and “That which is aware of fear is not afraid,”  -- when awareness notes the fear and is fully present with it with kindness, the fear is also seen as just the result of conditions, expressing and dissolving, and there's nobody there trying to do anything with it. At this point, as the fear dissolves, there's the ability to go deeper into the direct experience of the Unconditioned.

It's very important for all of you, as your practice brings you to this point that you acknowledge fear of annihilation, the fear, of emptiness, just acknowledging that emotion, opening the heart to the direct experience, and being fully present with it. But not as a self, just letting awareness hold that object. Watch it and let it go. Fear is there and the space around the fear is there. There's nothing to fix, there's nobody to fix it.

Others?

Q (in tears throughout): I struggle with resistance to my practice and to doing long retreats. And there's a lot of fear around both. And I believe it's tied to a bad experience I had 8 to 10 years ago in another Buddhist group. I have come very far but I feel like I am really willing myself, pushing beyond, pushing myself to sit and meditate and do retreats. I'm fighting myself. There's a part of me that's scared.

Aaron: Never pushing, daughter, only inviting, with love. Will you share with me the nature of that experience?

Q: I am frightened to talk about it because I don't want to say bad things about my teacher.

 

Aaron: I understand. Instead of phrasing it about the teacher, simply tell about your experience. In your mind, it relates to the teacher but for us it's simply, this is what you experienced. You don't have to name somebody and say he or she did this or that, just, “I heard this and experienced this or that fear or feeling.”

Q: There was a moment where my teacher said that if I did not practice I was going to the hell realm. So it changed my practice to one of great fear. I practiced 3 and 4 hours a day to try to purify myself for 6 months and did prostrations, and he would not talk to me. And when he finally agreed to talk to me,  I was so frightened he would not let me speak. I'm summarizing. I did a long 12 or 14-day retreat and had images of hell realms, and I called him and he said I was not doing things right; he said basically he would not keep talking to me; he said, “You're not doing it right.”

So I became I think a little psychotic, meaning in the sense of intense depression and intense panic attacks at different times. When he finally agreed to talk to me he was quite abusive. And he said he would help me if I would not talk to anybody else. So I was having panic attacks, I couldn't think clearly, I would have deep depression. And we'd have these phone calls where he was manipulative.

I finally left, cut off contact with him 6 months later after my retreat. Then I met James and this sangha and it has been very healing because the other sangha and the teacher that was in that sangha were not the real dharma. So I have had much confusion. I'm still healing. I love the dharma. So I am torn.

Aaron: Let us just sit silently for a few minutes and hold some space here. You are really shedding tears for us all, for all beings that have been misused. For all the ways that even this precious dharma can be manipulated and misused.

Q: That's true.

(pause)

Aaron: What you must understand, child, is that, while in an ideal world such abuse would not happen, of course it does happen and because people have the karma that brings it up, that brings up abusiveness in themselves, and negativity. No victim of abuse is ever responsible for that abuse. You did not create this abuse for yourself. The abuser is always responsible. But when one enters into a relationship, at some level there is the deep wisdom that understands that karmically you participated, at some level agreed to have something stirred up.


This was such a painful situation for you and yet it's also opening deep doors to healing of very old karma. It could have come in a hundred different ways. This is the way it came. But there is at some level the willingness to get into this entanglement because at some deep level of wisdom you wanted to get out, and the only way to get out was to go through. It his helping you to learn how to say “No” to abuse, and to say it with living kindness.

Q: Years before this happened, I prayed that I could go through all my karma in this lifetime.

Aaron: The old saying, be careful what you pray for!

Q: So that I could become enlightened and help other beings.

Aaron: Yes, a beautiful aspiration, and you are receiving the good results, not only the painful ones. So it was a rough road. It was like asking to climb to the top of the mountain forgetting that you had sore feet and no shoes. So you had to pick up some cuts on the bottom of the feet, but now the feet are getting stronger.

What is important here is that you recognize that you have moved through this situation and you have no need to repeat it. That you have learned what you needed to learn from it. I will not ask you to practice forgiveness, but compassion for yourself and for the teacher, to begin to see how deeply stuck this teacher is. To wish him or her well; that this teacher may also be free of suffering; to wish it for yourself. Hold yourself at the time that this happened, in your heart. Send loving wishes out to yourself. Don't ask yourself to forgive at this point, that's too hard, just compassion.

And the deep awareness, “I have learned what I need to learn from this.” One of the things that you've learned is that you create the hell realm. Nobody can push you there; nobody can tell you you're going to end up if you don't do this or that. We create it. For whatever karmic reasons, you had to explore this hell realm and now you don't have to do that anymore.

Let yourself know you do not have to do it. There's no one to punish, nothing to be punished. I suspect that if you look deeply in your practice, you'll find some areas of guilt and shame in yourself, old areas, feelings of not good enough and so forth, which need to be explored, released.

I would deeply encourage you to sit some longer retreats soon, but in the kind of sitting where you can practice metta as much as you need to. Not in strict, very formal sittings, but a sitting with a compassionate teacher who will invite you to practice in the ways you need to practice, and support your doing as much or as little formal sitting as you need to. If it becomes too tense, get up and walk. Make some space. Do whatever metta practice or  karuna practice is helpful. But keep returning to the direct experience of fear, resistance.

I think the fear less about what the teacher said or did to you but what you did, to believe the teacher and enter the hell realm. Ask the self, “Do I need to throw myself back into that hell realm?” “No.”  Ask the question, “Why would I choose to punish myself in that way? Is there something that I have not forgiven in myself? Something in myself that I have not fully opened my heart to? Some area where I can love and embrace myself more fully?”

We talk often about whether we need to heal the self fully before we can experience no-self. It can be argued both ways. Often it needs to come together. The experience of emptiness, of no-self, can become an escape from the pain of that which needs healing. Yet the deepest healing does not happen from a place of self; it transcends the self.

We start wherever we are, and for you right now it needs to start with the healing, not with the trying to attain states of emptiness. Just open the heart and be present with grief, with fear, with any feelings of shame, and cherishing the self. And then trust the practice to carry you through that back into the experiences of emptiness.

Thank you for your courage to share this with us.

Q: Thank you.

Aaron: You're welcome. Please email Barbara and let us know how you're doing.

Another?

Q: I really appreciated your image of the bowl that we are given. In my bowl I have 2 hardships and gifts that I would like to work skillfully with. I have an autoimmune disorder of the skin which is very itchy and I've been told there's no cure.

Aaron: (smiling) Another one to invite to the Casa!

How do you feel about that part, there is no cure?

Q: I don't want to believe that.

Aaron: Is there a lot of aversion to the discomfort, still?

Q: I have aversion to how it looks which makes me feel vain.

Aaron: So there is still aversion. It's okay that there's aversion, it's normal that there's aversion. What is your relationship to the aversion? Is there judgment about it or is there openheartedness, just seeing aversion as an object? Which way?

Q: It depends. Some days I can be compassionate.

Aaron: This is the practice, opening the heart to things as they are. Sometimes the conditions are pleasant, sometimes unpleasant. Again, not wanting to call Barbara back into the body, I want to share an experience of hers.

Four years ago she was in a bad accident that involved broken bones in the face, painful, back injuries, broken ribs and so forth; a lot of bones were broken. She was riding a surfboard that hit a wave wrong and was pounded into the bottom of the ocean. She was not standing on the surfboard, she does not have the balance; she was lying down but nonetheless it plunged her into the sea bottom. She was knocked unconscious and had a near-death experience.

One result of this accident is that this deaf woman had broken bones around the eyes and a broken blood vessel in the eyes so that she lost complete vision of one eye, and the blood leaked through so she had very little vision in the other eye. The doctor said there was nothing they could do about the right eye, that she would be permanently blind in the right eye. The orbital bone around the eyes was broken, and they said they would not operate on it because it would cause more bleeding. Just let it heal as it was, misaligned.

As the bleeding slowed down, she regained some vision in the left eye; she could not read or drive a car but she could walk, she could see. It was still terrifying. She was deaf; was she going to be blind and deaf for the rest of her life? Very terrifying.

Just a few weeks into this at a point where she could only see light and dark in one eye, and she could just see the rough broken edges of images in the other eye, she was at her cabin in the woods, up early in the morning at dawn sitting on the deck meditating. She looked out into her beloved trees with the lake in the distance; she couldn't see it, and she began to weep.

Her heart said, “just be present and meditate,” so she meditated. And then an hour later her husband came in handing her a cup of tea, with a sweet scent that drew her from her meditation. She opened her eyes and the sun had risen high enough so that it was coming through the trees. The light was beautiful. She could see the light and the play of light; she was seeing it in a totally different way than she had ever seen it. And she realized, “Things will be as they are. Can I open my heart and simply be present with things as they are? It's different vision but not necessarily worse vision. It limits me. I cannot read, I cannot drive. But things can still be very beautiful.” And she understood if she lost her sight completely, she would still survive it.

I am telling you this story to bring forth the reality of things as they are. Itching, unpleasant, blemishes, unpleasant. Can the heart open to this human who is experiencing the human experiences of change, impermanence, the conditions of the body enacting themselves? That's the first step.

The second step, once there's more spaciousness with things as they are, is -- as we spoke about earlier -- the distinction between equanimity and resignation. Resignation is a negative and confining emotion that says, “It's hopeless so I'll just grit my teeth and deal with it.” Equanimity is open to all the possibilities; things as they are but everything is impermanent, who knows what's possible.

But one must reach out for that possibility without grasping or any specific form of expectation. This is challenging because to heal you need to envision the ever-perfect skin. The ever-perfect skin, of course, is right there with the blemishes. The immune medical condition is right there with the lack of that condition.

You learn to hold that potential in your heart and truly know the reality of it which is not yet fully expressed to invite the possibility of that reality with love and without grasping, without fear, and then, we don't know.

I suggest you consider going to the Casa... (examining her up close) I can't promise you they can help you but I think they can. One must go down there without the expectation, “This is going to fix me,” and simply know, “This is just another spiritual adventure. We'll see where it takes us.” But I would strongly suggest that as a possibility to you because it seems to me that this is not just a physical condition but also in part the expression of karma, and that there's karma that needs to be healed along with the physical condition. And the entities are especially skilled with such work.

Q: I think you might have answered my other difficulty which is how to be in relation with my mother who is demented...

Aaron: She is in a timeless place. You can only meet her in that place. If you have any expectations that her mind is going to be able to go back or forward, there's going to be constant grasping and disappointment. When you can be with her just where she is, it will be a lot easier. I know you don't see it this way now, child, but this is a gift to you. Anger and sadness will come. Don't be afraid of it. Remember the simultaneity I've been talking about—that which is aware of sadness is not sad. That which is aware of anger is not angry. And yet, at the same time, there is sadness and there is anger. We hold them, we engage with them. Intimate, connected. No stories, just the direct experience of sadness or anger. The tension of expectation, wanting. But holding those experiences in the spaciousness of the loving heart. Do you see how that can be? Yes. I think you are doing well with it. I know it's hard.

The Kleenex box makes the rounds...

Others?

Q: I am writing a book about joy. One area I've been exploring lately is how to move from interpersonal love to universal love. That we have different karmic connections with people in our lives who perhaps we've known from past lives, whether primary relationship or deep friendships, that there is a special magical flow of loving energy. I've been exploring my own practices with this and writing about them and I would like to hear your wisdom, how to expand, transform, go from that special love between two people to be able to feel that for everyone, a universal love for everyone, going from interpersonal love to being the love.

Aaron: I understand. Several different thoughts. First, please hold that image of it being simultaneous, not linear. There is not interpersonal love and unconditional love but both are together. Use the image of looking into very deep water. As the water is increasingly clear, you can see further down. Where is the place where both expressions of love co-incide?

It's important to look into the self and see what is clouding the water. Often it's simply the sense of separate self. As long as there's that sense of,  “Me; I am going to love deeper or better,” that blocks I the opening. Sometimes it's more about energy. Even with the sense of separate self diminished, there's still the subtle edge of a  “somebody” trying too hard. Feel the energy; feel the texture of effort. Can there be, really, a balanced effort. Not grasping but moving forward, being present with each moment's experience. When effort andf energy are thusly balanced, the water will clear, so to speak. There will be deeper insight into the simulteineity of both expressions of love.

The other suggestion that I have here, have you done any formal dzogchen practice? Have you gotten to a point where there's a stable resting in awareness? (Q: Yes.) When you're resting in awareness, is that experience of unconditional love open? (Q: Yes.) Bring that back into your mindfulness practice in daily life. When there's a sense of being caught at the personal level and seeing the impersonal Love as “somehting else,” just stop, open up, breathe out. Enjoy that whole experience of expanding, letting go of edges. Releasing the self  brings balanced effort. As there's balanced effort, that experience opens into the non-dual.  The special, magical flow of loving energy of which you speak is none other than this, the opening into the non-dual, supported by right energy and effort.

Then, “somebody” comes back with the thought, “Ah, I'm doing it!” And there's a somebody again. Eventually we just smile at the somebody. There's nobody there, it's just an idea.

My sense of it, as you describe it to me, is that a basic error is that of trying too hard. If there's a somebody that's trying, the non-dual experience is lost.

Q: Let me further explain. I can feel that love for those people. And I want to communicate for people who are not necessarily into dzogchen or Buddhist practice what practices they can use to transform that, not because they're trying so hard but out of an invitation to expand that.

Aaron: It's hard to phrase it in non-practice terms because you really need the tools of practice to support this work. But a different metaphor that I would use, for people who have no dharma background, comes back to the clarity or opacity of water.

If you have, let's use apple cider, with a lot of particles in it, and you shake the jug and it's cloudy, if you try to quiet the particles, you can't. But if you just sit the jug still, the particles will settle. You don't have to call it right effort, but contracted vs. non-contracted effort. You don't have to use the words “coming from a self or no-self,” just asking the person to watch tension in the body that denotes grasping and trying too hard, and allow themselves to relax into that place of invitation where the cider can settle.

From that place, openhearted effort is possible and the heart opens to the connection that's always been there. You're not doing anything, you're simply allowing—it's not even inviting, it's allowing, because the open heart is your essence. It's allowing the essence to express itself. If it's not expressing itself fully it means there's some kind of fear or contraction there. The contraction serves to stir up the particles.

Another image that might be helpful is that of a bowl of water set on a table, and full to the brim. The table shakes a little and the water starts splashing out. You can't put your hand on top to try to quiet the water, that just stirs it up. We just let it settle.

So the person intending this expereince of non-dual love and openheartedness needs to feel that turbulence in the self and be willing to just be present with it and let it settle. As it settles, an experience of connection opens up because this is the heart's innate quality. If it's something you had to create, it would be different, but it's always been there, it's just a matter of allowing it to express.

The inviting comes in because it's the statement of intention. It's important to state your intention but the invitation is then released too, because even the invitation gets in the way if there's a somebody trying to make it happen. So one is expressing one's intention, one's free will intention toward this, then letting it go to allow what's already there to manifest.

Do you have question?

Q: No, I think we can stop there.

Aaron: It's really trusting the true heart and it's hard to trust unless you've had some direct experience of that true heart. This is where we lose those who have not done any form of spiritual practice. It doesn't have to be specifically vipassana but something that has let one experience that pure heart is needed. It doesn't have to be a so-called formal spiritual practice, it might just be somebody who has done gardening or taken care of animals, but somebody who has let the heart open and connect and come back into that space where they can say, “I know this. This is what I am,” when everything else is released. Then they know, “This is what everything is.” Then the love for the self or the singular beloved can be expanded into recognition of love for All-That-Is.

Q: I have an illness that I am not sure would be suitable for the Casa. I have hepatitis C which is a virus. I'm not sick from it right now. So the question would be whether it would be suitable to go to the Casa.

Aaron: I cannot promise you but I have known a number of people with hepatitis C who have been cured there who left there with no trace of it remaining in their body...

Q: Okay!

Aaron: We will have a group going again in January. Barbara and Jon lead this group together. They call it Vipassana Healing because they feel the importance to bring one's practice and integrating one's practice into the experience down there. It's not a silent retreat but there's a good mix of practice and practice interviews and the Casa experience, and the opportunity to travel and sit with a group of dharma practitioners.

Signer: She had a question about Barbara's tour in January. There is information here...

(Aaron refers her to talk to Barbara)

Q: Just a general question probably for all of us. Aaron, since you're a being of light on the other side, for those of us, especially I'm asking for myself, for my sister who had ALS (to signer)—you don't have to tell him all this—do the spirits and the entities and the evolved beings hear our prayers when we light the candles? ... Is that something we should continue doing... We could just say, for those who passed, what would be our most skillful offering to them?

Signer: What would be our most skillful practice for honoring those loved ones who have passed on to the other side?

Aaron: What is the most skillful practice to support them, is that what you're asking? To support your own grief or to support their transition?

Q: Both, actually.

Aaron: There is no one most skillful practice. There are a number of things that will help. If you're working with grief then just your vipassana practice and awareness of grief, of loss, grasping, and so forth. Metta can be helpful.

If the concern is more with the support of the loved one, there are two practices I'd recommend. One, there's a book called American Book of the Dead, which is a simplified translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. It has a step-by-step series of prayers that you can read aloud for 40 days after the transition, to the loved one. You can start it any time, it doesn't have to be on the day of the death but it's useful to start on that day if it's possible.

I suggest that people read the prayer, then hold the loved one in your heart and speak to them. Explain in your simplest terminology, what does this instruction mean to you. Help them to hear the instruction and understand how they might work with it. So that's one practice that truly is helpful.

Another practice that's helpful to both of you is tonglen. So either of these, both of these, can be very supportive. Metta, and as I said, vipassana practice and being present with your own feelings of loss, grief, anger, and so forth.

Whatever is useful to invite the self into a centered palce is fine. We, spirits on the other side, have no need of candles. It is your loving heart and intention that call us and we are happy to support your work. If the lighting of candles or saying of special phrases helps you to be open and invite help, then do it. For us, the candle lighting is just the setting forth of your intention, and it is the loving intention that calls to us.

It is long past 3:00 PM. Is there anyone else with question or are we ready to close? Okay, several more questions.

Q: I guess my cutting edge is relationship. I've been married for 3 months. He just moved here from Mexico. So it's kind of been like a 3-month retreat, always together, great sometimes and really challenging sometimes. And intense. So I'm not sure how to say the question...

Signer: What type of help are you looking for, specifically?

Q: I feel overwhelmed, feel off-balance... it feels like he's, like... cross-cultural stuff, like we're not playing by the same rules, you know, ...we're not talking the same language—I mean, he speaks English, but like...I'm just confused. I feel like I'm not being very skillful, and lost, and...

Signer: She is confused in this relationship. They come from different cultures. It seems that each has a different idea of relationship.

Q: Reality... like, where did THAT come from?

Aaron: Different in what way?

Q: Different, like, in experience, he thinks, one thing happened and it's not my experience, my reality, so, perceptions, projection, and misunderstanding, miscommunication, and...

Signer: Each has a different experience of the same situation.

Aaron: I would ask you, daughter, to give me an example.

Q: (thinking) ...I'm going blank.

Aaron: How long did you know each other before the marriage?

Q: 6 months.

Aaron: Did you live together in that time?

Q: No, he was there and I was here, going back and forth.

Aaron: Do you feel he loves you?

Q: Yes, very much.

Aaron: Do you love him?

Q: Yes.

Aaron: Let's start with that.

Q: It feels like there's some karma that's brought us together...

Aaron: Please express to him that you are feeling some pain and confusion, if you have not already done so.

Q: Every day!

Aaron: Make it clear that this is not his fault or your fault. There's no sense of blame, there's only the will to clarify the confusion so that both of you may deepen in your love for each other, and not to regard the confusion as a problem but as a blessing, a place that inspires you go deeper with each other.

I would like to suggest this as a specific practice, that you sit facing each other, eye to eye. If possible, sit at opposite ends of a sofa so that you can put your feet out and touch the soles of your feet together, or close up where you can hold hands as you talk, exchanging some energy in touching.

Create the parameters of the dialogue, that the dialogue is held in a sacred space, where you state, and you're going to have to be precise, here—you say you can't give me an example, you're going to have to give him an example or he won't understand what you're talking about—make sure you phrase it not in terms of, “You're doing this wrong,” but “My experience of this is that creates turmoil for me and discomfort. When this happens, I am uncomfortable.”

His job is to hear you and say back to you, “I hear you saying when this happens you are uncomfortable.” Then it's his turn to say something and you to report back to him, “What I hear you saying is...” What you're doing is creating the sacred space for the dialogue to happen and the deep intention, out of love, to hear each other. You are trying to shift yourself from being opposed to being together, resolving a mutual issue.

Q: It feels like because him moving here, there's some instability, he feels unstable. And I think partly the culture, he's feeling his need to control and I have resistance to that. So I think that's some of the conflict, he's trying to feel safe and in control and I'm like... that's ridiculous, leave me alone! There's love there but sometimes it's just like... too much.

So I guess my question is, my perception is he's feeling unstable and needing control. That's how I see him.

Signer: She thinks that he is feeling unstable because he is new to this country. He may be feeling like he needs to control and she feels aversion to this.

Aaron: Daughter, these are human feelings, just talk about them. Cartainly it is possible those are his feelings. Ask him, are you feeling uncomfortable about the newness of this? Tell him, “My perception is that when you are afraid you become a bit rigid, and that rigidity is uncomfortable to me.” Then acknowledge to him that your work is to try to make more space and have more compassion for his fear, and his work is to try to be more aware of his fear and not have it result in controlling behavior. Each of you have work to do with this but you're working together, not in conflict with each other. Thus, the first thing you need to do is draw yourselves together. Neither of you is trying to fix the other but simply to watch the patterns of human behavior and ask yourselves, together, how can we most skillfully work with and transcend some of the more challenging of these patterns? It becomes a cooperative effort and a very beautiful cooperative effort, and it will bring you closer.

Your first step is to work with the tension and fear that you're feeling. What if the marriage doesn't work? What if, what if? Fear.

As you create more space for your own fear, you'll find that voice from which you can approach him with love and compassion, and with kindness can bring up the issues for you to address together as a team.

I know you're wondering, “I don't think I can do that,” or “Can I do that?” I think you can because I don't think you entered into this marriage with the intention of failure but from a place of love. Trust your love. But talk to each other without it's becoming argument. Make the agreement, as soon as we start to take positions, this position against that position, we stop and notice, “taking positions, opposition, oppositionality, stop.” Just hold each other, look into each others' eyes, reconnect in your love for each other, and then mutually ask, how can we look with this particularly sensitive issue without taking a position?

Q: I feel like my life is in most ways very blessed. I have good health, a meaningful job, and a loving, supportive family. I'm practicing vipassana for 20 years, almost. I notice in myself a tendency to drift. I feel like I need more fire and commitment in my practice. Another facet is I create a lot of suffering for myself with the stories I tell myself. I'm wanting... a daily practice that I can use to anchor myself now.

Aaron: Do you have a daily practice?

Q: It's something that I easily let go if I'm running late, or busy, or...

Aaron: Do you have children?

Q: Not young children at home, no... we have a grandchild.

Aaron: Brother, you are going to have to make a choice. Your practice can lead you to a place of getting more comfortable, or it can lead you to liberation. If you invite it to lead you to liberation, ultimately you will end up more comfortable. But if you choose comfort first, it will not lead you to liberation.

We're talking about energy, here, and effort and resistance. I wonder in your deepest experiences in retreat if you have experiences of dissolution of the body and ego. (Q: Yes.) And is that uncomfortable at all? (Q: No.) Pleasant... no fear coming up with that? (Q: No.) Okay. What do those experiences mean in your everyday life?

Q: I feel like my deepest retreat experiences have shown me that we are all interconnected.

Aaron: How are you living that interconnection? Do you feel comfortable that you're living it well?

Q: I feel like I am.

Aaron: Yes, so there is integration of it. Then let's look at a different side of it. I hesitate to call it laziness because that word has negative connotations in your society—tiredness. It comes back to the first question I asked: do you want comfort or do you want liberation?

I would like to offer what may seem like an odd suggestion to you. It would work best with an animal but it could also be done with a plant. You might go to a place that rescues and cares for wild animals that have been injured and find a bird or rabbit, some animal that you can become a temporary caretaker of for one or several weeks, one that needs support while it heals. And it may not heal. The fact is, it may die. Simply spend a few weeks being as present as you can with this animal, seeing its suffering. Seeing its physical recovery or it slipping off into increasing illness.

What I want to do with this work is to help you touch that place of compassion in the heart that is so deeply committed to freeing beings from suffering and understands that your own liberation is a vital element here. That the human life and animal life, that it's all temporary. How precious this experience of incarnation is, and the increasing intention, not from fear but from a loving place, not to waste the incarnation. I'm not talking about grasping, that's just as unwholesome, but to rekindle in yourself why you want to do the practice. Sometimes when life becomes too comfortable there just doesn't seem to be so much motivation. But who knows, next week, next year, next decade, you could suddenly be very ill and then it's going to be harder to practice.

So being in the presence of an animal that is suffering can be helpful in awakening this. Short of that, go and volunteer at the Humane Society just once a month, just for a few hours, and be present with these suffering animals. Go to a hospital and be a volunteer and read to people who are very ill. Connect yourself with that real element of suffering of sentient beings, to reawaken your ardor for liberation.

I believe you when you say there's no fear of going deeper into that space; that's a common cause for resistance and not going deeper, so I asked. It feels like you've integrated these experiences in a skillful way. So I don't know exactly what the resistance is about but I sense it's just, “Life is pleasant and if I go deeper, it might become inconvenient again.” Life is inconvenient! Not finding liberation is going to be inconvenient. It's okay, you'll have another chance. No big deal. But here you are, why waste the opportunity? It's important that there not be an “I should”  or any kind of guilt approach here, it's just, here is a good opportunity. You can use it if you wish.

Get back to your daily practice. Make a commitment to yourself. Make a commitment, between now and the next meeting of this group, that you're going to sit daily. One doesn't just sit when one feels spiritual. The sitting, when it's tough, when the body aches, when one is feeling a lot of uncomfortable emotions, the mind is churning, can be a lot more useful sitting than just sitting and moving into a blissful space. You're not sitting to escape, you're sitting to be present with things as they are, which is sometimes pleasant, sometimes unpleasant.

Q: Kind of similar to yours, but I find when I go on a long retreat, like a month long, I gain some insights and I'm very committed afterwards, but if I don't sit after the retreat, it gradually tapers off, my practice. So when I'm on retreat and when I'm practicing, I don't think so much about whether I'm going to be liberated, I just practice. Then when I come home, I start thinking too much. I realized I don't really believe that I can be liberated in this lifetime, or maybe at all. And one more thing, I have still quite an aversion to being a human being.

Aaron: We have two different areas of concern, the aversion to being human and the grasping at liberation... <lost to group laughter>.

Q: But it's hard because people say, “Use this precious life as a human being,” and I don't really like being a human being...

Aaron: We've got a complex question here. First, as I was just speaking to you (other Q), the need to remember the intention to liberation, despair of or fear of which may be an important force for somebody's pulling back, and grasping at which blocks progression. For somebody who is grasping and pulling ahead, that reflection on the importance of liberation becomes and obstacle. It just feeds the grasping.

First, addressing this whole question of not liking being human. Here we get out of the traditional realm of vipassana. You come from many different backgrounds. Let's put it in earth terms, this country and this world. Some of you, your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, may have been born in this country, others might have been born in Europe or Asia or Africa or South America. So maybe this is the first generation here. Maybe you were even born in the other country and then grew up here. Right now you're fully American, you're an American citizen, but home feels like someplace else.

Some humans evolve fully on the earth plane. That means that they've been gas and mineral and simple vegetable and complex plant and simple animal, more complex animal. Everything about this plane feels like home. For other beings, not better or worse, just different, they have evolved in other material and non-material planes. Especially for those who have evolved in non-material planes and come into the earth plane for the first time as human, there's the experience of heaviness. This heavy physical and emotional body, this heavy mental body, this heavy density, it feels confining. There's aversion to it.

But something drew you here, certainly both the opportunity to learn and the opportunity to serve. Beings who come here in this way are always old souls with a deep commitment to service to others and an awareness that there's something to be learned here. For those with that experience, you may be old souls but newer humans and there's a longing to go home. You don't know what home is, where it is, just, it's not here.

There's such an ease in being telepathic with other beings versus awkward human communication. You're a musician. There's such an ease in communicating through telepathy rather than trying to use ideas and words. These feel heavy and awkward. There's such an ease in simply being light and energy, which is what you all basically are, and moving the light body, rather than this heavy human body. On that plane if one wants a plant, one co-creates with thought and--there's a plant! You don't have to go through the arduous work of going to the nursery and choosing your plant and digging a hole and wondering if it will take root. Such a slow, awkward process, but that's the way the earth is.

So it's important for you to recognize that you did come into the human incarnation for a reason. The human incarnation is basically rather short. It's important not to close your heart to yourself and become caught in the aversion to being human, but simply to recognize, “This isn't home,” so  that it stops being a big factor. So there's aversion, okay! Let it alone. It's like having a sore tooth and you keep wiggling it with your tongue. The tongue won't stay away from it. Let it alone, let it be. Just note the aversion and let it be and stop fretting about it.

On long retreats your practice goes deep and then you report that when you come home, the practice is not as deep. There's more thinking and more grasping. Part of the purpose of human experience is to deeply understand the whole truth of conditioned arising. There is a body, this heavy physical mass, and it experiences sensation. That's the nature of the body. If you were to step on a thumbtack here on the floor and blood came out of the foot, and a bit of pain, would you say there shouldn't be blood? (Q: No.) Would you take the foot tenderly and pull out the tack and wash it off, with kindness?  (Q: Yes) So why is there the assumption that there shouldn't be thought?

The nature of the mind is to give rise to thought. You don't create stories about the thumbtack, it was just there. Maybe you do, “Who left that thumbtack? Will I get blood poisoning.” But probably not; probably it's just a thumbtack. There's so much conditioning not to have thoughts and especially not to have negative thoughts. This is so common in the old soul that I call it “old soul syndrome.” The maturing being wants so desperately to go home, to get out of this heavy realm and go someplace else, and it thinks that the only way it can get there is to purify itself, so it takes scouring pads and scrubs until it bleeds. There's no compassion there. The more you scrub, the more it bleeds, and the further you are from home, instead of trusting the innate clarity and radiance of the self.

Negative thought will arise. One needs to explore one's relationship to negative thought and know that it simply has arisen out of conditions. One tends to it the way one would tend to the water spill, mopping it up, taking care of it. But one doesn't have to be alarmed by it or create stories of, “I'm not good enough. I'll never be enlightened. I'm not good enough, I'll do harm in the world. I'm not good enough, I can't do what's needed.”

Whatever kinds of stories come, know them as stories. Begin to watch how you relate to the thoughts that come up in your sitting practice at home. First, there is the arising thought. It's a pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral thought. Then perhaps there's aversion to the thought or there's attachment to the thought and wanting to follow the thought. If there's aversion to the thought, watch that aversion and how you're getting caught right there in the idea that something true is here, that this is a bad thought, and that you shouldn't have this thought. Note the contraction that comes. Feel the aversion as tension in the body, wanting to get rid of this kind of thought, push it away, control it.

This is why your practice isn't going as deep at home. You are creating this vicious cycle for yourself. In the retreat I think you settle down and have more equanimity with thoughts and also that you're experiencing access concentration where there's no going out to or pulling back from thoughts so they're seen clearly just as thoughts. At home with the shorter and less frequent sittings, it's much harder to experience access concentration so the mind is more busy and then the stories come. Just get to know them as stories. Don't worry them. Don't worry about them, don't go out and worry them.

I like the question, when a thought arises, let's use the image of your next door neighbor mowing his lawn at an inopportune time. You are taking a nap. It's not 5am, it's 3 in the afternoon but you were taking a nap or meditating. There's the roar of the lawnmower. Hearing, hearing. There's nothing basically unpleasant about the sound of a lawnmower, it's just sound. If your lawn was very deep in grass and you neighbor came over and started mowing your lawn, you'd say, “Thank you! How nice!” Pleasant.

It's unpleasant because you don't want it at that moment, and then mind starts creating the stories, “I won't be able to nap (or to meditate). Why is he doing this now? It's not fair, etc.”  Then you make the judgment, “I shouldn't be bothered by it.” It's all tumbling through. The simple question is this: there's a lawnmower going back and forth. Is it coming in to bother you or are you going out to bother it? Do you see the difference?

When the thoughts come, they are just thoughts, just passing back and forth. Stop going out after them; just let them be. “Ah, here is a thought.” Be aware of the thought. Literally watch it arising and present. The nature of thought is, as soon as you see thinking, you're no longer thinking. You are noticing the arising of thought, a very different thing.

You said you use nada as a primary object sometimes or just the breath?

Q: The breath but I'm trying to start using nada...

Aaron: I think nada would be an excellent practice for you with your deep hearing and musical background. In any case, with the physical object, when you note it, it doesn't go away. But with a thought, as soon as you note thinking, judging, planning, whatever, it's no longer there. There may be an impulse energy wanting to go back to that thought but that's not the same as the thought. The thought is just the thought. And the, “I want that memory!” or “I want to hold onto that bit of judgment,” is a very different kind of energy. Be aware of the distinction. Let the thought go and be present with whatever, let's just call it tension, tension in the belly, in the throat, and watch the tension also dissolve. When it dissolves, just rest in the spaciousness that remains. If there's the sound of nada, be with it. If you need some object, come back to the breath. Does that sound workable? Do you understand what I've been saying to you?

Q: Yes. Can I ask one more question about nada? The way you use it, for example, you're talking now, I'm hearing you talk, but I'm also hearing the nada. Is that a good way to start out?

Signer: She has a question about how to use nada in her practice. She says that she hears nada right now.

Q: So I should be listening to nada while I'm listening to you? In other words, simultaneously?

Aaron: Yes! Just this: when anything  is right up in your face, pay attention to it. If you see a spill on the floor, wipe it up. If the doorbell rings, answer the door. The nada is right there. Instead of getting lost in the object --we don't want to absorb into the object, we're not trying to move into a jhana state. You're not trying to force concentration but to open awareness so that you're able to be present with the objects to better see how they arise out of conditions and pass away. This seeing is what leads you to the certainty that it's all impermanent and not arising from the self -- Instead of getting lost in the object,  you need somewhere to rest the attention, and because nada is always there — the breath is always there too but nada is a more unconditioned object -- just be aware of it. Ahh, as soon as you bring attention to it, you probably feel some sense of spaciousness and ease. And then if another object comes, just be with it.

It's not so forced an object as the breath. It's a much more relaxed object and it enhances the ability to spaciousness of effort, not such a tight effort. That's the main reason I think it would be good for you. Maybe not the main reason but one of the reasons I feel it would be good for you because the effort is a bit too tense right now.

(final 2 1/2 pages yet to be reviewed)