April 3, 2010 Saturday AM East Bay Open Circle Workshop, Berkeley CA

Keywords: unlimitedness,Casa,healing,incarnation,chain of dependent origination,heavy emotions,awakened mind,compassion,metta meditation

Barbara: (turns recorder on late) I've been introducing myself. I was suffering enormously from becoming suddenly deaf and I prayed for help. I did not expect a spirit entity in response to that request, but there he was. And very quickly it was apparent that he was my teacher, had been my teacher all my life, and with much gratitude I put myself in his loving and wise hands and he guided me through that suffering and to a place of much clarity and joy.

Soon after that people began to ask me if they could talk to Aaron and I said I don't know how, but you're welcome to try. He said, "Just repeat what you hear." So I did. Somebody said, "You're channeling." I said, "What's channeling?" It's not something I had ever encountered before.

It became clear to me that this is what I came into the incarnation to do, to be a telephone for Aaron and to teach the dharma. Before I met Aaron I had never formally met Buddhism but I had a daily meditation practice that very much resembled vipassana practice without any formal articulation of it. So what he was teaching me wasn't new to me but it helped me to refine the practice and be able to articulate it better. He reminded me of things I already knew but had forgotten I knew. Probably many of you have had that experience.

My life recently, when I say recently, the past 10 years, has been about looking a second time at my deafness and how I relate to it, and finding a new way to relate to it. The nerves are dead. Medically there's no way I can ever hear again. After meeting Aaron I spent a decade finding equanimity with that, really learning it's okay, I can be deaf without a lot of fear, without a lot of grasping. Not hearing is just not hearing.

As I worked with Aaron and with channeling Aaron for other people, I became increasingly aware of how strongly people hold on to an identity. For example, people who have been abused at first see themselves as the victim, and that's important because they need to know they didn't cause the abuse. But one has to move through that.

Then they see themselves as a survivor, and that's important. But each is a phase that must be moved through because if you go on being the survivor, there's a certain attitude with that; you're still holding on to the whole story of the abuse and the victim and being the survivor.

Well, in a sense I saw myself as the victim of certain medical malfunction; the ears did not get enough oxygen; the nerves did not get enough oxygen. They died; there was deafness, and there was dizziness. There was no balance and I had frequent vertigo. I saw myself as the survivor. What would it mean to move past that also? And if I was no longer the victim or survivor, was I still deaf? In what ways was I holding to an identity of being the person who was deaf?

We all hold certain identities. Some of us in our early childhood families had to be the good one, the caretaker. Others were the bad one, the one who couldn't get anything right who was always making mistakes. We grew up with those labels put on us by others and by ourselves; the smart one, the slow one, the capable one.

What did it mean to be the deaf one? How was I limiting myself? So I began to explore the whole question of limitation through this self-limiting idea, "I am the deaf one and I am the one with equanimity about deafness," that's just another story, another label.

At that point something new came into my life. I received an email from a person whose mailing list I had somehow snuck onto, a person I didn't know, telling about her life-saving experience in Brazil with the healer John of God. I read it with some interest. Normally I would have just trashed a piece of mail like that, not knowing the sender. But I started to read and she had a fascinating story. So I googled John of God and as soon as I saw his picture I had a strong response: this is where I'm supposed to go. For years people had said why don't you try this or why don't you try that. And it's not that I wasn't open, it's just that I knew, "I'm not ready and this doesn't sound right. This is not where I need to go." Now I knew!

It's a small town in central Brazil. It took me a year to find it on a map. Ten years ago, not so many people were going there. Now it's much easier and I take groups there every year.

I went down there for the first time in 2004. To prepare myself for this trip I had to look at the real equanimity with the deafness, the fact that I was no longer in any way afraid to be deaf, and that I also had to look at any attachment to being deaf.

What did the deafness protect me from? It's very easy if my husband gets angry and is yelling to just glaze my eyes over, not lip read, and then say to him afterward, "Could you please repeat that, I didn't get it." That's really getting the last word! Not hearing the things I did not want to hear. What did I not want to hear? So I had to do a lot of work with that to prepare myself for this trip so I could go without any sense of expectation, just openhearted, open to whatever is for the highest good. And this is a sincere intention for me, through my years as a dharma teacher, a very sincere intention to live with no harm and for the highest good.

The first year they said, "Possibly we can help, not sure, we'll see." So that was one possibility, we just left it at that. I stayed open. I had a wonderful 3 weeks down there. I learned a lot, made friends, and formed the intention to come back the next year.

Soon after that first trip I was in a very bad accident in the ocean, a near-death experience. A big wave caught me and threw me into the ocean bottom. My face hit. I was knocked unconscious. I had a lot of broken bones including the orbital bones around my eyes. A lot of pain, that light through the tunnel, near-death experience and a very clear choice of choosing life. It wasn't fear of death that made me choose but a very strong sense, "My work isn't finished." So I managed to get myself up to the surface and shout for help. People grabbed me and the next thing I knew I was unconscious on the beach and then I was in a hospital.

Now I was going for the second trip not only deaf but legally blind. The impact had broken the orbital bone in the right eye, and a blood vessel in the retina had ruptured. The right eye had absolutely no vision, just light and dark, I couldn't see any objects at all, and the bleeding had messed the vision in the left eye so I had 20/100 vision in that eye. I could not read, I could not drive a car. It was very scary.

Here we go again. I got through the episode of losing my hearing and found equanimity; can I have equanimity with being blind? It was terrifying, though, to be deaf and blind.

So I got myself down there. John of God channels much as I channel; many different healing entities fully incorporate in his body. There are about 30 different entities that he channels-- not all at once; one at a time. The entity that was incorporated that day, before I could say anything--of course they're just as telepathic as Aaron is and you don't need to tell them what's wrong, they know what's wrong. The first thing he said to me, he took my hand and said, "Don't be afraid. You will not be blind."

I left there 3 weeks later with 20/20 vision in the left eye and 20/100 in the right eye. Not perfect vision by any means but adequate to see details and things. There was still a black hole in the center of the eye(field of vision) but I could see things, I could see objects. But more important I knew I could trust them now, if they said, "You will not be blind" and 3 weeks later I could see again, that engendered trust. They also did a lot of work on back injuries and other places that were injured. I left therewithout pain for the first time in months. And they said to me about the hearing, "Probably. Come back next year. We'll see."

The third time I went down there he said to me, "You will hear." Joy came up and fear came up. What if it's not real? I will hear. I want desperately to hear. I have equanimity with deafness but I choose to hear. What if it's not real? Yet there was the memory of the eyes; he said I would not be blind and I'm not blind.

Just learning to trust, trust in possibilities. Not to hold myself to any particular position. So much of my dharma teaching is about not holding ourselves in a special position, not thinking of ourselves as the happy one or the sad one or the good one or the bad one, which are all stories. So I could see the story I was carrying.

That year 2 very important things happened. I had a place on my lower lip where a shell from the ocean bottom had cut into an artery and there was still a fragment of the shell there and so it spurted blood a couple of times a week. It was a year since that accident now but my doctor had declined to do surgery on it saying it would leave a big scar. He wanted to wait and see if it would heal itself. But because it bled so frequently and was not healing over such a long time, he finally had me scheduled for surgery to repair it.

I came through the line to talk to the entity, he took my hand, he said, "You will hear, be patient." How long? "Be patient." And he saw me holding a bloody cloth to my lip and he said, "But that I can take care of now." This had been bleeding several times a week for a year. He said, "Sit." Sit in his meditation room. They call it a current room.

So I sat. I realized after a minute or two that the spouting blood had slowed down and then it stopped. Just stopped. And by an hour later it had a scab on it. By 2 days later the scab fell off. There was no longer a sign of it. I came through the line again the next week to say goodbye and he said, "Remember, if I say it will heal, it will heal. You will hear."

That day, sitting in his current room, there was a storm going on outside. For 35 years I had not heard thunder, I had not heard anything, not even fireworks or any loud noise. Suddenly – my eyes are closed – Boom! Boom! What is it? Am I experiencing kind of new tinnitus in my ears? What is it? I opened my eyes and saw the lightning. I went dashing out and danced in the rain. A lot of people came with me. I was so joyful. I am hearing, even if it's only thunder.

So there's been this gradual regaining of hearing. People have asked me, what would I like to hear, for the first thing I really heard? And I said, "My children's voices." – I have 3 adult children – or the song Amazing Grace, that I love."

I was sitting again in the meditation room and it was at the close of the session, and my eyes were closed. And suddenly I heard music. And it was such clear music, I had never heard the song Amazing Grace with my ears. There was such a strong feeling of music and I didn't know what the music was, what the melody was, but it was clear melody. I opened my eyes and looked around and everybody was singing. And just behind me a man was standing up and singing Amazing Grace, leading the group singing. And it turns out he was a well-known baritone opera singer with a beautiful voice. I just looked at him with awe, and the music was flooding my system. I can't say it was my ears that were hearing, I can't say it wasn't. My whole body was hearing music.

He rejoiced with me and came back to my pousada, my hotel, and we sang it together. So I was singing the words along with him. He said, "You're singing it right on tune with me. You're hearing it."

In the years since, I've been hearing music pretty regularly. I hear a lot of musical tones. I don't yet hear words. I'm told that the last thing that will come will be words because the brain has to understand and interpret the sound; it's not just pure tone but a sound that has meaning. What does that sound mean. But they keep saying, "You will hear. Be patient."

This created a massive shift for me, this series of events. It was not only my experience but seeing others' experiences-- a blind man with whom I became friendly, a man that was no longer blind but who had gone down there totally blind in both eyes with a retinal disease and been told that there was no possible cure (beforehand), had been blind for 3 years, and now has perfect vision. Many people that I've seen healed from Stage IV cancer, AIDS, people in wheelchairs with MS, muscular dystrophy, who are walking, people who were paraplegic with nerve damage, spinal cord damage from an accident who are walking.

In each case it's taken a letting go of an old identity and realizing that we don't have to live within those limits. Now of course that leads one to the idea, "If I can't do it, I'm a failure." But this is not about doing or not doing, it's about opening to a highest possibility.

If, for example, I was in an accident and lost my legs, I wouldn't say, "Well, I'm determined to walk again, I'm going to grow new legs." Probably that's beyond the ability to heal. But when we limit ourselves just because of a concept, we hold ourselves back. How to find that balance, that place that's open to possibilities, without grasping.

It really is the healing for which we took birth. We come into these bodies with an intention to learn and heal. We don't come in to see how many rounds of golf we can get in, we come in for a reason. We are spirits here to learn.

And how this leads us directly to what we need for that learning. We start to trust our lives rather than blaming our lives, and open our hearts to our situations. There's so much that we can learn, and so deeply that we can heal. The hearing is just the outer edge of it. What needed to be healed was not the hearing but the whole idea I am limited in any way, or not worthy of hearing. That was a big story that came up. He's healing everybody else, why isn't he healing me? Why is he telling me "Be patient" when this person is walking and that person is seeing? Let go of the unworthiness idea. It's just another story.

So through these years was guided by the work at the Casa – the name that's given to John of God's place – and of course I've had Aaron guiding me and walking this path with me. What we've been teaching has taken this new turn. It's not a completely new direction, it's just an extension of dharma, asking people to look deeply at the ways their hearts are closed to themselves and to consider, what's really possible for me? Where do I hold myself in a limited place that holds me back?

We all have these places that come up frequently. It's just our human spirits. I'm laughing, yesterday . . . . I have a new book coming out next March and I had a second book that I had passed to the publisher asking him if he might be interested in it and he thought he was.

So I went to meet my publisher yesterday morning and with his "acquisitions group". I'm very comfortable in dharma circles but acquisition groups are a bit beyond my usual experience so I saw the tension coming up in me. We came into the building, I met him for the first time because we'd only talked by phone and email, and he said the acquisitions group was coming down. Tension. The thought, "I can't do this." The people came into the room, tension. And Aaron said, "Who can't do it? Fear can't do it. Can love do it? Why this concept of yourself as 'This is not something I can do'?" And of course all that's required is to sit at the table with 4 people and talk about the book. No big deal. Explain what I envisioned, hear any questions they had, negotiate; yeah, we've got a book!

The first book is about the story I've been telling you. It's not my story, I see it more as every man's story, how we move through the old places of fear and open into this vastness of love, knowing the ultimate essence of ourselves, and having an identity with that essence and not just the small ego self that feels itself to be vulnerable and fragile and afraid.

That's plenty of background. I'm going to turn this over to Aaron. He's going to talk, I would imagine, about half an hour, 40 min, just whatever it is he's going to say. We have time for questions today. We'll have some guided meditations. We have some experiential exercises. We'll be talking about these 2 ideas and the place they come together, living beyond limits. And when we live beyond limits we move ourselves into that non-dual space. When I'm in the place beyond my limits and you're in the place beyond your limits, we're in the same place. What does it mean to live from that place of non-duality?

I'd like to know how many of you practice meditation? How many of those practice or have any experience with vipassana meditation? A few, okay. We're going to give some basic instruction with vipassana, which is what I teach, as part of the day. Not because I'm trying to turn you into vipassana meditators and certainly not into Buddhists, but simply because it's a useful tool, it's a tool of awareness, of presence. And we cannot do this work conceptually. You can read forever, that won't get you there. You've got to practice with it.

So we'll go through some gentle easy steps of guided meditation. I want one more show of hands. How many of you have a fair amount, a good amount of experience with vipassana meditation? Put your hands way up so I can count how many... Okay, at some point today I'd love to meet with that group. We'll see how it works out. Maybe we'll give people an extra half hour for lunch and those of that group who want to can spend 45 min or so with me through the lunch break just to talk with Aaron about vipassana practice. Others are welcome to listen in on that but I'd like to direct that time to the experienced vipassana practitioners.

I'm going to stop my talk now, take a minute to center, and let Aaron come in. For those who were not here Thursday night, I leave the body totally. Aaron comes into the body. I'm no longer here. I have no idea what he's saying or doing, he's got the body. When he's done he kind of nudges me. I feel his presence coming back to me, a warm kind tap on the shoulder. He moves out of the body and I move back into the body. Very nice!

It took me some time to learn how to channel in this way, I had to really learn to trust him. Before that I did conscious channeling where I stayed in the body and I just heard him and said what I heard him say. But when he's talking directly it's easier for me than conscious channeling. I don't have to interpret what he's saying, and he is fully here and you feel his energy more.

When Aaron comes into the body, the body will shake because he has such a big energy. He says it's like putting on a tight bathing suit or girdle and shaking his way in.

(pause, Aaron comes in)

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron... So Barbara has introduced herself. Who am I? Which lifetime shall I tell you about? I have been incarnate in many lifetimes...You have all been in many bodies in many cultures, religions, male and female, but you don't remember them. That's part of the incarnate experience. You come into an experience of forgetting who you are and where you have been.

If you remembered everything then the process of the incarnation would be one of stoicism: grit your teeth and push through. That's not why you're incarnate. You're incarnate to learn love, not to say "I should do this," not to punish yourself, but to speak and act with love. So you agreed to forget, although some of you begin to remember as you move through the incarnation.

You all have guides, just as I am Barbara's guide. And some of you I'm sure have contact with your guides either consciously or subconsciously through your dreams and meditation. The guide may be a being like yourself, between lifetimes, but he/ she has an advantage. It's as if you were going to walk along the bottom of a lake floor with some weights to hold you down, and there were floats on the surface marking a course that you were to walk, but the water is over your head. You have a long snorkel tube but you can't see. That's what happens when you come into the incarnation. Suddenly you're underwater and you can't see clearly.

The guide is sitting on your shoulders and can point ahead and say, "That way, now this way." When you can't connect with that guide, you find yourself crashing into the marker poles and getting off course, and that's part of the incarnation too, it's okay. But it doesn't have to be so difficult. I would encourage those of you who do not meditate to begin to meditate and to connect with either your guides or your own highest wisdom.

I have been incarnate in many different bodies, male and female. I do a lot of couple counseling and people really enjoy that I fully understand the perspective of the man and the woman.

I have been in many different spiritual traditions. My final awakening was in the 1500s as a Buddhist monk in Thailand. The vipassana practice that I did in that lifetime led me to liberation so I know it's a viable path. I'm not a Buddhist, I'm not an anything, but I do teach that practice and find it a very beautiful and viable path to freedom. The heart of it is presence. One of my books, back there on the table, is entitled, Presence, Kindness, and Freedom. To be present in this moment and then in the next moment, to stay present in your experience. How many of you are fully present in your body right now?

Do we have a bell here? No bell. I was going to sound the bell but we have no bell so we'll rap on a kitchen pot. We'll work with what we have. (They search for something to ring/rap.)

Listen and come into full presence with the sound. (ring, ring) (Someone offers a new object) You're going to trust me with your fine crystal. . . ! (ring, ring)

Breathing in and breathing out, and hearing. Breathe in. Feel the breath coming into the body. Breathe out. Breathe in again, breathe out. Note my words, breathing in and out, can be a concept. Really feel the breath, feel it at the nostrils touching, a soft cool touch as it comes into the body. And breathing out... Breathing in and breathing out.

Now as I invite the bell, know that hearing is happening. Be very present with the breath and the feel the attention shift from the experience of the breath to hearing. As the sound fades, come back to the breath. (ring) (ring)

So we're concerned with presence, the presence that allows us to know what's happening in the mind and the body in this moment, and we're concerned with the texture of that presence. Is it harsh and judgmental? Is it controlling? Or is it filled with kindness? Is it openhearted?

When you develop presence and the ability to stay present with kindness, this is the path to freedom. Much of what I teach then is about this path. It's not a Buddhist path, it's a human path. Yes, the Buddha defined it beautifully and modeled it but there are no beliefs required, just the willingness to stay present.

Then we must ask ourselves, what stops me from being present? If that's all that's required for freedom, why am I not present? Fear. Old concepts. Belief in old labels and limits. This whole self-identity of who you think you are. And once that identity is set, that's really who you believe you are.

I'm not arguing that you are not these things, in part. Among you are male and female, dark and light colored hair, tall and short, heavy and slender, older and younger; you're individuals. But that's only the skin that you're wearing. It's like calling you the red shirt and the green vest and the brown jacket. That's not who you are, nor is your body, nor are the thoughts.

Most of you have less trouble with self-identification with the body. It happens but you're less attached to it. You do see that the body changes constantly. You have more belief that you are your thoughts and especially that you are your consciousness.

What is consciousness? You have a physical body; you understand that. Sensations come. You have an emotional body; you understand that. And fear, delight, envy, gratitude, the different kinds of emotions that come. You have a mental body, the mind gives rise to thoughts. That's the nature of the mind. You have a spirit body. But none of these is your true identity. It is only mistaken as such. Why? What is really happening through these bodies and minds?

When any physical or mental sense organ makes contact with an object, consciousness arises: the hands touching, the eye seeing, the mind touching a thought. When contact is made between the sense organ and the object, consciousness arises. There's a very clear progression that becomes visible and known to you.

Let's say for example that you're walking down the street and in the distance you see a person who you don't recognize, too small, too far away as yet. There's a neutral feeling, there's just an individual walking towards you.

Then as the person becomes close enough that you think you see the face clearly, it looks like somebody with whom you're very angry. There's an unpleasant feeling about it, "No, I don't want to see that person," and anger arises. The thought is one of aversion, "I don't want this." It's happened so quickly you don't see the steps of it; you're just walking down the street and suddenly, "Oh no, it's him. I don't want this. How can I get out of here?" But all that's happening is somebody is walking down the street toward you, who the perceptive faculty thinks it recognizes.

Then as that person gets closer, you're trapped; there's no side path, there's no place to go, you can't turn around and run so you just keep walking, gritting your teeth. As they draw closer you see, "Ah, it's not him. In fact, it's somebody else, somebody I'm delighted to see." And instead of the unpleasant feeling there's now a pleasant feeling. A different kind of consciousness arises, a warm, receptive, loving consciousness.

The person draws closer. There's delight. And then he looks at you and he says, "You know, I'm really angry at what you said the last time we were together." "What did I do?" Hearing. The ear is hearing words. The words are unpleasant. We don't want to be blamed. We don't want somebody angry at us. Tension comes up, defensiveness, anger. The texture of the consciousness is one of anger now so it's shifted from a joyful consciousness to an angry consciousness in a moment and the emotion of anger is there. The mind is spinning around thinking, "How do I get out of this?"

Meditation practice gives you the tool to watch everything arising into your experience, physical objects, mental objects, emotional ones; and to observe how you habitually relate to these objects. When you see how you habitually relate to them then you see you have a choice.

There's a wonderful poster that Barbara used to have of a swami in a loincloth, turban on his head, riding a surfboard, riding a wave. The caption under it says, "You can't stop the waves from coming but you can learn to surf." This is what your life is about, learning to surf, learning to ride the waves of experience without getting caught up in the old habitual stories of the mind that hold you into a small place of limiting belief.

I want to go over the order of experience again and then we're going to try an exercise. Let's use touch as an example. Feeling touch, the body has the ability to know touching as a sensation, touching. Any object, first there's contact and then there's consciousness.

So touching, the hand touches and mind is aware of that touching, the body is aware. Sense consciousness arises, touching. It will either be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. In the case of this touch it's probably neutral, it's just a touch. Similarly if I hold up the glass, eye organ touching the glass, seeing consciousness, it's neutral. Nothing special, just a glass.

If I were to hold up a pile of dog shit you might say, "Oh, unpleasant." Perhaps visually it's not unpleasant but the mind associates, and says, "I don't want that." If I held up a flower (pointing to the flower) seeing, pleasant.

When something is unpleasant there's normally a contraction around it. When something is pleasant there's a different kind of contraction-- you reach out; you want to hold it. Pushing away; holding. One is attached to it or averse to it.

I'm going to make an unpleasant noise here, perhaps. (pounding noise) Not unpleasant enough. Could you feel yourself tensing a little with it? Not an entirely unpleasant noise.

I'm going to do something that we did Thursday night, I'm going to shout. I'm warning you that I'm going to shout but you're still going to be surprised because you don't know when I'm going to shout. What's going to happen is that the ear organ touches the sound and hearing consciousness arises. There's nothing unpleasant in the shout. If it was your best friend calling from down the street, "Hey!", you'd be delighted. "Ah, there's so-and-so." But the startle reflex comes in. It's experienced as unpleasant because it startled you. The body will contract.

This is just the way the body is built. How are you going to relate to that contraction, to the shout and the body contracting. Watch to see if there's a judgment, "I shouldn't contract." Or "I shouldn't feel negative." Just watch to see what comes up. There's no special response that's right. The question is, whatever the response is, to see this is conditioned and can I be patient with it and kind with it? Can I be kind with this mind and body that has that knee-jerk response to a shout?

So we're going to try this and I just want you to sit with your response for a minute and we'll see--(shouts)


When you bring awareness to this body tension, kind awareness, and just hold space for it, can you see that it opens up? On the other hand if you judge yourself and say, "No, I won't have that reaction," it's just more tension. How do we relate to our experience?

Now I'm going to ask you to divide in pairs and ask you to do a very specific exercise with me. I want you to label yourselves as the pair, one is A, one is B. I want all that Bs to close their eyes. I want the A... (demonstrates with signer) What I want you to do is push me. How does it feel to be pushed? What is the direct experience of pushing? Push me again.

Watch to see, push again, if there's tension and resistance pushing back in the body or if the body relaxes. Just noting, "pushed." Keep pushing. At what point does it become unpleasant, or do you stay open to it. Just relaxed. Being pushed is just being pushed. What kinds of stories come? "People are always pushing me around," or "My kid brother did that to me when I was little and it was fun." Or whatever idea comes to the mind. It's just pushing, just touching. So I want you to be aware of it in that way.

If tension comes, watch the tension. The tension is also just an object. If there's no kindness with the push itself, can there be kindness with the tension that comes as a result of the push?

So find a partner...Okay, now one of you close your eyes, the other one push. The pusher needs also to be aware, how does it feel to push somebody? What does that bring up in you? Is it an uncomfortable feeling? Can there be kindness with the feeling?

Go ahead and try it and after you've worked with it for a minute or two, switch and the first one close their eyes, the second one push. If there is tension, breathe into the tension. If the pushes are coming very fast, take a deep breath and try to stay present, one push at a time.


What did you experience? Please share. There's no right answer here.

(Participant speech is loud enough but distorted, unable to make out enough of it to make it readable or accurately paraphrase. A number of people share in the next 10 minutes, some comparing being the pusher with being pushed and about the earlier shout. There seems to be a general preference for being pushed over being the pusher.)

Aaron: For a number of you, noticing the tension, when you brought awareness to the tension with a sense of kindness rather than, "I shouldn't," did it shift, the tension? What happened to the tension if you noticed it with kindness? Or if you did not notice it with kindness, what happened to it? You don't have to answer that directly now; I'm just tossing that out as an additional question to observe.

(2 people share about pushing and shout)

Aaron: This is one step further, that we talk about. I'll bring it up now so that you can reflect on it. What Q is saying is a statement I frequently make: that which is aware of tension is not tense.

We begin to see that the body has tension, the relative reality experience is one of tension. But in the ultimate reality experience, that awareness is not tense. You cannot deny the physical body reality of tension and go off into this place that's not tense, abandoning the body, and you cannot just stay stuck in the body without any willingness to include that which is not tense.

How do you hold the balance? I did not ask you to reflect on this exercise in those terms, but if any of you have thoughts about that to add to the exercise, I'd like to hear them.


Aaron: That which is aware of anger is not angry. The body experiences sensation. This is the nature of the body. If you were walking across the floor here without your shoes and you stepped on a tack, there would be pain. There would be a drop of blood. Would you say, "I should not feel pain"? "I should not bleed?" You all know this is the nature of the body. You would hold the foot lovingly. You would extract the tack, wash the wound, hold it lovingly. Most of you would do it that way.

When there's an, let's call it an emotional tack, something that serves as a condition for anger to arise, then there's the statement, "I should not be angry." Where does it come from? What if instead of saying "I should not be angry" you note, "That which is aware of anger is not angry. I acknowledge that anger has arisen as the result of conditions. When the conditions recede, the anger will recede. It is not me or mine but I am responsible to it right now that it doesn't harm anybody. I take care of the anger. It's just anger."

The second possibility is simply to know, "Here is anger. Breathing in I am aware of the anger. Breathing out I smile to the anger." Bringing metta, lovingkindness to yourself, this being who is still caught up in the karmic field and conditions, and that certain conditions give rise to unpleasant experience. If the thought comes "I don't want this anger," it's just a thought. "Breathing in I am aware of aversion to the anger." See if you can differentiate the anger as emotion and the aversion to the anger.

Let's try something here together. I'd like you all to hold out your hand straight in front of you, just holding it out. Try to straighten the elbow. At first the arm feels just a little heavy, not really unpleasant. We're going to hold it out there until it becomes heavier and heavier and there's some ache in the shoulder. I want you to feel the body sensation, just heavy, heavy. A little bit of muscular tension but not really unpleasant.

Watch the shift as the unpleasant feeling begins to turn into a little pain in the arm and there's tension that comes, aversion.

So first there's just consciousness of heavy, unpleasant, and space for it, or maybe neutral at first. Seeing tension come. Watching that shift from unpleasant to aversion. Can aversion just be aversion? "I don't want this." Breathing in kindness to "I don't want." Smiling to "I don't want."

When there's tension around "I don't want" and self-identity with it, "I shouldn't feel this," or any other kind of contracted thought, the experience with the arm becomes more difficult. But when you relax and just smile into it, watch how it changes, how it opens up.

If there's some pain in the shoulder, can there be deep kindness around that pain? If your belly is tense, soften the belly, soften the jaw. Just tension in the shoulder. Maybe some throbbing or heat in the shoulder.

Stay with it and see if it shifts a bit. Softening, opening. You may find it useful to put your other hand up on your heart, bringing kindness to this human that's experiencing some physical discomfort. How does that feel? Can you receive that kindness deeply into yourself?

You may put your hand down. So continue your sharing and include anything you might like to share about this as well as the pushing or the shout.


Q: I just wanted to comment about the shout. Many years ago I received the first 20 <> instructions by Chogyam Trungpa and it was exactly the same kind of shout. He was pointing out in my mind by shocking us with sound, and so, it's a fond memory.

Aaron: Do you understand his meaning when he says that Rinpoche was pointing out the enlightened mind by the shout; in that moment of sharp awareness the mind stops. It's not that you go someplace to come to the awakened mind, the awakened mind is always there.

I see it like a deep pool of water. The everyday mind is muddied. You can't see the bottom. When the water stills, in that moment you can see all the way through to the bottom. The awakened mind that's always been there becomes accessible. And then you probably lose it again but at least you have the memory and the reassurance, "It is there. I can learn to access it and rest in it more stably."

This is part of what I want to impart to you today. You are not on a path from here to there, from asleep to awake, from slavery to liberation. Liberation has always been here. You are already awake but you have not yet fully realized it. If it was a linear path it would be one of doing and one of duality: asleep, awake. But they come together.

You are allowing the water to still enough that you can see through, see through to that which is inherently awake and know it. But you cannot disregard the part that is not awake.

This morning we're focusing more on that which is not awake, how to work with that with kindness. The everyday mind. Then we'll look at how that merges with the, shall we call it unconditioned mind, the essence of being.


Q: This is reminding me of something of <his> teacher <Maharishi> plucked out ages ago. He said that, to the very unenlightened mind an experience was like a line being drawn on stone, carved into stone, and it stays stuck in the mind. But as the practitioner becomes more awake then it's more like a line on sand <inaudible, and then the>, experience is like a line on water. And then finally the experience is like a line in the air, just drawing a line through the air.... (sharing about the arm experience and bringing lovingkindness and playfulness to it, like an aikido move, etc)


Aaron: Thank you all for sharing. I don't want to cut anyone off, is there anyone that wants to share that did not?

When you feel yourself pushed or pushing another, when you feel the body tense with the shout or tense with discomfort, there's a sense of a relative human body and mind, which of course is present; you do exist.

Sometimes in spiritual practice one is taught to try to transcend mind and body and move to another space but you can't always do that in an authentic and stable way because eventually something will be too big. Maybe you can carry it most of the way through your life and then you're lying in bed dying of cancer and in great pain, and you simply cannot deny the existence of the body anymore. Maybe there's some overwhelming emotional experience and you just cannot separate yourself from those thoughts anymore.

It's not wholesome to do so. It might give the facsimile of equanimity but it's not true equanimity, and karma is not resolved in this way. Such practice is taking a time-out from the physical or emotional experience, and a time-out can be helpful sometimes. Sometimes you need a break, I'm not against bliss. Have any of you practiced with the jhanas? A few. Very blissful experience. But when you come back, whatever was troubling you is still there. You've only had a nice vacation.

How many of you have done any kind of pure awareness practice? A few. What do I mean by pure awareness practice? Let me define this. There is the everyday mind, the mind that perceives objects, sees, hears, touches, smells, the mind that thinks. This mind is in conditioned reality. The conditioned sense consciousness touches a conditioned object. Eye touches a glass. Contact and seeing consciousness. Mind touches a memory. Contact and mind, "remembering" consciousness. Planning, smelling, hearing, tasting. These are concrete physical and mental objects. We call this everyday mind.

I said that which is aware of anger is not angry, that which is aware of tension is not tense. Here we're talking about something that goes beyond the everyday mind. It's not something you have to attain, it's an innate part of you, but it's something you have to realize is present, learn to rest in and open to. It becomes stable eventually so that you know that that awakened part of you is always there right there with the everyday part. You don't abandon one for the other but hold them together.

I did an illustration Thursday night standing on one part of the stage and saying, "Let's call this conditioned reality," and then jumping to the other side of the stage, "Let's call that ultimate reality." But you need to be the bridge that ties them together.

Picture a bridge over a deep chasm. On one side we have the conditioned realm and on the other side we have the unconditioned realm. The bridge is not just resting on the surface but has deep pillars going hundreds of feet down. Is the bridge that's thusly embedded in the earth not part of that earth? It's not lying on the surface, it's into it, so we can say it's deeply grounded. It's grounded on this side, it's grounded on that side. When you stand in the middle you are also grounded in both sides.

Most humans stay on the conditioned reality side, relative reality. Then some of you begin to practice meditation and you learn how to reach up, across, spend some time on the ultimate reality side. "Oh, it's nice, I like it here." But the retreat ends and you've got to go back to conditioned reality. Jumping back.

The whole process of human growth is geared toward learning to rest stably in the middle, taking care of the relative or conditioned experiences. That means attending to them. When your foot is bleeding, bandage it. When your child is crying, comfort him, without losing the ultimate reality.

One of the directions of today's workshop is living beyond limits. If you live in ultimate reality it may seem that you are living beyond limits but you've done so by abandoning the human experience. When you live fully within the human experience and turn your back completely on any ultimate experience, you cannot transcend limits; you're constantly caught up in them. You may be exploring them, investigating even in a very wholesome way, but there's still a belief in those limits. Only the ultimate reality, that pure awareness mind, knows the non-limit that's right there with the limits.

So our work is to cultivate the lovingkindness and attention to the present moment in relative reality, with conditioned consciousness and objects, on the one hand, and simultaneously to nurture the awakened mind, to come to know it, to realize it, to stabilize it, to live with it until you constantly are carrying that pure awareness, that awakened-ness into the everyday experience and they mingle with each other. Only then can you fully say, "That which is aware of anger is not angry," without abandoning anger. "That which is aware of fear is not afraid," without abandoning fear.

Let us call it a horizontal line of relative reality, seemingly linear. Afraid, not afraid, moving back and forth, different experiences coming and mindfulness with the experiences. And then the wisdom and compassion mind that cuts through in this moment, awake.

I have some exercises to do with you this afternoon that I hope will help you to experientially understand this and I'll talk more also.

(checking on lunch schedule)

I am not hungry! I don't eat. How long do you humans need for lunch? Do people have food with them or must they drive someplace for food?...

So what I'd like to do is lead you on a guided compassion meditation for 15 minutes, then have you get lunch and we'll come back here at 2:30. I would like to be starting at 2:30, not simply gathering to start 15 minutes later. So please be back here ready to start at 2:30. Barbara will decide if we'll do some talking with the experienced vipassana people toward the end of the lunch break.

All of this work is grounded in compassion. We cannot approach spiritual work from a place of "I should," only from a deeply open heart that's aware of the deep suffering of the human and attends to that suffering, one's own and suffering wherever it is in the world, with a kind and open heart. You cannot push it away and say it's their suffering.

Guided Meditation

Bring into your heart and mind someone who is dear to you. Someone who has supported you, been a friend or teacher, a guide of some sort, nurtured you. Look deeply at this person and see that this person has suffered. Often with such a person, they're taking care of you and you don't see deeply into their life, their needs. Now I want you to look deeply.

You have suffered. You have known loneliness, fear, and confusion. You have not been able to hold on to what you love or keep yourself safe from that, which is painful. You have known pain in the body, pain in the mind. I see the ways that you have suffered.

May you be free from suffering.

May your heart open and flower.

May you find the healing that you seek.

May you love and be loved.

May you be happy and find peace.

Please continue to offer these wishes from your heart, not specifically my wishes but those that the heart prompts to this loved one. I'll be quiet for a minute...

Letting this person go now, bring into the place in the center of your heart a neutral person, someone perhaps that you don't know well. Be aware this person has also suffered. Speak to him or her.

You have suffered. You have known loneliness, fear, and confusion. You have known pain in the body and in the mind. You have not been able to hold on to what you love or to keep yourself safe from that that seems to threaten. You have suffered.
May you be free from suffering.

May your heart open and flower.

May you find the healing that you seek.

May you love and be loved.

May you be happy and find peace.

Continue silently with this person now with wishes from your heart...

Letting this one go now, bring into your heart and mind a difficult person, someone whose presence challenges you. Someone who has hurt you in some way through his words, his actions. It doesn't need to be the most difficult person in your life. Note any resistance to letting this person in and soften around it. Hand over the heart if there's resistance, breathing in that pain and that aversion. We're not asking for forgiveness here, that's another step. This is just to find compassion for this person, awareness that he or she has suffered and to wish him or her well. What blocks compassion? What invites it and strengthens it? Inviting this challenging person into your heart. That's a big step, just that.

You have suffered. You have known loneliness, fear, and confusion. You have known pain in your body and in your mind. You have not been able to hold on to what you love or to keep yourself safe from that that seems to threaten. I see your suffering and I wish you well.

May you be free from suffering.

May your heart open and flower.

May you find the healing that you seek.

May you love and be loved.

May you be happy and find peace.

Please continue to work with this person for a minute or so. If it becomes too hard, simply let them go. No force, just gentle invitation...

Letting this difficult person go now, we bring attention to ourselves. Often when this kind of practice is done I start with the self, but I find that the self is often your most difficult person, so it's helpful to work up to it.

I have suffered. I have known loneliness, fear, and confusion. I have known pain in my body and in my mind. I have not been able to hold on to what I love or to keep myself safe from that that seems to threaten. I have suffered. What do I wish for myself? Sometimes it's so hard to wish ourselves well.

May I be free from suffering.

May my heart open and flower.

May I find the healing that I seek.

May I love and be loved.

May I be happy and find peace.

Please sit with this for a minute. Let the wishes spring from your own heart, what you most want to offer yourself. I'll be quiet.

Letting the self go now, let us expand our attention to the whole world, the natural world, sentient beings everywhere and the earth itself. So much suffering. Holding it all with the heart of compassion, know the unlimitedness of your compassion. It is a bottomless well into which you tap. Sometimes when the heart is that open and tender there's fear because it makes you feel vulnerable. There is nothing to hurt you, there is nothing separate from you. When you embrace the whole world as self, infinite compassion becomes possible.

May all beings everywhere be free from suffering.

May all beings learn to live in infinite radiant heart.

May all beings everywhere be happy and find peace.




April 3, 2010 Saturday PM Open Circle Workshop, Berkeley

Keywords: vipassana, pure awareness, grace, lokuttara citta, Unconditioned

Aaron: This is Saturday afternoon and we're gathered in a circle here for some discussion. We began after a short lunch break with the vipassana practitioners, and others have joined the circle as they returned from lunch. I have just started the recorder, ½ hour into our discussion. Right now a personal question I'm answering about practice, from a student I know well...

My sense, J, as I look at your practice: one moves into a space with vipassana where one is aware of arising, how everything is arising out of conditions; there's a sense of wonder to it. Then one begins to see how everything that arises, dissolves, and there's fear and dismay, "I can't hold on to anything." Eventually as the self dissolves from that picture there's increasing equanimity with arising and dissolution. You have experienced that equanimity, you understand what I'm saying.

Then there are – this is from the traditional, they're called knowledges, from the book Visuddhi Magga – the progression of insights. Visuddhi Magga not the scriptures themselves but a commentary on the scriptures. The next knowledge after equanimity with arising and dissolution is what's called change of lineage knowledge, which is a fancy way of saying, "The Unconditioned isn't here, I'm just experiencing the play of conditions. Where is the Unconditioned?" Asking that, one is ready to look elsewhere but in the conditioned realm for what one seeks.

At that point, the lokuttara citta become accessible. These are the citta capable of perceiving the unconditioned. They've always been accessible. It's like sitting with your back to the window and saying, "What happened to the light? Where did it go? I'm sure it was here somewhere. Ah, there it is. It's always been there."

As the lokuttara citta become more accessible you become increasingly aware of the ground and the expressions of the ground into the conditioned realm, and that everything that's expressing in the conditioned realm is non-dual, all inter-related, expressing out of that same ground. Then the sense of separation falls away. The sense of a separate self falls away. You've had those kinds of experiences too.

The next step is a harder one...

Q: It's not integrated yet.

Aaron: Not yet, but coming. What I see is you come to this place frequently where there's equanimity with arising and dissolution. The lokuttara citta are open. You're resting in awareness and you mistake the experience of awareness itself as the Unconditioned. This is because of you extensive training with resting in awareness, and it's not a problem, is helpful actually, just not far enough. To go further is to go completely into the disintegration of body and self without losing mindfulness.

The value of merging vipassana practice and pure awareness practice is that mindfulness becomes strong and steady. Then when awareness touches the Unconditioned, instead of just finding a resting space, mindfulness accompanies awareness into that space and is able to look around in that space and allow that space to be fully revealed. Let's call that space now the Unconditioned, the heart of the Unconditioned itself, not just the expressions of the Unconditioned, not just spaciousness or peacefulness or light, but the heart of the Unconditioned reveals itself and dharma reveals itself.

Dharma will reveal itself in whatever language is familiar to you. It may not reveal itself in Buddhist terms. If you're a Christian it will reveal itself in Christian terms. But the truths of the way things are reveals itself in that space.

So yes, I think that the deepening of your vipassana practice is the most important for you right now because I'd like to see you come to that space in a deeper way and go through it, not stop just into the doorway.

When you come to that space it's like being at the top of a cliff and suddenly somebody says, "Jump!" What's out there? Will I annihilate myself? Because until that time, conditioned consciousness has accompanied you to some extent but suddenly the whole body and ego are dissolving and there's nobody left. Then there's just awareness. It's not my awareness anymore. But mindful awareness is able to watch everything including the conditioned human with kindness.

(the following series of questions are from L-M)

Q: Did you say that there's a difference between pure awareness and the Unconditioned ?

Aaron: Yes, there's a difference. Pure awareness is the citta or consciousness that's able to take the Unconditioned as an object. Just like there's a difference between hearing consciousness and sound. With a sense organ, sound and contact, hearing consciousness arises. The sense organ touches a sound; it touches an object. Awareness is simply a form of consciousness.

Read some Abhidhamma. This goes into it in great detail. A very specific part of it talks about consciousness; mundane and supramundane consciousness. Pure awareness is simply supramundane consciousness and it needs an object. The object is the Unconditioned. But once there is contact, there must also be mindfulness.

So one difficulty with some kinds of practice is it leads you to a stable resting in pure awareness without pointing you directly at the Unconditioned and without mindfulness. The pure awareness in itself, the experience of resting in pure awareness, becomes a plateau and people mistake the plateau for the Unconditioned.

Q: In the experience of resting in what I call pure awareness, it doesn't seem like there's anything beyond that.

Aaron: That's where the vipassana practice becomes useful. Then the vipassana practice is a tool to take you deeper. Barbara was talking about this in the Venture Fourth group.

Resting in pure awareness, one rests in this vast spaciousness, ease, peace, joy. The ease and peace and joy are not the awareness, they are the result of resting in that spaciousness. But you're sitting outside the Unconditioned looking in, in a sense.

The most pronounced difference, perhaps, is that in that space, resting in awareness, there is still the possibility of objects arising and dissolving. Awareness holds those objects. There's no reaction to the objects; they're seen as arising and disappearing. There's ease; there's happiness; there's space.

That becomes a plateau. When you take this back, then, to the vipassana practice – and this is specifically what Barbara spoke about at Venture Fourth, in relation to the experience she had on a self-retreat probably 2 decades ago, sitting outside doing pure awareness practice all day and coming into the meditation hall, and how strong luminosity was when she came in and shifted to vipassana practice. – she said that that luminosity became the primary object, just sitting, eyes closed, aware of that radiance. It took her directly through what we just spoke of to J, objects arising, objects passing away, equanimity. And then through that, the lokuttara citta open. The lokuttara citta are open in awareness but there's no mindfulness.

This next step needs mindfulness. One brings mindfulness to the happiness, the contentedness, the ease and spaciousness. They're also seen as objects dissolving and passing away. And then it brings you through to the experience of cessation of arising and dissolution. It's not equanimity with; it's total cessation of arising and dissolution. Then if mindfulness is strong, it's able to be within that experience of cessation and observe the characteristics of it.

In pure awareness this emptiness seems to be nothing, but when you go directly into the Unconditioned you feel the somethingness of it, But it's not a thing-ness; it's an empty energy, light, vibration. It's rich, it's full. It's not a void, it's everything. But in that everything, nothing is arising and dissolving because it's all there. How could it arise and dissolve? What is there beyond this, that could possibly arise or dissolve? It is complete.

Q: Most of the time when I'm not sitting in meditation, I experience what I call pure awareness. It has a presence to it, and simultaneously objects arising and falling like thoughts, feelings, sensations. Simultaneous; I can experience both at the same time.

When I sit in meditation sometimes it's only awareness, pure peace, pure bliss, no objects. But in everyday life I have both.

Aaron: Precisely, and it's at that time that I would like you then to just shut your eyes and move into vipassana practice and experience whatever is predominant, perhaps the spaciousness, to use that as the primary object with the vipassana practice. There is full presence with the primary object – present with spaciousness, present with sound or whatever may come– and very quickly arising and dissolution and equanimity with arising and dissolution will come. And then this shift, taking pure awareness deeper so that it directly perceives the Unconditioned.

Right now you're seeing the Unconditioned, like seeing the reflection of the moon on the water and the lake is so still that it seems like it's the perfect moon, but you're still seeing the reflection of the moon, not the moon. Or sitting in the sunlight you feel the warmth of the sun. We would say yes, you're sitting in the sun. It's hot, you feel it but you're not yet in the heart of the sun. So the next step is to take you right into the heart of it. Don't stop where you are.

Q: Okay I am totally confused. Are you saying that the reflection is the qualities of the pure awareness, like presence, peace, silence, and I'm taking that to be the Unconditioned?

Aaron: Yes, in a sense that is accurate, taking the qualities perceived by Awareness as the Unconditioned, but I think I used a confusing image and I apologize. I think the image of the sun is clearer than the moon image. You feel the direct heat of the sun, you see the light and shadow of the sun but you're not yet in the heart of the sun. So you don't want to stop there just with the sun's warmth and light, you want to go into the heart of it. With the image of the moon and the water, there is some distortion because the reflection is not the moon. Perhaps a better image is opening a window, looking outside at a beautiful view that's at the end of a long hallway. You can see it, you see glimpses of it, but what you might do is walk down the hallway and outside into it.

Resting in pure awareness is like sitting inside looking at the doorway at the end of the hall. You see out the door but you're not yet in that space. The full experience of the Unconditioned takes you into that space directly.

Q: You can see into my experience, but you're saying I'm meditating in pure awareness but not in the Unconditioned, is that correct?

Aaron: That's correct. You are touching the Unconditioned. You are sitting inside with the long hallway looking out. But you've got to get up and go down the hallway and out the door. And that's where the vipassana experience can take you. Resting in pure awareness is just resting in pure awareness. Awareness is a citta, it needs an object. The Unconditioned is the object. What is this object? What is the direct experience of the Unconditioned?

Q: My root teacher taught me that the primary practice is to rest in awareness and the movement beyond that, beyond duality, conditions, comes by grace.

Aaron: Let me put it in this way. I agree it comes by grace. Yet it also comes by intention. The intention invites the grace. The grace will come in its own time. But if there's not the intention, if you're just sitting there and saying, "Ah, the view is lovely," there's not the intention to find one's legs to walk down the hallway and out the door. So one has to proceed, without grasping. If there's grasping that says, "I want to experience the Unconditioned," that just backs you up into a further back room. But when there's awareness, perceiving the Unconditioned in the distance, and yet not resting fully in the Unconditioned, awareness is self-aware, self-cognizant, aware of itself, aware of that shimmer of the Unconditioned on the horizon, out the door.

Then various kinds of spiritual work will help you, I won't even say walk so much as just glide down the hallway. It's an effortless effort. There's no self to it, there's just that smooth progression.

So, many practices come into play here such as simply, tonglen for example, replacing self and other, opening the heart deeply. The kind of work we've been doing in Venture Fourth where we've been looking deeply at various habitual patterns, seeing something like humility that we worked with in the beginning and how it's neither false pride nor false self-effacement but finding that place in the middle, empty of self. Patience, not somebody being patient, not hatred of one's patterns of impatience, but finding the innate patience. One does all this work with sila, with opening the heart. This is the way we support the arising of grace, or invite it. So yes, it's grace, but also the grace comes because of the willingness to do the work.

Have I confused you further?

Q: :Yes.

Aaron: A little confusion never hurt anyone! Simply note it. Open your heart to it. Total confusion is simply total confusion. What is this mind that wants to know? It wants certainty.

You are on a clear path; trust yourself. You're doing fine. If I were you I would spend some time looking at doubt as an object and seeing how it's simply arising out of conditions, and not be so self-identified with it. It is just doubt; doubt of the path, doubt of the self, doubt of the capacity for awakening.

New Q: My Buddhist teacher taught that by experiencing pure awareness alternating with mundane experience, this was like dyeing cloth the old-fashioned way. You hang the cloth in the sun and it fades but then you keep dyeing it, in this case by exposing the mind to pure consciousness and eventually it sticks even during activity. So in other words it stabilizes the experience of pure consciousness while acting in the relative realm.

Aaron: That sounds very accurate.

Q: It seems as though you're saying that some additional effort of practice of vipassana or some kind of mindfulness is required to stabilize the pure consciousness.

Aaron: It's not needed to help stabilize to pure awareness. It's needed to help pure awareness break through into the object of the Unconditioned. It is as you have said, "alternating pure awareness with mundane experience." But there must be profound mindfulness so as not to become lost in the mundane experiences. This is the function of vipassana.

It's a matter of intention more than effort, of aiming. If I want to walk out to that side of the room, I need to face that way, I can't face this way. I need to hold the intention. If I grasp and say, "I've got to get there," I may stumble on my way to get there so fast.

If I simply hold the loving intention while knowing at another level there's no place to go, there's never been any place to go, I'm already there; I merely haven't yet realized it. If I'm in a process of developing this conditioned human mind, in the process of knowing its true essence and nature, I have to point mind in the direction I want it to go. And I can see what holds me back.

For instance, if there's a habitual energy toward grasping, grasping at material things, grasping at spiritual attainment, then I can work with that skillfully in a mundane kind of practice, just watching it, seeing how it arises. "Oh, I want that," grasping, grasping, noting it. That which is aware of grasping is not grasping. Coming back into that spaciousness that's not grasping, sending kindness to the human that is grasping, gradually the habit energy is purified; the karma is purified. Then I'm not going to be grasping over some kind of attainment so much. The energy is released. This is your dyeing and hanging in the sun.

I keep attending to these places in my life not to become enlightened but simply because I don't want to grasp and take somebody else's tea (reaching for a cup of tea). That's not skillful. So I want to watch it, I want to live with more kindness. We simply start with that intention, to live with more kindness, more compassion, more skill. We aim in that way and then we trust the grace that develops, the whole process of grace, and we trust the innate essence of ourselves that's already awake, to recognize its awakenedness. That which is awake already knows the Unconditioned.

New Q (J): Isn't the Unconditioned non-dual with awareness?

Aaron: The Unconditioned is non-dual with awareness; everything in the universe is non-dual. But the awareness is that which takes the Unconditioned as an object. Is hearing consciousness dual with the sound?

Q: No.

Aaron: The hearing consciousness takes sound as an object but they are also non-dual. Awareness takes the Unconditioned as the object; they are also non-dual.

Q: In dzogchen the essence is emptiness, openness.

Aaron: Yes...

Q: Its very nature is awareness. These two are non-dual.

Aaron: Yes. Correct. Spacious, cognizant awareness is the nature of mind. That empty cogniscence can know the Unconditioned, which is non-dual with it.

Q: I'm confused. Isn't the Unconditioned the same as the emptiness?

Aaron: The emptiness is one expression of the Unconditioned. The nature of the Unconditioned is to be empty. If you go through the emptiness-- the emptiness, let's say, is like the surface of the ocean and you want to dive down a hundred yards. When you touch the emptiness you're just touching the surface of the Unconditioned. All of these expressions of the Unconditioned--emptiness, space, luminosity, nada--these are not the heart of the Unconditioned, they're expressing out of the Unconditioned. What is that from which they are expressing? Don't stop at the surface, dive deep.

Q: I invite you to take me all the way.

Aaron: Let's do it.

Q: Thank you.

Aaron: Begin with knowing that it is possible.

Q: I believe it is.

Aaron: It's 3:30. We had intended a Q&A period on meditation and this has taken more than the direct subject of vipassana practice, but I think that's good. Those of you who have not practiced vipassana, I hope we have inspired you. Those who have practiced, I hope you have gained something from the discussion.

Let's go back to the broader workshop, here. The whole group has now arrived back.

Q: Can I ask one thing? It's really quick. What are these files you're talking about?

Aaron: The Akashic records, let's call it a vast filing cabinet in the sky in which all of your past lives are written. Do you remember before you had computers you had a filing card system in the library? It's a little bit like that. You look up not your present name but your essence and you find all the various lifetimes and the various details, and you can see the karma, how the karmic threads of one lifetime have led to the conditions that brought forth the next lifetime, and what the predominant streams of karma have been. What has been released – that thread has faded away and gone – and what still exists and is asking to be attended to? The term akashic records relates to the word "akasha" or ether, which is one of the elements.

Q: Can I google that?

Aaron: You can google Akashic records! I don't think you'll be able to google yourself in the Akashic records! Meditation is a better route.

Q: Yesterday we talked about the equanimity, that that's stabilized and the quality of the plateau. So in a way it's pure consciousness or pure awareness taking seat everywhere, and that's being accomplished by, for instance, vipassana. Pure awareness is kind of leaning, going through the door and taking seat everywhere so there is no separation.

Aaron: Yes, that is a clear phrasing . Again, pure awareness is the citta, the consciousness that perceives non-duality. It is not non-duality itself. It's the doorway. Non-duality is one expression of the Unconditioned. One begins to experience how everything is arising from conditions and passing away, inter-related. Right here, this wood stage, this is a tree, and if it's a tree it's a cloud, the sunshine, the earth. We're sitting right here in a cloud.

Nothing is separate. Vipassana takes you to a direct experience of that non-separation. Resting in pure awareness--I'm trying to take this into experience, not just speak conceptually... Resting in pure awareness can, doesn't always, but if there is mindfulness that's able to focus the pure awareness, if the light of awareness focused on non-duality, then it can perceive non-duality.

Pure awareness can perceive the expressions of the Unconditioned. It can perceive luminosity everywhere; it can perceive spaciousness, the energy, such as the qi gong energy. It can experience the true experience of everything breaking up and coming together in the conditioned realm, everything non-dual. But it's still not going all the way into the ground.

What goes into that ground is something that relates to pure awareness but it's a directed pure awareness. Here is where the vipassana and dzogchen or pure awareness practice come together. The vipassana gives you the training to stay with an object with mindfulness and to direct mindfulness. Pure awareness gives you the ability to rest stably in that big mind. To break through into the Unconditioned and know the Unconditioned, they need to come together. As L-M pointed out, at a certain point you do not make it happen anymore, you get out of the way of it happening. The ego gets out of the way. Grace, love, all of this opens and comes together and takes you through the doorway.

What is the experience of the Unconditioned I'm talking about? It's this complete cessation experience, the cessation of all arising and dissolution, and the profound peace in that experience, and there is a knowing that it's not, how shall we say it, it's not a voidness but contains everything. It's the seed before the seed. If everything is arising out of conditions, there has to be a seed out of which that everything arises. And before the seed, what is there?

Since the Unconditioned realm does not arise and cease, that seed, that ground, that essence of everything is what you find when you come into the Unconditioned and that's why there's such joy in the experience; it's such a sense of fullness and completion.

How many of you are finding this discussion helpful? How many of you are not finding it so helpful? is it outside of your immediate field of experience because you have not practiced these meditations? Okay. I think it would be better at this point to stop and bring it back so it's relevant to everyone...

Aaron: If we don't have to be out of here promptly at 5 I'm willing to pick up this discussion at 5 for another 20 minutes, or half and hour. Not longer than that but for ½ hour. I don't know if this place must be closed or if we must leave promptly.

Q: It seemed like the majority of the people raised their hand that it's useful, right?

Aaron: Yes, but I still want to return now to the main stream of the workshop. I want to invite all of you to come to Michigan to our June retreat. We have a one week retreat... (details) It's a silent vipassana retreat, a chance to deepen your vipassana practice. But we also have unstructured afternoon time, with people doing their own practice and an option to gather in a circle like this and have just the kind of discussion we've been having. So there's an hour and a half discussion period each day that's optional for anybody that wants to sit in on that kind of discussion. And of course dharma talks at night sometimes get into the same topics. Instruction periods for senior practitioners will get into the same topics. So anybody who's interested in this simply look on the Deep Spring website or Barbara can give you information. That's the best I can offer you; a chance to spend a week with this.

Let's bring this back now to where we were before lunch.

(adjusting microphones)

You all need to become awakened and graduate from this physical existence so that you're telepathic and we can talk to each other from our minds and dispense with the microphones!

We practice with relative reality, with the experiences of the mind and body, especially the challenging ones such as body pain, difficult emotions. We practice in ways that release the self-identification with those experiences, to find more spaciousness with them, and increase the ability to respond with kindness and with wisdom. You have to learn to live in that way in this conditioned world. If you only wanted experiences that transcended the challenges of mind and body, you would not have incarnated. At some level you knew what you were getting into and you invited it for a reason. It's your teacher.

We approach those experiences with kindness and with wisdom including the wisdom of the Unconditioned, the wisdom of non-duality, that which knows that, using anger as example, right there with anger is that which is not angry. Not knowing as concept but learning through resting in awareness to rest in that spaciousness. It's not the Unconditioned yet, as we've just spoken. It is a doorway. What is that which is not angry? What are its characteristics? This expansiveness; this spaciousness. Often there's a sense of a lot of light. In the body the Unconditioned is free of contraction, or if not fully free, there is no contraction around any contraction. No self. Contraction is merely an object.

Tense your fists; hold tension. Feeling it, "Contraction, contraction." Now breathe in with that contraction and then release the contraction of the breath. I want you to feel not just the body contraction but the energy field. It's the way it felt when you were pushed or pushing and you let go of the sense of a self to it. Nobody was pushing, nobody was being pushed, there was just pressure. The contraction releases slowly from the body but it does release.

Can you feel the difference between the physical contraction which is simply body, and the idea, "I am a contracted self"? Open it; release.

Being human you're all habituated to the viewpoint of these small minds and body. When I say small I don't mean that in a derogatory way, simply the individuated human, the individuated consciousness. We can begin to think in the bigger terms, the bigger consciousness.

I want to do an exercise here with you to help you experience that directly. Do we have markers? (pause looking for markers) Perhaps it will be enough. It's not the way I envisioned it but I will let go of the way I envisioned it. (discussion of how to set up the exercise, people get in groups)

Now we're going to do this as a 2-step exercise. Each group is going to get an array of markers or crayons. The first time we do it-- each group will sit on the floor and encircle the paper... (pause) Each group will begin the first step of the exercise. One person in the group, going around in any order, one person at a time will pick up a marker or pencil and draw one continuous line. It can be like that (demonstrating), it can be a long line or it can spin out. When I say one continuous line, a zigzag line is a continuous line, but without lifting the pen. When they put down their marker or color, whoever wants to go next will pick up a color and draw one continuous line.

In the beginning you're each going to have a concept. If the first person draws a line that looks like that with blue, he may have in mind the ocean, drawing the sea. What happens when the next person draws an orange zigzag on top? Somebody says, "Oh, well, it can be sails on the sea." They've put something that looks like that, for waves. Somebody else cuts into that by putting an inverted V underneath.

You may keep attaching to an idea, "It could be this or it could be that," and then letting go of that idea. I want you to watch the sense of a self that wants to try to direct the group's drawing, that wants it to be one way or another. Do it slowly with open heart and watch what comes up in you. Watch any move into the separated self.

We're going to do this in complete silence; you're not talking within the group. Then after the first drawing, when the group nods and agrees, "We're finished," or when I say, "That's it," you can talk about the experience.

Then you're going to take the fresh piece of paper. You're going to do something almost the same, but before you start you're going to hold hands and just sit for a minute and feel yourself to be part of this group, part of this circle. The hand that's drawing is your hand. I want you to see the difference as you merge and become the group, how you shift out of the individuated, "I wanted it this way," consciousness and into this more connected consciousness, and to see what happens in the drawing as you do this. You'll be surprised to see that there is a difference in the drawing. At some level you're picking up each others' thoughts and experiences, you're merging and becoming one continuous hand that's picking out different colors with different arms. You're thinking with each others' minds.

Don't try to start that way, start just as the self, picking up a marker, and then in the second drawing we'll make the shift. Are there questions?

Q: So the second time we're holding hands, everybody's holding hands while the person drawing has one hand free and is drawing the line with that hand?

Aaron: No, I had envisioned dropping the hands when you want to start to draw. But if you want to try holding hands and one person just drops one hand and picks up the marker, that's fine. It would be an interesting experiment.

Q: It wasn't clear, that the original thing, you could draw your line anywhere it continues from the last line?

Aaron: No, it's completely independent. It may continue but it's completely independent.

Okay... (setting up exercise beginning with counting off by 4s)

Aaron: You have 3 sheets of paper so you can try this 3 times...

(exercise continues for a long time)

Aaron: I am Aaron. I regret we don't have more time to spend some time sharing your experiences with the exercise. I hope you will share more with each other, I know many of you know each other and come in contact outside of this workshop.

As I watched each group I knew that you all felt the change in consciousness, moving outside of the limited ego self and connecting to the group through that connection of the deeper essence of your being. Let's call it the awareness mind. We've been talking about pure awareness. For some of you it was pure awareness doing the drawing. I'm not going to ask how many of you felt the difference, it's clear to me that many of you did, perhaps not all and that's okay. The drawings show the difference.

One of the prime directions of this workshop today was the question, how do we live from that centered space? It is that centered space that knows its non-limitation and it's only the ego that thinks of itself as limited. Here you had an experience of working within a group from that essence of being. But that same heart essence can express itself out into the world connecting with and co-creating with the world. When you co-create with the world you are unlimited.

That which is co-creating with the world cannot think of itself in terms of, "Oh, I can't do that," only "How do we together co-create this?" How do you co-create peace in your world? How do you create abundance in your world? How do you co-create joy in your world? Never from the ego place. The ego place is trying too hard and too caught up in the self to understand what is needed in the bigger picture, figuratively and literally.

But when you looked at this bigger picture on the floor through the eyes of your circle, each of you saw what was needed and picked up on, not conflicting with the energies of the other but merging with an expanding upon.

We've covered 2 related areas today. In the morning we talked more about working with meditation, deeper awareness of objects arising and passing away from one's consciousness, and the texture of that arising object, the texture of mind and how it relates to that arising object and that you do have a choice. Objects can be experienced as painful and with your separation from it or you can open your heart to it.

Whatever arises, if it's pleasant, know it as pleasant. If it's unpleasant, know it as unpleasant. And if tension arises around that object and its unpleasantness or pleasantness, know that, and be aware of whether the small self is trying to fix that tension, to control the experience, f or whether the greater self, the pure essence of being, is able to hold whatever emotion or body sensation has arisen in this open heart.

Become increasingly aware of the mind as it jumps into the idea of limitations. Whatever it is you most deeply aspire to, watch the part of you that says confidently, "Yes, we can do that." Yes we can have peace in the world. Yes we can have end to starvation in the world. Yes I can have a deep experience of awakening. Yes I can open my heart to the person who feels most offensive to me, and truly love that person even if I don't like them. And watch the part of you that says, "I can't do that."

Begin to discern when you are in that small mind, small self, when you are more in the pure awareness mind and spaciousness, and that just because the small mind is present doesn't mean you have lost the big mind. The big mind is always there. Where did you put it? What blocked your access to it? Just the remembering that you have a choice is often enough to lead you back into the big mind.

So don't get locked into the small mind with its belief in limitations. That which is aware of fear is not afraid. It is not respectful to the human to deny the experience of fear, hurt, anger or any other experience, and it is equally not respectful to the human to believe you have no choice but to act it out or to suppress it.

Beyond acting out that which is unwholesome or suppressing it is the choice simply to rest in the big mind, to rest in spaciousness, and to observe: whatever has the nature to arise has the nature to cease. And it is not me or mine. I take care of it with love. I watch it pass away and then I rest in what remains. And when another object comes I do the same.

And after awhile you'll find you stop getting pulled out of this center by these objects that come stomping through. You just smile at them and say, "Ah, so. Here you are. Have tea." Nothing to fix. Here is where you bring it all together.

There is so much more I could say to you. We could easily spend a second and even a third day together. Right now the clock says 5 o'clock so we need to end. I raised the question earlier whether we could continue that deeper dharma conversation just for a short while or whether we need to be out of the building. I am told we must depart soon but have a little time.


Those who wish to leave, my blessings to you all. Feel free to leave. I'm going to leave the body for a moment so Barbara can say goodbye to you... (pause)

Barbara: Okay... Aaron has said goodbye... (announcements)

Those of you who need to leave now, feel free to do so. I have enjoyed meeting you all. We're going to just give you 2 minutes to pick up and be on your way out, and then Aaron is going to talk just for 10 or 15 minutes because needs to be cleaned up, to be closed up. So anybody who wants to stay and talk more to Aaron about some of his meditation questions and non-duality questions, we're happy to address that.

Okay, Aaron is going to come back...

Aaron: I am Aaron. So let us continue...

Q: I have kind of a selfish question. I would be very interested if you could look in the Akashic records and communicate to me.

Signer: Anything in particular?

Q: Everything! (laughter) I don't have anywhere to go...

Aaron: Do we have until next week? ... I can do that, in terms of yes, I am capable. I will not do it. Everybody would want this and we just won't have time to get into that kind of personal sharing. I also would not do it because it simply feeds the ego to hear everything that's there. I would share with you what you need to know and you can contact Barbara for a personal meeting, if you wish. You can meet by telephone or ichat, IM, a number of ways we can meet privately. So you can contact Barbara; email her. She will not be home for another 6 weeks or so, much traveling and teaching, but later in the spring she'll be available for meetings.

Q: One more... There's a woman who said, "I'm also losing my hearing," and you mentioned that you'd be willing to email her your book? Could I ask to be able to read that too?

Aaron: This would be up to Barbara, but my personal feeling, when I offered her the new book was there was a very direct reason, immediate in her personal life right now why the material in the book would be helpful to her. She's trying to learn how to find the balance between not grasping at hearing but inviting hearing. The rest of you can be patient and wait for the book. It will be out in the early spring!

Q: Aaron, where you live is in a different plane from where we are. Can you speak to what life is like there? Are you an individual or a collective? And what is the purpose of existence on your plane?

Aaron: Thank you, B. First, I think of the whole universe in different terms than you do. You have the experience of a physical, an emotional, a mental, and a spirit body. I no longer have a physical body. You are still self-identified with the emotional and mental bodies. I am not thusly identified.

The emotional body is resolved. By that I mean that although joy and sorrow will arise, there's no anger, there's no fear, none of those kinds of emotions. I still retain the use of a mental body. It is a tool. There is no self-identity with it. But without the use of the mental body I can't communicate with you, so I do not choose to move on to that place where the mental body would need to be released.

You call the being who returns to incarnation a bodhisattva, a being that's enlightened but returns to help others. What you fail to realize is that there are many bodhisattvas on non-physical planes, beings that have the capacity to move on into the full awakening experience--let's say the drop of water that falls into the ocean and merges with all that is; it doesn't cease to exist but it no longer has anything that you can identify as that drop of water. It simply merges with the ocean.

When a very highly realized being with a very high vibration and a great purity decides to become that drop of water, to release all separation, of course it raises the vibration of the ocean. In the same way, when a highly realized being moves into that higher density experience and releases the mental body so it's just pure spirit, pure being, it gives a higher vibration and light to the Ground itself.

The Unconditioned, being unconditioned it cannot be improved, and yet in a certain way it can be supported in its clearer expression. If you have a clear piece of glass and you hide it behind black paper, you cannot see it. If you treat that black paper so it becomes transparent, then the glass is visible.

So those beings that move on are serving in their way, and those beings that choose as I do to stay and be available to you as teachers, guides, angels, whatever you wish to call us, we're also doing this in service. There are many such beings.

Beings of a lower vibration, beings between incarnations in the bardo state, are still self-identified to some degree with the emotions and the mental body. Beings who have evolved beyond the karmic pull to incarnation are not thusly identified. But those beings between incarnations can also serve in that state.

I am telepathic. You are also telepathic but you have not fully realized that and you don't allow it. It's one of the limits you believe in because it's frightening to you. What if you were fully telepathic in this moment? What if you could read the thoughts of everybody in the room and they could read your thoughts; would that be okay? Have you thought anything in the past few hours that would bring you a little discomfort if everybody knew it? (people laughing and nodding)

So until the emotional body is resolved, and to some degree the mental body, you're not ready to become telepathic in that way, you're not ready to release that limit. But for us, for my colleagues, if I may call them that, we're fully telepathic. And if for a somewhat younger being a negative thought should arise, it simply evokes compassion.

There is what I would call a Brotherhood/Sisterhood of Light. Now, remembering on a basic level we're all androgynous, you might ask why Brotherhood/Sisterhood? There's no difference but we still express our energy at one time as male, another time as female. However, I'm not fixed to that form. Let me see how I can do this...

(in a softer feminine voice) Softening my energy and inviting the female essence of me. It's a deeper expression. I can become Arianna and begin to express as a female energy because I am not inherently male. I am both male and female.

I chose to express as Aaron simply because Aaron was a being I was in a past lifetime who was a wise and loving teacher. Barbara needed something other than just light and a name other than "Hey, you." Aaron seemed a good identity to express from. I don't try to replicate Aaron precisely; I only use him as a base model. But that's not who I am. You could not pronounce my real name. You could not think it. You could not pronounce or think your own real names, but I invite you to look for them, to try to find out more directly who you are.

The beings on my plane, which is a highly positively polarized 6th density awareness, that's what we call it, that's what I would call it, are beings who are deeply grounded in love and in non-duality. We converse together, we laugh. I even have my version of a cat, which is a small lower density energy that is very attracted to me and loves to rub itself against me. I enjoy its energy. I love it and help it to evolve into a higher density. I don't consider it a pet; that would be demeaning. I consider it a young soul, no less than I am, simply not as evolved.

I could say more but perhaps that's enough. We'll leave room for other questions.

Q: (L-M): In the Tibetan dzogchen teachings such as the Song of the Garuda, they teach that resting in, to use their words, presence, wakefulness or awareness, it's all you need. There is no mention of, you also need vipassana. (laughter)

Aaron: I cannot dispute that. I have not followed that path to awakening. I've said this to you and to a group of you before, that certainly there are fully awakened masters who have awakened through that tradition. I don't have the skills to teach you that. Let me phrase it differently-- at this point I have the skills but I have not moved through that path as a human so my articulation of that path would not be one from my direct experience. If that's the path you wish to follow, you need to follow it through an awakened master who has followed that path in human experience.

I can show you the path that I have followed in human experience and how it has become integrated for me with the pure awareness teachings, which I also practiced in human experience although I did not awaken in those lifetimes. So I understand this path and this is what I can teach. I am not saying and have never said that the vipassana path is the only path, only that it is a clear and viable path.

I would love at some point to have the opportunity with a group to share a platform and talk about this with someone like Lama Surya Das, someone who is open to my presence. I think we could have a very interesting discussion together and perhaps clarify things for people, because I know at that level there would not be any competitiveness between us, neither of us seeking to be right but only to elucidate.

I see that we're at 5:20 so we need to stop... Last question, then.

Q: Brief question. I'm wondering if Aaron was to address a group of people who spoke a different language, if Aaron is able to access that language from his past lives, and would he be able to go through Barbara or would he need another medium.

Aaron: While I have a clear knowledge of some languages such as Thai, it is archaic Thai, archaic French, not modern Thai or French. Furthermore, Barbara's mouth and tongue are not configured to allow me to use the correct accent of those languages. I can only use what this body can handle. For example I was an excellent swordsman in one lifetime but this body could not do that.

We have taught in many other countries, in Japan and France and Mexico, with simultaneous translation, and that seemed to work well. That's the way I would choose to do it.

My blessings and love to you all. Thank you for sharing yourselves with me today. I hope to have the opportunity to speak with you again this way in the body but if that doesn't come, please remember that I am never far. If you have a question to ask of me, just ask it. "Aaron, come here! I need you. Can you help me with this?" And then sit quietly in your meditation and listen.

You have enormous wisdom; don't cut yourself short. When you touch into that wisdom heart, that truly enlightened heart, you know everything you need to know. Let it come forth.

My love to you.

(session ends)