November 2, 2011 Wednesday, Cosmic Healing Class

Barbara: As people are coming in and getting settled, I've been giving some brief meditation instructions. I'll continue now with recorder on.

If there is an unpleasant experience in the body or in the mind, what kind of presence do we bring to that experience? There may be aversion to it, tension, contracting, or there may be a very openhearted experience with it, at peace with it as it is. Can unpleasant just be unpleasant without a lot of fear and resistance?

Our habitual tendency is to tense up when something is unpleasant. Just think about your experience sitting in a dentist's chair, simply getting your teeth cleaned. Many people in the world would give anything to get their teeth cleaned, and yet it can be uncomfortable and we resist; we tense up.

Halloween, the other night, giving out candy to little ghosts and goblins and a little bit to me-- pleasant, pleasant! Like that Reese's peanut butter cup, mmm! Pleasant, pleasant. Can things be pleasant without grasping?

We will naturally grasp for what is pleasant and feel aversion for what's unpleasant, but we don't have to get caught in the story, “Oh, they're taking all my Reese's peanut butter cups! There are not going to be any left for me!” Grasping, grasping. Fear.

Let's just sit quietly for a minute or two while the last people get settled. We have two things happening here tonight. We have our regular Wednesday with Aaron, and we're coinciding that this fall in two sessions with the ongoing class, so we have an especially big group for tonight. Both groups would be big on their own.

The class has been working from my book Cosmic Healing. As we work through the book, we're looking now at resistance, and working with fear and resistance. For those who are new here tonight, the book was published last spring. It's my story of losing my hearing and meeting Aaron and so forth, working with meditation practice and going to John of God in Brazil.

Moving on, we all experience fear at times. We all experience resistance. How many of you meditate? Most of you. The practice I offered in a nutshell as you were getting seated, insight meditation or vipassana, is the heart of the meditation practice that we do here. It's a practice of deep openhearted presence with things just as they are; as I said, sometimes pleasant, sometimes unpleasant or neutral. It's drawn from Buddhism but we're not teaching it as Buddhism, we're teaching it as presence, in the moment. How does it feel to be in this moment?

Yesterday my husband and I went for a long bike ride. We took our bikes in the car out to Hudson Mills Park and rode seven or eight miles. The lower gears on my bike were not working right after the first mile or so. It's not that hilly but hilly enough. So it was beautiful. There's a wide, dedicated bike path that runs by the river. The trees were beautiful colors. And I would be fully present in the moment for 5, 10 minutes, and then came an uphill and pushing, pushing, and mind wandering away, not present at all with all this beauty around me, just, “I want my lower gears back!” Grasping.

This is how we are. Then noting, “grasping, grasping,” I would stop my bike, dismount, and just walk it up the hill, trying to be very present with the beauty of the scenery around me and the physical sensations of walking, here in the body.  When I got to the top, mount my bike again and off I went. But it was funny because each time I came to a hill and got half way up and the lower gear started spinning, tension came up.

This is how it will be with us as humans, and it's not bad that we experience tension. The difficulty is that we create stories about the tension. Sometimes it's a judgment story, “I shouldn't be feeling tense. I'm a dharma teacher. I should know better.” Well, maybe! But this is how it is right now. Can I be with it as it is right now?

A different story: did somebody take my bike and mess up the gears? What happened to my bike? Another story: my knee started hurting from pumping the pedals so hard. Oh, I'm going to have knee pain. Stories. We call them stories. They're all the myths that mind picks up and wants to tell. Stories.

So yes, there will be aversion. That's the human experience. And there will be desire, liking, wanting more of, that's the human experience. When we note it, we don't get lost in the stories. That we have those experiences simply proves that we're human. But when we get lost in the stories, we suffer and create suffering for others.

So that's the background Aaron has asked me to share tonight. He's going to incorporate in my body and talk. Is there anybody here who has never heard Aaron? A few people, okay.

I literally move out of my body and Aaron moves into my body. I'm not here. I have no memory of what's been said. I'm simply no longer present at that point. Now me, as Barbara, I've been talking to you, but when Aaron incorporates, my consciousness simply leaves the body, like sastral projection out of the body, and Aaron comes into the body. So, Aaron will talk to you. I give it to him. It's taken a lot of trust to share my body with somebody but I love Aaron deeply and trust him completely. That said, let's let Aaron come in.

(Aaron incorporates)

Aaron: My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron. You witnessed a lot of shaking and trembling. I have a big energy field. This body, although it's sizable, it's not as big as I am. It's like pulling on a tight bathing suit, wiggling my energy into it, and then letting it expand.

This room is filled with so much loving energy. It brings me deep joy.

I'd like you to wave your hand in the air. It's easy. There's not a lot of friction, is there? It moves freely. Now imagine moving your hand through water as you swim. There's resistance from the water, so there's more pressure. Can you imagine how that feels? The water is denser than the air. Now imagine moving your hand through a tub of peanut butter. Sticky, heavy. Hard to move it. The peanut butter has a much denser consistency so it offers resistance. Sometimes there's minimal resistance in your life. Sometimes there is a lot of resistance.

I'd like you to imagine walking in an apple orchard with a dear friend. On a branch in front of you, you see what appears to be the perfect apple: lush, red, radiant, free of any blemish. Feel the joy with which you pluck it and hand it to your friend. There are hundreds of apples. You'll get one. Can you feel the ease, free of resistance, with which you pluck it and offer it? It's a joyful movement. There's no fear in it. If you look at your body energy in that moment, it's not contracted. Note the ease. Be aware of how it feels: spacious, joyful. Feel your body energy and that it feels open.

Now let's change the scenario from apple orchard to a walk in the woods with three friends. You return from your walk, all of you a bit hungry. You have one apple in your pocket. You are looking forward to eating it, but with your three friends there you really can't eat it yourself. You have a pocket knife and you cut it in quarters, offering a quarter to each friend. Can you feel that at first, at least, there's a little resistance? The resistance may dissipate very quickly as you experience their joy eating the apple.

But can you feel that little tinge of resistance? How does it feel? Is there tension? Where is the tension held, where do you feel it? Show me. Many of you are saying chest; shoulders, some of you, belly. Tension, tension. Resistance. We simply give it a name.

Some of you may have had the thought, “Oh, I shouldn't mind sharing.” That's not the resistance, that's judging. That's a different object. First there was subtle resistance and then a judgment upon the resistance. Judging, judging. Tension, tension.

What happens to that subtle resistance and even the judgment itself when the heart opens to it and notes it? Is there more spaciousness? You're not trying to get rid of the resistance or the judgment, simply to be present and know, “This heart, mind, body is experiencing this. This is the experience that has arisen in this moment.”

Now let's try a still different image. You were walking with a dozen people through the mountains and became lost. Heavy fog has settled in. You had thought it to be just an hour walk and nobody really brought food or water, but now it has been many hours. You have that apple in your pocket. You haven't eaten for twelve hours. Neither has anyone else. For some of you there may be an eagerness to share your apple, no resistance at all, and that's lovely. But for some of you there may be fear. “They may have their own food stowed away. Why should I share mine? I need this food. I'm hungry. I have no energy.” Fear, contraction.

I'm not saying you should cut this apple in 12 parts. That's one thing you may do. You may walk off from the group and simply eat it. What we're looking at here is the experience of the resistance, and this last one is the peanut butter, how sticky it feels. “I want this. I need this.” Fear comes up.

If you are a loving person and that fear comes up and unwillingness to share, probably self-judgment will arise on top of the fear. The whole thing becomes heavy and sticky. It is not these experiences of fear, contraction, resistance, or judgment that create karma, these are the results of old conditioning, old karma, but how you relate to these will perpetuate the old karma or shift the old karma.

When there is fear, contraction, and tension and you tense further saying, “No, I won't feel this,” of course it's going to perpetuate the tension. When you literally bring your hands to your heart, breathe in, “Breathing in, I am aware of the tension. Breathing out I smile to the tension. I am not going to be a slave to this tension. The tension has arisen from conditions, and because of my old conditioning I'm afraid of it. There's a lot of contraction here. Can I just breathe and make peace with the present human experience?”

Here you shift the karma because you give a clear statement, when something pushes at me, when I contract, I'm not going to further contract around that contraction. It's this kind of reflex, when you hit under the knee and the knee kicks out. “No, I'm not going to let it kick!” But that's what the knee does. Eventually we train the knee to be sure we're not kicking in the direction of another person and doing harm. And eventually the reflex dies away, not as a result of control but as a result of kindness.

Think now of something that's happened to you this week in which resistance arose. Someone in your office asking you to get some work done quickly. Maybe the cat threw up on the sofa and your housemate or spouse said, “You clean that up.” Remember something around which there was aversion and resistance. Reflect on that situation. “Why should I clean that up? It's your cat, too.” “Well, I've been working hard all day and you've been on the phone. Why are you asking me to get this done?” Anger comes up. Wanting to be right comes up. Basically what's happening is that there's a push and some aversion to being pushed.

Yet for each of us, life is filled with these subtle pushes. When I speak about resistance, I'm not suggesting that you should simply topple over when there's a push. How many of you have done the pushing arms Tai Chi exercise with me? Let us demonstrate just a bit.

AM is going to push at me, and I push back. (demonstrating) Okay, push... One of us is eventually going to be stronger and push the other over, and the next time we see each other we're going to glare at each other and be ready to fight again.

How about if she pushes and I just let it slip by? (demonstrating) She can keep pushing as long as she wants to push. I let it slip by. I redirect her energy. Eventually she'll become exhausted with pushing and she'll stop. If she wants to keep it up all night, it's no problem for me because I'm not expending any energy pushing back. I'm just absorbing the energy and then handing it back to her. Let's try it facing this way so others can see it better... I just let it slip on by. No problem. But, I'm not crumpling under it.

When we talk about resistance, there is a difference between resistance that's contracted and just, the water resistance you feel when you swim. Swimming wouldn't be enjoyable if you were swimming through air. You like that feeling of moving through the water. You dive and it feels so good.

We are not trying to conquer the experience of resistance because on this human plane, both material objects and energy will offer varying degrees of resistance. We're talking about how we relate to resistance, and that when it gets forceful we often tense up in fear. Instead of fear, can there be presence that is aware of tension, resistance, even aversion, “I don't want this. She's pushing.”? Maybe after awhile it gets worrisome. “I don't want this anymore.” Well, you can always just get up and walk out. Nothing is holding you there.

Think, then, of an experience this week, someplace where something pushed at you and resistance arose, and your response. Were you experiencing air, water, or peanut butter? If air, it was probably quite easy, effortless, hardly any awareness of resistance. If water, did you just swim through it? And if peanut butter, what did you do? How did you relate to it? I suppose we could make chocolate peanut butter cups!

Some things in the human realm will be sticky. When they are sticky, it takes a lot of practice and some degree of faith that you can deal with that stickiness.

Barbara talks of an experience many years ago. She was trying to find a shortcut from a campground to the lake through a path that she had followed several years earlier. The new path went roundabout and she wanted just to cut through. She followed where she remembered the path, and there was still the trace of that path. She came to a place that looked a bit muddy. She took a step and then another step and sunk up to her chest in deep mud. She had the presence of mind to throw her body forward, creating as large a surface area on top of the mud as she could. There were some sticks, some debris. She gathered them under her to help support her. Her feet were not touching the bottom and there was nobody in sight. There was fear. I would not say she was being sucked down, but she also could not pull herself free. Her first impulse was to grasp. And the more she pushed, the deeper her feet went.

Finally, I would not say it was just her own inner voice but me also, but her wisdom said, “Relax. Just relax.” So she lay there on the surface of the mud for a few minutes, watching the tension, watching the fear. Breathing with it. Gradually she reached out and grabbed more sticks, pulled them under her body. Wriggled her body forward just a little. And slowly, perhaps over 10 or 15 minutes of wiggling, pulled herself out of the mud hole.

Now she was on the wrong side of the mud. Beyond the mud hole was a thick barrier of thorn bushes. She could see glimpses of the beach through the thorns but there was no way to get to the beach and there was no way to get back. She thought she could skirt the mud but it went quite a distance, blocked by thorns. Tension, fear, resistance. She kept going this way and that way, like pushing through peanut butter. “I'm going to find a way through!” She was coated with mud. She could see the lake. She desperately wanted to get into that lake and clean off the mud and enjoy the lake.

After about 20 minutes of wandering through the brush, finally I suggested to her, “Are you ready to sit?” She had come to a clearing. There was sunlight. She was wet and cold so she sat there in the sunlight and meditated. Breathing, finding the place of ease and spaciousness that had always been there but was hidden by the fear and contraction.

After 20 minutes or so of meditating she opened her eyes, and right ahead of her she saw a little deer trail through the brush. So she got onto her hands and knees. She couldn't stand up because the brush was too thick overhead with thorns, but down on her hands and knees she could crawl. She followed the deer trail and it came to this stream of mud. Back there she could stand up. The deer trail went right into it, so she took a stick and she felt-- deep, solid. It wasn't far, just 8 or 10 feet across, touching with the stick and being sure of the trail. Clearly deer had been walking there and the mud was only 2 or 3 inches. Walking across. And almost immediately she came back to the main trail, and took the long way around to the beach.

So what is this story about? These obstacles are going to come up constantly in your life. There will be mud puddles. You will fall into them. There will be frustration, anger, and fear. This is part of the human experience. You have agreed to this kind of experience. You are not here to live a life completely free of frustration, anger, and fear. These things are not a problem. No, they're not pleasant. They are your teachers. If nothing ever pushed at you, how would you learn to relax and dance with the push? The first time something came along and pushed with you, everything would collapse.

You are here to learn kindness and compassion for others and yourselves. You are here to exert the human free will to respond with kindness, even when your old conditioning is pushing you into contraction and negative reactivity. Each time you do, it becomes easier.

Certainly there will be bigger pushes, at times very challenging ones; serious health situations; loss of loved ones; deep material issues like loss of income, loss of job. Your human work, the reason you came into the incarnation, is to learn to take what comes and be with it with an open heart. But, as with our Tai Chi pushing arms exercise, not to let it throw you on the ground. To absorb the energy and let it past and then feed it back. To find the place of balance in yourselves where whatever arises is okay, sometimes pleasant, sometimes unpleasant, but always workable. And where you can touch on the place that knows, “This too is part of my learning, and I can bear with it.”

This is what Barbara speaks about so beautifully in Cosmic Healing. Many of you have noted how inspiring you found it, that when she lost her hearing, and this is 40 years ago, she did not say, “Oh, it's nothing,” and she did not collapse and say, “I can't live anymore.” She asked, “How do I live this with love?” And, “Why did this happen? What can I learn from this experience?”

And this is true for all of you, whatever you are experiencing. If there is huge resistance, you cannot learn because the heart is contracted. The energy field is contracted with fear. When you bring attention to the resistance itself as an object and begin to note how uncomfortable it is, how much aversion there is, how much you want it to be gone, you start to find how powerful and immense you are. The immense capacity for kindness right there with the discomfort.

There are some amazing stories that Barbara has read from survivors of concentration camps, where people write about the enormity of deprivation, cold, hunger, fear for their lives, loss of loved ones, and how those who survived often did so because they made the decision not to take the situation personally, not to say, “Why me? It's not fair.” but simply, “How can I be of service here? How can I open my heart even in this hell?”

And this is why you came into the incarnation. I'm not saying Earth has to be a hell realm. Sometimes it's very heavenly. As Barbara described, she went from heaven to hell and back frequently yesterday. Every downhill was heaven; every uphill was hell. How do we open our hearts?

There are certain things that will help you. One is remembering not to take it personally. Everybody experiences loss. Everybody experiences ill health at times. Everybody experiences not getting what they want. When “Why me?” comes up, just say, “Ah, here's that old fear.” Letting go of “Why me?”. Breathing with the tension. With “Why me?” there's often sadness, fear, confusion. Bring attention to them. “Why me?” Don't take it personally.

I'm listing a number of supports, not in any particular order. One is not better than another. The most useful is what works for you.

Bring attention to the body. If the body is very contracted with fear, pause and note that as the predominant object. “Feeling fear; experiencing contraction.” I'd like you all to tense up your bodies this way, tight. Tighten the belly, tighten the jaw-- contracted, contracted -¬†hold - and then release. Can you feel the body energy opening? For most of you there are still some repercussions of that body tension. Just note them with kindness. Shake the arms out a little. Breathe deep. Open the hands, releasing contraction.

For many of you, there is an old experience of negativity that is a very frequent visitor. Just as there are negative people, there are negative spirits. What we call negatively polarized is that which is generally contracted and very grounded in service to itself at the exclusion of others. When we have old stories about, “I need...,” “My needs won't be met...,” “I'm not safe...,” they literally invite negatively polarized entities. This room is filled with spirit, not just me incorporated in Barbara's body, but literally hundreds of mostly loving spirits, and here and there a few of what we call mischievous spirits and a few negative spirits. The negativity doesn't stay around, because we're exuding such a high vibration, a high loving energy. It's uncomfortable in that high energy.

There's an old song that seemed very trite to Barbara years ago and yet it has a certain truth to it. A song called Let the Sunshine In. Do you know it?

My mother told me something that everyone should know.

It's all about the devil and I've learned to hate him so.

Well, that doesn't work. If you hate the devil, that's just more negativity. Better to say, I've learned to offer love to him so.

The devil hates a smile; he only likes a frown; so if I keep on smiling, he'll get tired of hanging around. I don't know the exact words but you get the idea.

When we get caught up in these negative stories, we invite negative entities. You hear these whispers about, “He's wrong, you're right.” “You should be angry.” It's hard to tell where your own anger ends and some cheerleading little negative spirit is pushing negativity: “Yeah! You're right! He's wrong!” “Ah, thank you, negativity. Thank you for reminding me not to get caught in your stories.”

There's the wonderful tale of the Tibetan saint Milarepa, that many of you have heard from me before. He's meditating at the mouth of his cave when the demons of fear, greed, and anger appear. They're hideous. The skin is dangling from the bones, gore dripping out. There's a foul stench. When the body moves, the bones rattle.

Milarepa saw these beings approaching and said, “I've been expecting you. Come; sit by my fire. Have tea.” “Aren't you afraid of us?” they asked. “No. Your hideous appearance only reminds me to have mercy, to open my heart. Come, sit by my fire, have tea.”

But there's one important detail that's sometimes left out in the telling of this story. He tells them to have tea, but “Shh, we will not get into a dialogue. I'm not going to talk to you.” They're saying, “Come on, listen to us. People are pushing you around. You should stand up for yourself. Everybody's against you, you should be angry.” “Shh, have tea.” He doesn't take a stick and try and chase them away, not follow their suggestions to grab that stick and chase others  away. Feed your demons tea and don't get into a dialogue with them.

Each of you has many loving guides and also some tagalong negativity. For some of you that negativity is more deeply embedded than for others. Just give it tea and don't dialogue with it. They are like childhood bullies; the more you pay attention, the more they keep trying to get at you.

So, we work to invite our loving guidance and to connect with guidance. We don't take what comes up personally. We work with mindfulness. And we can work directly with body energy.

There are seven basic chakras that are part of the central body energy system, from the base at the pelvis, the chakra near the navel, chakra near the solar plexus, the heart center, the throat, the third eye, and the crown, and then above the head we start over again. C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. This is all detailed with precise information in Barbara's book.

A very helpful practice is simply chanting the tones of the chakras. C, the base chakra (tones). D, the spleen (tones). Sing it with me... The solar plexus... If I'm off tune, please correct me, those of you who are musically inclined. Heart, F (group tones). G, A, B, and C again, one octave higher.

For most of you, when there's tension it involves the base chakras, the lower three chakras. So the simple chant (toning OM AH HUNG)... I'm saying OM, AH, HUNG, the Tibetan chant. C, D, E, just repeating that chant for a few minutes. It's a way of allowing energy into the lower chakras and inviting them to open. It's almost impossible to keep the chakras closed and the body contracted when you're chanting in that way. You literally can't do it. So this can open the body energy.

You can envision the colors of the chakras-- red, yellow, orange, for these lowest three, and the heart green. As you sing the first OM, envision red. Then letting the red go, and orange with the spleen chakra, yellow with the solar plexus and green with the heart. OM AH HUNG.

So work with the chakras, with the body energy system. It can help release tension. You cannot do this with the idea, “Now I'm going to get rid of the tension.” It's more like saying, “Oh, I have a cut, I will wash it, and maybe I'll put a Band-Aid on it so it will heal well.” Taking care of. When you see your body energy is closed and contracted, simply pause and note, “contracted” and take care of it. And at that point you can ask guidance for help to open these contractions. First there is the intention to open, for the highest good, and that intention invites positively polarized support. Then you ask help of that loving support.

There are many tools. How many of you have worked with the Four Empowerments or the Seven Branch Prayer with me? Look it up on the Deep Spring archives. I'm not going to take the time to teach it here. It's in my book Awakened Heart in quite some detail, and it's a very powerful practice for working with repeated habitual tendencies.

When I say repeated habitual, that sounds redundant; I am speaking of those habitual tendencies that are so deeply entrenched that they come back and come back and come back. You can't push them away. You watch them, but no matter what you do they seem to come back. Here we practice with the Four Empowerments and the longer Seven Branch Prayer. The Four Empowerments is four steps of the Seven Branch Prayer. This practice is derived from the Way of the Bodhisattva by Shantideva.  Awakened Heart is my commentary on it and my English translation of a practice with many visualizations, which I have simplified, so it works well for those of you who are not within the Tibetan tradition with so many elaborate visualizations.

Bring attention to this habitual energy, compassionate regret that this keeps arising. Every times there's a push, I tense and want to push back. Then compassionate regret for that tendency. Not self-anger; compassionate regret. Ask for help. Open to that guidance that's out there. Ask for support. And then invite a willingness to bring in practices that will bring balance. For example, each time I'm pushed, the tension “wanting to push back” comes. And I don't push back but it comes. What if instead I said, “Oh, A M. You seem very tense. How can I help you?” Bringing in some kind of a balance. So we see the old habitual tendency to contract and instead we open and give. Bringing balance.

Look this up on the Deep Spring archives. You'll find the whole book and you can download it. There are also published copies of the book in the office.

So there are many different ways of working with fear and resistance. Perhaps the most important, that I have saved for last, is knowing your highest intention. And that's why we started the class in September with discussion of intention.

What is my highest intention? What is it I truly seek? If it's to be right, you might say with rage,  “Why are you pushing me?”, and tension increases for both people. If it's for harmony I might erroneously believe I should just collapse and say, “Sure, push me around,” but that's ultimately not going to bring harmony and peace. Or I might say, “You keep pushing me. Is there some way I can be of help to you? What's going on?” In order to say that, I've got to be present with the discomfort of being pushed, there in my heart, open, spacious, not seeking to be right but knowing my highest intention is for the highest good, and willing and ready to invite that intention in every way.

If your intention is for comfort, that's okay, know that. If you're out at the football game and it starts to rain and your spouse is there saying, “Go team!” and you're soaked and cold, you don't have to grit your teeth and be stoic, it's okay to say no. You also don't have to berate the spouse, call him or her names because he/ she chooses to remain and cheer in the rain. it's okay to say, “I've had enough. I'm going in to seek shelter.”

What is your highest intention? This is where your daily meditation practice comes in, constantly looking and asking yourself, what is it I most deeply aspire to, here? What is my intention? And if harmony and the good of all is my intention in this moment, can I touch into the deepest wisdom that understands where that harmony lies and how to evoke it? Can I touch into the deepest wisdom that knows how to work with the body contractions, fear and resistance, of the emotions, so as not to get caught in the stories? “Have tea. Shhh.”

The other area we can work with besides chakras is the elements. This also is a chapter in the book, described in detail. We have the elements of earth, air, fire, and water, and they may become very unbalanced. Most of you experience anger as a fire-heavy emotion. Most of you experience confusion as an air- and wind-heavy emotion, ungrounded.

When you work with the elements, and this is spelled out in the book, it's important to remember that it is not this element versus that one versus that one versus that one, but about balance. Each element contains all the elements. Fire also contains earth, air, and water in a balanced ratio. The balance for fire is different than the balance for water.

If you're feeling listless, lacking energy, you might ask, where is my fire energy in this moment? How can I bring in more fire? If you're feeling tossed around, confused, ungrounded, look for the earth element. Look for it in all the elements, though, not just earth itself; but for a start, simply grounding yourself into the earth can help. If you're very devoid of energy, grounding into the earth and bringing in more fire energy can help. And so forth.

This is a very broad topic. We could spend three or four days working with the elements, as we did with the two-year program. In that program we had people sitting out on the beach by the lake, in the sun; we handed each person a big mass of clay. They could make anything they wanted with it, punch holes in it, knead it. It was terracotta, water-based clay. Everybody had water. They could add water to it, and it became very wet. They could let it bake in the sun, and it became drier. I asked them to spend about an hour just working with the clay and then to feel themselves as the clay. Was there too much water in the system? Were they baking, too much fire? Not enough earth? Not enough wind? What was needed for balance?

So as they felt it in the clay, I asked them to get the clay to the consistency of their own energy field and then see what was needed to bring it into a just-right balance. It helped people to feel it in the clay and then feel it in their own energy fields.

Once you understand the elements better, when a strong emotion comes up, immediately ask yourself, what elements are out of balance here? Knowing your intention for the highest good and with love, what do you wish to invite in to bring the elements into better balance so that you're better able to function in this moment in a clear, openhearted way?

Work with the elements. Work with the chakras. I did not mention here the fifth element, akasha. I have been generating many transcripts on akasha and the akashic field this fall. I'm not going to talk about it at all tonight. For those of you who are eager to know more, the transcripts from Seattle are filled with talks about akasha, five days' worth, and Barbara is reviewing them now. Look on the Deep Spring website under “akasha” or “akashic field”. You'll find a lot of information about it, for those of you who are interested. It's not of interest to everybody.

So these are some basics: intention, mindfulness, working with your guidance, working with chakras, with the elements, and with vipassana practice. With all of these tools, I deeply hope that you will find yourself in a more clear space when strong resistance arises, not so reactive to it but remembering, “I don't have to succumb to this, I don't have to take it personally. The old habitual pattern is just to get swept away by it, and I'm not going to do that anymore. I have tools now. I know how to work with this.” And then do it. And don't ask yourself to do it perfectly, just to begin. Every learning comes gradually.

I'm going to pause here and hear your questions. Thank you.

(Aaron notes that side 2 of the cassette tape never started so did not record.)

I would love to do an exercise with you, but I fear there may be too many of you to do it. (counting)... possible, but a bit crowded. Let's talk first and then in the last 20 minutes, if we feel so moved, we'll push all the chairs to one side, clear the floor, and try an exercise.

(pause with no questions) Please don't be shy. There are no bad questions. (long pause)

Q: I get the Daily Quotes and one of them talks about how allowing abuse to yourself is not compassionate. So I'm learning about how to say no without contraction or fear. Could you talk a little about that?

Aaron: Thank you. It's really the heart of what I've been speaking of tonight. First you have to know that there is fear, anger, and contraction. Once you know that the push has brought up contraction, you can observe how you're relating to that contraction.

Whether there is judgment or anger at the self or anger at the catalyst, at the one who is pushing or abusing, when you say no with anger toward self or other, it's just more anger. But also, if you simply collapse and let them beat you over the head, that's not compassionate. How do we say no with kindness?

A well-known Buddhist teacher, Sharon Salzburg, tells a wonderful story. She was in India on retreat and she had to go into the town to renew her visa. She was riding in some kind of a cart and somebody was bicycling in the front of it. She was in a narrow street and men jumped out and began to hit at her as if to harm her and steal her things. She didn't know what to do. Here she had spent weeks on a metta (loving kindness) retreat working with these phrases of loving kindness. What was she going to do? The bicycle driver ran off; she was alone with these men. They were beating her. She eventually extricated herself and got away. So she came to her teacher and she told him what had happened, and he said, “Sharon, with all the love in your heart, you should have taken your umbrella and beaten them over the head with it until they left you alone!”

But there was that first part of the phrase, “with all the love in your heart”. It cannot be done with hatred or it simply inspires more hatred. When it's done with kindness, it has a very different energy to it.

Now, most of us are not going to have to beat people over the head with umbrellas. (To AM) Pretend you're beating me over the head, two hands... “No, you may not do that to me. (making strong eye contact and with a sense of friendly curiosity, not aversion)  Why are you beating me? What harm have I done to you? If I have hurt you in some way, let me know so I can make amends, but don't beat me.” So we can speak with kindness in that way. If I let her keep beating me over the head, it's very unwholesome karma for her and for me. She becomes the one who beats people and I become the one who enables that.

How can you apply what I've said to your life? Tomorrow, something's going to come up that brings resistance, tension, or fear. What then? (some discussion; not recorded) 

Q: What does one do when you have physical pain and you are trying to look the physical pain but you cannot move physically out of it? It's a conundrum, a puzzle. What is the space that you create so that you can look at the pain and go, “Okay, now...”?

Aaron: I think one has to distinguish between the physical sensation and the aversion to the sensation. The physical sensation may be very unpleasant and it's not going to go away just because you notice it. But when you notice the strong aversion to the sensation and relax around that aversion, then there is much less physical discomfort because there is so much less tension held in the body.

I'd like you all to try an experiment with me. I'd ask you to hold an arm up, palm up if possible, straight out. Just hold it out. At first there's no pain, but probably for most of you, in less than a minute you'll start to feel an ache, heaviness. Breathing in and aware of the heaviness, “uncomfortable; unpleasant.” Watch the sensation carefully and see if you can feel when the predominant object shifts from the discomfort in the arm or shoulder to aversion itself. Please keep your arms up.

See if you can feel the shift from sensation to aversion. There will be a moment when the aversion, “I don't want this. I don't like this,” an emotional tension, becomes predominant over the physical sensation. Can you feel that shift? (most nodding yes)

Now bring attention to the aversion. “Breathing in, I am aware of the aversion. Breathing out, I smile to the aversion. This body does not want to feel pain. This human does not want to feel pain. This is the human condition, that the body experiences discomfort. Can I open my heart to this, not just for myself but for all humans, all sentient beings really? Can I find the immense spaciousness to hold this physical discomfort for myself and all beings?”

Watch as the heart opens from the aversion. The predominant object will again be the sensation. It's still not pleasant but can you feel that there's more space with it? In the unpleasant sensation, just unpleasant sensation without the extra weight of the aversion and the stories. Can you feel the difference?

You may put your arms down. Tell me what you experienced.

Q: I could not get there.

Aaron: Okay. Practice with it at home. Practice not just with sensations of pain but with any discomfort, physical , emotional or mental. Feel the sensation or thought and then the arising unpleasant feeling and movement to aversion. Try to watch carefully for the distinction between the sensation and its unpleasantness. See the movement in the mind and the whole body, picking up aversion. Can there be unpleasant sensation without tension in the body, without fighting the unpleasant sensation? Just knowing, “This is how it is right now. It's impermanent, it will pass. Right now it's unpleasant.” Just watch it.

As you watch the sensation, begin to see how it changes. There's pulsation, then it goes. There's throbbing and then that goes. And the mind steels itself against it. What if one is simply relaxed?

A wonderful place to practice this is getting your teeth cleaned, which is a somewhat unpleasant sensation. I'm not talking about deep dental surgery that can be very painful, but just the scraping and so forth of getting your teeth cleaned. You find yourself with your fists clenched, there on the dentist's chair. Breathe; relax. In scraping, just scraping. A little bit of stinging, digging, pricking, pain. Unpleasant. Make space for it.

What else did some of you experience as you did that arm exercise?

Q: As the unpleasantness built, I started feeling aversion and impatience, and with that, the discomfort in the arm became much worse. There was actually almost a flash of heat. And then when I consciously looked at that and breathed into it and relaxed and stopped the stories, then the arm cooled down and I was able to continue.

Aaron: Thank you. I am happy you had that experience.

Sometimes when there's an intense pain of one sort or another, simply imagining all the beings in the world who at this moment have a severe cut that just needed stitches, or broke their arm or leg, holding the pain within you for all beings, holding the space for that pain, wishing healing to all sentient beings who are experiencing that pain can bring an openhearted softness in which there's space around the very difficult sensation. Others?

Q: I noticed that when the tension and heaviness started to build and I acknowledged that sensation without judgment, just acknowledging what I was feeling, then I felt an expansion and a lightness and it would become more variable. Then it would rise again and I would do the same thing, acknowledge it, and then it would dissipate. And I had the sense that I could probably do that for quite awhile as long as I just stayed calm and relaxed into it.

Aaron: You really can do it for quite awhile. Eventually the physical body will simply become exhausted from an assault of ongoing pain and you may need medication of some sort or something to release some of the pain. But unless it's a very acute pain, if it's simply the ongoing pain of arthritic pain or a pulled muscle, the back out a bit, that kind of ongoing pain that people may have, making space for it in this way can help enormously.

I would ask you all to remember, though, that you are not doing this to fix the pain, you are doing this because your choice is to be negative and angry about the pain or to hold kindness to this human being experiencing pain. What are you going to choose? What habitual tendency do you want to reinforce?

So remember that the pain is a teacher, not an opponent. It's part of the experience of being in a body. There's going to be pain.

Another area of focus here is to ask yourself, “Where do I choose to place my attention?” If you have chronic pain, usually even with chronic pain it's not 24/7. When the pain arises, you notice it. Do you notice when it's not there? How many of you who have frequent headaches wake up in the morning and with joy, note, “Ah, I have no headache this morning. How wonderful!” How many of you with arthritis note that as you walk down a path, “My body doesn't hurt right now. What a gift!” Be aware of the times when the pain is gone, and grateful for those times.

Rest in the awareness that knows no pain as well as the consciousness of pain. This is a bit subtle. That which is aware of pain is not in pain. I'm going to say that again. That which is aware of pain is not in pain. Begin to cultivate that awareness that comes from an impersonal, deeply wise and loving part of you. We call it “no self”, the empty part of you, empty of the separate self but connected to everything. Cultivate that awareness.

When you rest firmly in that spacious awareness and pain arises, it simply comes up and dissolves away. There are not a lot of stories about it. It's just pain. Here it is. Unpleasant. Perhaps it would be skillful to take care of it, to put heat or ice on the knee, or stretch my body, or take an aspirin. I can do that. I'm taking care of the body in a skillful way. If the pain continues and deepens then perhaps you need to see a healthcare professional.

This kind of self-care goes very deep, though, because we're not only resolving the immediacy of the pain but releasing many of the conditions that have been held forever for that pain. We're releasing them karmically so the body doesn't tend to repeat those particular distortions so often.

Barbara had an experience that may or may not be in Cosmic Healing. Much was cut out of Cosmic Healing due to its length, and I don't remember if this was cut. But she had an abdominal hernia. When she was tense, or when she ate certain foods that created gas, the intestine would break out through the rip in the stomach wall, a big knot here, and cause terrible pain. All she could do was to lie down on her back and breathe and gently massage it, and it would finally fall back in. The doctor had said they weren't ready to operate on it yet. They wanted to wait six months and see if it healed in any way.

So she went through this trauma periodically. She began to see that when she felt the intestine beginning to push through and tensed, that tension pushed it through. As soon as she stopped and relaxed, it went back in where it belonged. She started to watch this over the course of a summer and observed how often she swallowed her tension, brought it down into the belly, so that the belly reacted.

She began to work energetically with the herniated area and with the intestine, to the point that it was pushing out maybe only once a month. She could feel the tear; she could really feel it getting smaller and smaller. A friend who works with chi energy helped a lot too. When they finally did surgery, they expected to have to sew a big patch to hold the edges together, and she would be hospitalized several days but the surgeon said the tissue was so healthy that he did not need a patch; he just stitched the edges of the very small opening together,  sewed the outer flesh back up, and sent her home.

You can work with your body in these ways. When there is a physical distortion in your body, there is usually some karma there. How many of you experience some kind of shoulder pain? Those of you who do, I'm going to make a loud noise. I'm warning you ahead of time that I'm going to make that noise, so you're forewarned, but you're still going to be startled by it, and I want you to watch what happens-- (shouts!)...

Where did your body contract? How many of you with shoulder pain found the contraction in the body in the shoulders? Watch this mindfully. When something upsets me, pushes at me, discomforts me, am I storing the tension in my shoulders? Those of you with belly problems, digestive issues and so forth, are you swallowing your tension? Did the belly react to my shout? Is this the habitual tendency? Those of you with chronic headaches, do you bring it up into the head?

You're not doing this to fix yourselves, you're doing this because your work here on the human plane is to learn kindness, and you are the ground for learning. You are your own area of experimentation. Watch and ask yourself, what is perpetuating this particular pain? And how can it be attended to in a more loving, openhearted, spacious way? What habitual patterns perpetuate it, and what might release it?

You'll note in my story that Barbara still needed the surgery. We're not talking about a miracle cure, although that can happen, too. But you are responsible for your healing. Your bodies are simply the ground for exploration.

Other questions?

Q: Regarding the exercise, I didn't see the switch to aversion, but I noticed that the pain wasn't predominant anymore. (the rest of the comment was lost off Skype; something about experiencing aversion)

Aaron: So the pain was not predominant; the aversion was not immediately predominant. There was contraction. As you brought attention to the contraction and gradually you began to know it as a form of aversion. Then there was more space around the aversion. The pain may have become predominant again but with a different texture. Some of you are nodding. Did some of you experience that, as you came back to the pain or physical sensation? In that heaviness of the shoulder, was there a different texture to it when there was less aversion? (yes)

This is what I want you to cultivate, the ability to distinguish between the sensation, the feeling of pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, and then the reactivity, the mental formations that come, such as aversion.

The exercise that I would love to have you do, if we had a room four times this size - perhaps some of you will want to do it on your own - is to make a circle of 6 or 7 people. One person stands in the center and the others around them. That person simply stands and drops backward, and the people behind catch him or her. They may then lift him or her up and push them forward, falling forward into the arms of the people on the other side. Moving them around. A number of you have done this with me here before.

It's a powerful exercise on watching resistance and the release of resistance, trusting that if you let yourself fall, you will be caught. Watch how the body stiffens up, which makes it hard to catch it, versus relaxing and simply letting yourself be moved.

I don't think it's realistic to break you into many groups, not enough space to do it in here. Perhaps we'll do it in small class in two weeks. Those of you who are not in the class, if you have friends who might like to try this with you, it's a wonderful exercise. Can you visualize what I'm saying? I'm sure some of you have done this before.

It helps you to get in touch with that which is innately open, trusting, and relaxed. We do have the small ego self that wants to control everything, and you live mostly from that self. And we also have the awakened self, which is always there, has always been there. Where would it go?

So this exercise can help you to connect to that awakened, relaxed self. You begin to feel the energy of the whole group around you without separation. You begin to feel the hands coming to catch you before they touch, just energetically. It's a very powerful experience.

Q: (finishing previous comment lost on Skype) I didn't see the switch to aversion, but I noticed that the pain wasn't predominant anymore so I looked to see what it was, and it WAS the aversion. The aversion was in a big space in my mind, and it was thick. A question. This goes back to the discussion before the exercise: is a contraction really just the chakras going into imbalance?

Aaron: It's a very complex mechanism. If I were to approach you with a sharp needle, you'd see me coming at you with this needle. You would already start to contract. When it touched your skin, the skin around this area would contract. I'm not plunging it into you, just touching, but it's sharp. It's felt as uncomfortable. The body on a cellular level contracts. You're a mammal; this is what the body does. This mammalian reflex does not carry karma in the same way-- the body's cellular karma, yes, but no emotional or mental karma there.

But when this same catalyst pushes at you again and again and again and the mind says, “No, I don't want this anymore. No more! No!” and strong aversion comes, then there's a shift emotionally. Then the chakras close. The chakras don't necessarily close with that first pinprick, it's just a startle reaction, and the chakras can reopen right away. We're not talking about closed versus open chakras so much as habitually imbalance chakras.

What habitual imbalances do you carry in the chakras? Each chakra has a specific function. Life force, in the belly. If you keep that chakra closed, you may find yourself depressed a lot, feeling helplessness, a lack of connection with people. What happens when you bring attention to that chakra and begin to invite it to express-- let me say this carefully. On one level, the chakra seems closed, but on another level it is always open. What happens when you bring attention to the innately balanced and open chakra and say, “I choose this, not the habitual pattern of the closed one”? The closed one is an illusion, a very real illusion on the human level, but it doesn't define you. The innately open chakras define you.

Dear ones, this is about non-duality, the non-duality of closed and open, of love and fear. Certain body sensations, emotions, and so forth, are much more innate to you, and others are entered because of habitual patterning. You are naturally an open energy system, and you learn the behavior of closing down. The contraction is more on the surface. It's experienced, and it may be the predominant experience, but you don't have to do anything to recreate the already open system, just to release self-identity with that which experiences itself as closed, and then the openness comes back.

It's like the sun on a cloudy day. The clouds cover the sun. You say, “Where did the sun go? Where did the blue sky go?” Well, the universe hasn't changed. The sun is still in the sky. The blue sky is still there. When the clouds move, they'll be back. We don't try to fix the sky. So we don't fix the chakras, we reach into the chakras and find that which is innately open, and we begin to pay attention to the habitual patterns wherein we bring the experience of closure. “What do I gain from this closure?” you might ask yourself. If the belly were not closed, if I were not thusly armored, what am I afraid might happen? In what way do I think I gain safety by armoring the belly or the heart? What if I open this very tender heart? Am I afraid of that? Begin to ask yourself these questions.

For those who are not part of the class, I thank you for sitting through what has been a longer than usual lecture, perhaps with new material that challenges you. Please feel free to read our class notes of the in-between weeks, which will be online... Please feel free to work with this material in whatever way is appropriate.

For the class, work with this. This is your homework. Watch what closes you up. Watch what supports the reawakening into your innate openness. Watch your intention and ask yourself continuously, “Which do I choose, armoring or openness?” And if you choose armoring, ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” And “Who is afraid? What if in this moment I allow myself to be vulnerable?” You say you want connection with each other and the Earth, but you cannot find that connection through your armor. Are you willing to take the risk to even consider the dropping away of the armor and reconnecting, to yourselves and to each other?

I'm going to release the body to Barbara. I thank you for this time that I've shared with you. My deepest blessings and love to all of you.

For the class, please do the reading and attend to this homework. The class is not about concept but practice. If you're going to experience real deepening in yourselves, you've got to do the work.

Thank you. For those who are new, we take hands in this way so that Barbara has some human energy to ground on as she returns into the body.

(Barbara reincorporates; pause while she reorients her self)

Barbara: Aaron is asking me to say a word, here... I feel a gentle nudge from him, saying “I'm going to release the body.” I've just been in a very quiet, light-filled space. When I feel that nudge, just as I challenge before I release the body to him, I also kind of put out a tester, testing the energy, stating the intention to return into a highly positively polarized body with gratitude to spirit and to the humans who are holding this body in a loving field. So I experience the body as a beautiful light-filled container that I can then drop into.

Occasionally there's some negativity there. When there is, I wait until Aaron tells me it's safe to return to the body. He will not release the body until the negativity is gone, so as to protect the body from any negativity entering the body while it's unoccupied, if I could put it in that way. So I feel very well taken care of, well loved and protected by spirit as Aaron incorporates and as he releases the body back to me again.

That's all. Class is in two weeks. As Aaron said, please do the homework. Please practice with what he was doing tonight...

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