February 22, 2012 Wednesday, Cosmic Healing Class

Barbara: You have all read the chapters on karma, so we're going to assume you understand that and start from there. There's so much that can be said about karma, it's hard to know where to begin. There are many different facets of karma. Basically karma is habitual pattern that flows into action of some sort and compounds itself. Aaron has some demonstrations that he's going to show you when he comes into the body.

I'm going to say something a little bit out of order of the progression of teaching here tonight because Aaron says he doesn't want to come in, then return the body to me and then come back in. So he's asking me to share this first. This is something that I was learning about karma in Brazil.

I was looking at karma and a specific karmic tendency I had. This is my karmic tendency but each of you could find something that's similar. Sitting in the Current Room (at the Casa in Brazil) and feeling some kind of uncomfortable body sensation or thought, something pushing at me, I had the almost immediate impulse to figuratively push back. It wasn't that I was going to get up and start pushing, but my energy field was pushing back.

I started to look at this in myself and with Aaron. It came in my dreams too. The karmic tendency I was seeing was to resist a flow rather than move with it. I asked, what if that flow is unwholesome? What if there are a lot of angry people, a mob, storming down the street? I can't just let myself be pushed along, I need to turn around and push my way back. I could see myself standing in a stream, pushing back against the stream, fighting the current. But Aaron pointed out if the current is strong it's just going to bowl me over, and it's going to increase the unwholesome karma for the people who crash into me and knock me over. He said, get out of the stream and walk up along the shore.

This amazed me. It's a way I rarely looked at it, that if we want to oppose a certain flow of energy, we don't have to turn around and push or even just stand our ground to oppose it. He said, get up, walk along the stream bank until you reach the still pool where the water is just coming up from its deep spring, and put yourself back into the water up there. Hold the positive and loving energy up there and if people, like lemmings, are pouring off the bank and into the stream and running downstream, let them. Just hold the energy at the top.

I realized I had previously misunderstood. If I was angry, and others were also angry, I believed I had to go to a place where there was no anger by working through or “fixing” the anger. But what Aaron was saying was just get out of the river of anger. Go upstream on the shore to the place where anger is not happening and then just sit quietly. This is what we teach in meditation, but I could see the ways I wasn't doing it. For me here, the unwholesome karmic tendency was to believe in ‘fixing' rather than going to the place of stillness. I wasn't trusting of and living the simultaneity of motion and stillness, although I gave it lip service.

I would like you to remember this in about 20-30 minutes as Aaron talks about karma. He will refer to it but he said it's my story and he wanted me to tell how I had experienced it. It was very powerful for me in many different ways. I kept climbing out of that river, walking up the bank, finding the place where the water was still, and climbing back in and just holding the space in that still water, over and over again. I saw the same principle held true whether it was my river or a group river. If a group is angry, step out of the anger rather than trying to fix it. When I was personally experiencing doubt or fear, step out of that river and go to the still pool above.

This is from my Brazil journal, added as I review the transcript.

From Brazil journal 2/17/2012, resting and sleeping in my room after surgery:

Dreams; I was in a hospital for eye surgery. First I said no, entities are doing that and was told, “yes, we are here. We are the Entities!” There was a Theravada monk in the next chair (not a bed, a lounge chair) and we began to talk about dharma and especially about karma....

So the entities operated on my eyes and this very old and centered monk and I talked dharma, all in the dream. It was about karma and how we change each karmic stream with loving attention, in ourselves and onward through the entire earth.

A deep dharma of love

Big picture - changing the earth, one heartbeat at a time...

The next dream - these were really teaching dreams. Angry people; negativity. Felt I was in a river being swept along and wanted to swim against the current of negativity.  Spirit said, “no, go the shore and get out, walk back along the river bank; do not push against the stream”

I asked in the dream, don't we have to push against the stream, as with the Nazis. (Was I asleep or awake? I'm not sure but the memory of the dialogue is clear; Aaron says I was asleep), Aaron said, walk up to the clear pool before the negativity starts to pollute the stream and enter there. Add your energy to that still pool.  That shapes the essence of the stream/

I asked do we not sometimes have to ‘buck' the stream.

He said sometimes it may seem the only thing to do, such as if you are handed a gun and told to shoot someone; you will need to say no. If you are in such a situation, you have some karma that led you there; the saying no and your own probable death are ways that balance the karma

But more often, it is best to simply slip out, and go back to that still pool, and join the loving essence there, that will gradually change the waters.

There was much discussion of this, through many hours, waking, dozing again. I will try to add it when I may read. These brief notes are enough to prompt my memory.

2/18 (adding some thoughts here, still in no-reading mode so brief)

B: Aaron, will you talk more about this?

A: The first impulse is often to “buck the stream,” to push back when pushed. This just further agitates the stream waters. It takes awareness of that pushing impulse, awareness of tension, to slip out of the stream and walk back to the literal and figurative still pool. That way you do not enhance the rough waters, but instead, support the stillness.  

B: I gather you mean this literally, such as if someone strongly disagrees with me, instead of speaking up, defending or pursuing my vision and trying to help them understand, I am better to let go and just step back.

A: If they cannot hear you and you sense they will not be able to hear you at that time, let it go. Do not let go of your vision, but of trying to impart that vision to a consciousness not yet able to receive it. Go and plant your vision in the still pool where it can filter down and touch the non-hearer.  

If you persist to try to push your vision downstream, you can feel the added tension in you and those not ready to hear. What good does that do?

B: Isn't that what I did though, on freedom rides and in civil disobedience for peace?

A: No; you stayed there and continued because although those immediately present could not hear you, others “listening” at a distance (though social and news media for example) could hear. Here we would need to discuss Satyagraha in depth. If you are able to, not buck the stream, which creates agitation, but stand your ground and hold that ground with love, that is very different. That is resting in the still pool.

Please meditate on these ideas before we speak further.

Back to the class transcript:

Okay. At this point we'll let Aaron come in. He will talk and he will bring this little story in where it's appropriate.

(Aaron incorporates)

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. Karma. An immense topic. We're not going to do more than scratch the surface tonight, and yet if you have read the chapter in Cosmic Healing and have contemplated karma in your own life, you've already scratched deep through the surface.

First, let us define karma. Barbara's river metaphor is useful but there's not just one river. There are innumerable rivers flowing out from your center, and each of them defines a distinct habitual tendency. Karma is very specific. You may have a tendency to impatience, that's one possible karmic tendency. You may have a tendency to self-judgment, and other kinds of karmic tendencies; impulsiveness, feelings of unworthiness, and so on and so on. Each is distinct and yet they blend together.

Let's say I have an habitual tendency to walk in a straight line, and nothing will deter me from that straight line. So I walk... (walking) I'm not about to go around. So I walk... (walking) C, will you stand up here. C is more flexible. I'm not flexible so I'm walking. C is going to step aside. I walk again. I get used to the fact that whenever I'm coming, whatever is in my way is going to step aside. This inflexibility becomes my habitual mode of action.

It is not without result, though, because C is going to take the pad and she's going to put a sticky note on me each time she steps aside. And we do it again, and again. (keeps bumping into C; invites a second walker) Take another sticky note pad... (bumping; doing; pause; laughter; they are both piling on the sticky notes each time they step aside and Aaron passes) Put one on my eye. Now it makes it hard—I can't really see! It's starting to get more and more difficult to just keep walking straight. Eventually I decide that maybe I need to be a little bit more flexible because I'm covered with sticky notes and I'm starting to get burdened down, I'm weighed down with them.

I stop and I reflect that this pattern is causing discomfort for me. What if I were a bit more flexible? So I walk, see the obstacle in front of me and I make the decision, “Okay, I can go around it.” No sticky note! I go around the obstacle. I keep walking. Sometimes I do keep walking with no flexibility and pick up another sticky note, sometimes I am more flexible. But as I meditate and reflect on this, I note the importance to let go of doing it just my way, that it's possible to be more flexible. And as I gain in flexibility, the sticky notes begin to fall off... (shaking them off)  I'm lightened again! Thank you both.

Now this is just one stream of karma: lack of flexibility. Another related one, I could have had 10 of you up here—self-centeredness. You could see how self-centeredness and lack of flexibility go together. But they're two separate karmic streams that interplay. If I'm less self-centered, I become more flexible. If I intend to become more flexible, I must regard self-centeredness.

Unworthiness. Sometimes people who feel unworthy are determined to do it their own way because they're so afraid that they're unworthy. Does that make sense to you? In a kind of odd way, if I feel unworthy, I want my own way about everything. Then I become inflexible.

Control fits here with all the other streams. The inflexible person is controlling; he/ she is insensitive to others; self-centered, and often with feelings of unworthiness underneath. Various karmic streams weave together.

At the point where all of these sticky notes start to wear you down, or, said a different way, where carrying these patterns and the results of these patterns starts to wear you down, at a certain point it starts to become too uncomfortable and then you ask yourself, what is creating all this discomfort? You don't have to know the origins of it in this or a past life, only to see that pattern and to make the decision, “I could let this go. I can pay more attention to tensions as they arise and not enact them.” And as I did in the demonstration, “I can begin to step aside from others rather than being so inflexible. I can soften and pay more attention to others' needs.”

As I do that, I begin to release the karma, and the sticky notes falling off. In other words, the unwholesome results of the old karma begin to fall away.  I still need to balance that karma, though, once it's fully released. So here I am, the one who is very inflexible. Two volunteers? Any two. Who wants to be inflexible? So now I'm the observer who has understood his past karma, released it, and seeks to balance it. You are walking, same thing...And I'm observing. I see how inflexible you are. And as I see you walking, I gently come up and guide you around each other. You might reflect, “Oh, I didn't think of that. I could go around.” Do it again. This time you may walk right into him... And then again I gently help you to realize another possibility, so you go around.

Now I'm balancing the karma, in this case by teaching another. I could balance the karma another way. I could simply take your arm and we could stroll together so that I'm helping you to see the pattern and develop a slightly different pattern. Again, it's teaching, in a sense, but I'm not necessarily talking about it, simply guiding you. Then I let go and see what happens... A little more flexibility.

Now as you walk toward K, I'm going to do something else, gently guiding you around K and to me. So I take up the position of the one who is receiving the impact of the karma. Another way of balancing. Again, teaching-- teaching by example; teaching by assistance. Thus we balance karma. We release karma and we balance karma. And they must come together; it's not enough just to release it. We also need to balance the old karma. Thank you both.

Karma is specific. If I am inflexible in one area of my life, probably I'm inflexible in many areas of my life. If I keep blaming others for the fact that I continually walk into brick walls, saying, “Why is that in my way? Why are they building obstacles where I want to walk?,” I'm going to get very bruised.

At the point where I begin to consider maybe, just maybe, there's something I need to pay attention to here, I start to see that the brick walls have been there all along. They weren't building them as I approached. Rather, I was so focused on where I want to go, not seeing my own inflexibility, that I never stopped to look around me.

I'm using this as one example of karma. There are so many areas that we could talk about. Attachment, greed, fear, confusion, doubt, these are all areas in which there is a specific karmic stream, and it shows up in many different aspects of your life. If you're inflexible, it's not just that you walk into brick walls, it's that when you're walking in a path through the woods and you have in your mind, “My goal is that way,” and a sign says, “This Way” to where you wanted to go, you say, “No, couldn't be,” and you end up lost in the woods. Then you are angry and blame others, “Why are there not clearer signs?” Similarly, driving. It says Jackson is that way. “Well, I've always gone to Jackson down this road so I'll go this way,” and you end up in Hell (in Michigan, near Jackson). (laughter) Figuratively and literally.

We stop in our practice and notice that lack of flexibility. What does it mean to be so inflexible? What if I were able to listen more deeply to other people? What if I were able to see more broadly? What blocks that? And thus we begin to investigate the karma.

We start with it because we're so burdened down with these sticky notes and there is enough discomfort that it finally catches our attention. How much do you need to suffer before you pay attention?

Barbara tells a wonderful story. This was 10 or 15 years ago. She was visiting a monastery in England at the invitation of the monk who was the abbot there. They were walking in a big meadow beyond the monastery, just walking and talking together. Barbara was wearing the kind of fleece clothes that picked up all the burrs, and she had knitted mittens on.

As they walked through the field, there were many big, sharp burrs sticking to her pants. She began to reach over with her mittened hands to pull them off; then they stuck to the mittens. She reached with her other hand to pull it off the first mitten. Ajahn was broken up with laughter. “What are you doing!” She said, “Well I'm covered with burrs and I'm trying to get them off!” He said, “It's the nature of the burrs to stick to your clothes. The harder you try to pull them off, the deeper they're going to stick.” Her gloves were thick with these now; her pants were thick with them. He said, “Leave them alone. They'll fall off in their own time. Stop fretting over them.”

This is perfect advice for karma. You have to pay attention to it. She began to be more aware and not walk into the burr patches, to walk around them. They walked for an hour or two. Gradually she began to find the places in the fields where they weren't so thick. But also, when one did catch, to leave it alone and realize it would fall off. When they were just touching lightly and she walked a dozen steps, they would tumble off.

We must pay attention to the karma that we perpetuate, see the whole pattern of picking up and perpetuating that karma, and then let it be, trusting our loving attention as being the only force that's needed for it to begin to release itself. Of course, it might need a little bit of help. When she got back to her room and took off these pants and her mittens, she pulled out the last bits of the burrs, but most of them were gone.

Let's come to Barbara's story, then, of pushing upstream. Think of a karmic tendency that you have. Wanting to control. Feeling unworthy or afraid. Being uncomfortable trying new things. Finding it difficult to keep your mouth closed and just listen to what others are staying rather than forcing your way in. Finding it difficult to speak up when it would be appropriate to speak up. If I haven't touched on one that strikes you personally, find your own. Let's use Barbara's image, though.

She had been experiencing a number of negative people, not in her group but elsewhere in a few different situations where she had stopped to talk to people. People were experiencing a lot of anger, fear, negativity, and what came up for Barbara was a fix-it energy. This is where the image came of being pushed downstream with others' negativity and feeling she had to turn herself around and push her way back upstream came in. But when she tried to speak rationally to people who were afraid or angry, they didn't want to hear it. The more they didn't want to hear it, the more she felt she had to speak up. And this is where I said: get out of the river. If they're going to be walking down the river angry, so be it.

She was also looking at her own subtle impulse to control, wanting this or that from the Entity, unable to fully relax with things as they were and to trust, and then the impulse to push herself around, with “I should” and such thoughts. She saw all this as a very old karmic thread.

You do not need to let yourself get carried along by going with the stream or by fighting the stream, which carries another kind of contraction, fighting, contracted. Simply climb up on the bank and walk on that peaceful, lovely bank. Watch the flowing river raging, tearing downstream. Go back up to where the water is still and get back in there, finding a place of quiet. By that metaphor I meant finding the place within herself, which did not need to push back when she was pushed, and which did not worry about, “Am I doing harm if I don't push back?” It is a place of deep knowing and trust.

Think of a mob, angry people. They want to go down there and throw stones at people. Sometimes you have to say no, of course, but right there with a hundred screaming fanatics with stones, if you stand there and say, “No, you can't do that,” you're likely just going to be stoned.

Barbara said, “I can't just stand there with them stoning innocent people.” Here we get into a subtle area of karma, that subtle contraction, “Need to fix it, need to fix it, need to fix it.” Anybody here who doesn't know that contraction? “Ahhh... feeling contracted, I attend to this karmic stream.” It's not that you cease to say no to negativity in the world, it's that you say no in a different way by anchoring yourself back in that still pool in which peacefulness, ease, and joy are manifesting, and trust that that joy and ease and spaciousness will gradually touch the crowd.

I am not suggesting you ignore agitation, anger and violence in your world, or in your self, but that you regard the karmic tendency in the self to fix, or more subtly, to control , and that you find a clearer way to address the negativity

Now let's try another exercise, here. Could we have 4 angry people? You don't have to be truly angry, just willing to represent them. Okay, you're down there, the angry people. We're doing something down here that you don't like. It's okay to yell. I want to see you angry. Now I want 2 people to hold the peace here with me. Who will be peaceful with me? Come up and stand with me.

They are angry. They're agitated. They're going to throw rocks. They want to hurt you. First we're going to walk toward them yelling back, “No! No! No!” (demonstrating) They become more agitated. They more we say no, the more agitated they become.

Now let's back up. They're agitated. Join hands (peacemakers). Let's form a circle here. They're still angry. They're agitated. Just hold the space. Let them be as agitated as they need to be. (sounds of agitated people calming down). (Invites another person up, and into the center of the circle of peacemakers) This is the one they want to attack. We're just holding a circle around her. We're not going to let them attack her, and we're not going to attack them. (To her) You relax. We're protecting you. We're shielding you. We love you. How long can they keep up that agitation?

(continues demonstration. After a few minutes the agitators calm down).

Thank you all...

We can't fully carry out this exercise. We'd have to stand here for several days, perhaps, before the angry ones began to release some of their anger. But the demonstration is to show that when you walk up the stream bank, re-enter that still pool, and hold the space there, gradually all the agitation downstream begins to calm itself.

This is the core of Gandhi's satyagraha. Satyagraha means soul force. You are using that force of your own most centered and loving being to say no, not using agitation or anger or fear or power to say no. I shouldn't say “not power” because that soul force has the most power, but it's not a personal power.

Here we're getting more into group karma, national karma, political karma, how to say no to people who are angry and intend harm to other people. To do that you must find the place in yourself that's able to get out of the river, walk upstream, and re-enter that still pool. You cannot shift the karma, your own or that in the world, as long as you're involved in that hyperactivity and fear, that contraction. You must take yourself out of the place of contraction. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about violence among nations, violence among individuals, or your own unwholesome karmic streams that sometimes bring up rigidity, fear, inflexibility, and won't step aside for others, etc.

The way we attend to it is: 1) to see that it's happening in ourselves and in the world, 2) to understand how we have participated in that karma in the past, and 3) to be willing literally to take ourselves out of the river and go back upstream to the still pool.

People would say to me, “But if I'm in the still pool, how can I do anything about the violence that's going on down there?” But the water is running past you and flowing down. It's picking up particles of your calmness and bringing them downstream to the place where there's agitation. Gradually it's going to catch on. Agitation will never calm agitation, only love and calmness will calm agitation. And the same is true of any thread of karma that you may see in yourself, that you always must come back to the place that's free of that particular karmic stream. See that possibility of living from that place. Hold that space. And then invite the release of the unwholesome karma.

Let's have some questions now, and then I'll speak more of other aspects of karma.  I'm happy to be as general, universal, or as specific as you wish.

Q: We just went through the (lost; recorder falls; asking about his work at the Casa) One of my intentions was to have the entities help release karma associated with a physical problem. Would they help release it but I still need to balance it? Or is it all done? Or what?

Aaron: It is not all done, Q. The balancing is something that will go on for a long time. They will help release it. Often their help in releasing will be to lead you directly into situations that bring up the impulses related to that karma. So instead of feeling easier, suddenly everything becomes a struggle. Everything that triggers the karma is suddenly right there in your face. Why? Well, they are helping by bringing the catalyst to you so you can pay better attention to it. As I paced up and down, if there was nobody in my way, I'd never have to face my inflexibility. But as soon as people are moving about, then I have to be aware of my inflexibility, or of my stories about why everybody is always in my way.

There's more to it. Some of the more mature and powerful of these entities do have the ability literally to lift karma from you. They will not do it for you so much as with you. So that when you're in the situation, to come back to the demonstration, where suddenly there are hundreds of people blocking your way and you're saying, “Why is everybody always in my way? Maybe I'm a bit inflexible. I'd like to learn how to go around people more easily and be more sensitive to them,” you get that far, then spirit begins to help you. It's not that it removes the catalyst so much as that you feel the embrace of spirit, the love of spirit, and you also feel the wisdom that says, “I could just step aside, here. It's okay. I can just step aside. I can let go, here.” In terms of very old karma, sometimes they literally take that karma into themselves and release it so that you are dealing more with the current karma and less with the past lifetimes of karma. So, there are some of the entities that have the ability to do that.

Q: Something mundane. Make dinner. Carrying it to the table. It falls on the floor. Overreaction. Took the utensil (spatula), smashed it, threw it, broke it. Wanting to blame. Trying to figure out how I could blame (husband). (Aaron: He did not accept the blame, I hope!) Obvious negativity and overreaction. I assume some karma.

Aaron: Let's unpack this whole story. First, possibly some karma in the dish falling to the floor, but one has to understand what that is about. At some level there was an intention, perhaps, to see the potential for patience and kindness to the self, compassion to the self. I'm not looking in the akashic records here, but perhaps in some past life you were a servant and dropped a dish and were beaten for dropping it. So perhaps this came up karmically as a way to invite you to explore the potential for compassion.

But compassion didn't come, anger came. If anger comes, can there be compassion with the anger? So here we're back to the vipassana practice. That which is aware of anger is not angry. This is a different stream of karma: how one reacts to anger. One stream is, can there be compassion for the self when there's tension? One is the reaction to anger and the whole stream of conditioning as to how one reacts to anger. “In this moment, can I be patient and kind with myself, even as I throw the spatula and break it: this anger is intense. It's so intense that I'm led to wanting to blame somebody and to break something. It's so painful to let myself feel the depth of that anger, helplessness. I could not prevent the dish from falling and breaking. Helpless, frustrated, angry.” Can there be compassion for all of that?

As soon as you stop, pause and breathe and note how deep the frustration, helplessness, feelings, and anger are, just with that tiniest bit of space for the self experiencing this, you shift that karmic stream.

So, there's no use looking in past lives to see, why did I drop the dish? The question is, in this moment in this situation, what learning is possible in a positive way? When habitual reactions come up in this kind of situation, and seeing that they're hurtful to oneself and to others, what else is possible? And here you can choose to release the old karmic stream of getting caught in self blame, helplessness or frustration, with old stories of wrongness of the self or of others .

It's so powerful that doing it once has a huge effect. You do not have to do it 10,000 times because you've been angry 10,000 times, or felt helpless or frustrated 10,000 times. One opening has an enormous effect. It shifts the whole karmic stream and reminds you the next time a dish falls, “Ah, we've been here before. This time, can I do it with even more kindness?” It's not that anger will cease to come up, it's that there's a bigger container for the anger, not feeling so helpless with the anger.

You begin to touch into that which is innately compassionate in the self. Knowing that innate compassion is the way of coming back into that still pool at the top of the stream. Resting there. Watching this overwhelmed human, as all of you are at times overwhelmed. Feeling so frustrated. Imagine making a dinner and having it crash to the floor. Very, very frustrating. It doesn't really matter whether it was a sandwich or something you worked over for hours. Still, there it went.

Now, I'm bringing this in hypothetically and not because I think it relates to your karma. I don't see you as somebody who is always impeding yourself, blocking yourself. I don't see that at all. But for somebody who is constantly creating things and then figuratively dropping them, not able to manifest what you hope to manifest because, for one reason or another, it all falls apart again and again and again, that's a different kind of karma. Then the question is not about how do I relate to this frustration so much as, why am I sabotaging myself constantly? That's a different karmic stream. So we look at whatever karmic stream is most predominant and ask ourselves, what is this about? What do I get out of constantly sabotaging my efforts? Breaking things, dropping things, losing things. Okay?

Q: The idea of balancing karma versus releasing it, could you just explain a little bit more about the difference?

Aaron: Let me explain it through Barbara. Through many lifetimes in which the consciousness was immersed in dharma, through one tradition or another. In many of those lifetimes the teaching that was learned and followed was more of refusal to acknowledge certain unwholesome mind states. There's a statement in the sutras, “Abandon the unwholesome.” We've batted around in classes many times, what “abandoned” means. In the Buddhist book called Visuddhi Magga, which is a commentary on the sutras, the slant that is taken in that time—in Sri Lanka, more than a thousand years ago—was: one will not have these mind states.

Many years ago on a month-long retreat with a very well-known Burmese meditation master, in the private interview he asked her to speak about her practice. As she spoke, describing noting as strong,  he said, “That is good. You are noting well what is arising. Continue to note, and vigilance will stop the unwholesome from arising.” So the idea was, if we warily watch it, constantly, with vigilance, we can stop the arising. It's like watching over restless children with a stick in your hand, so they will not move because you are watching, Do they eventually truly settle down, or only as long as vigilance watches?   

This was taught in many Buddhist cultures including those that Barbara experienced. Barbara in past lives actually wrote books and treatises asking people to control in this way. Now in this lifetime the predominant learning for her has been what she teaches here: be present with everything with an open heart. If anger arises, note anger. That which is aware of anger is not angry. There must be both compassion for the human that's experiencing anger and disengagement with the self as the one who is angry, resting in that spaciousness and watching how anger arose out of conditions and will pass away.

When I first met Barbara, she was caught up in anger about her deafness and not knowing what to do with all that anger. My first work with her was to teach her to let go of the self-identity with anger and hold that space of kindness, while open with compassion to the real human experience of anger. In those years, she released both the whole sense of the self who was angry, released the frustration about the arising of anger and learned to just watch it, know it had arisen from conditions, and learned how to rest in spaciousness and with compassion for the one in whom anger was still triggered on occasion. That released it the karmic tendencies, both of anger and of control.

Then came the possibility to teach. I said to her, this is the perfect opportunity to balance the karma by teaching it to others. So most of what she does here is balancing her old karma. As you learn it, it helps her balance her karma.

For most of you, whatever is dearest to your heart in ways of personal growth, you're probably balancing your karma in those areas. As you teach others kindness, patience, generosity, and so forth, you're probably teaching what you've most been working to learn, and balancing it now as you release that karma.

Q: I have a tendency sometimes to worry when I'm trying to fall asleep at night. Most recently, I have a friend who has had a psychotic break and I am worried about her and her family. I am aware of the worry and acknowledge it and can create some space around it, at night lying in bed. And then within minutes, it's back again. And I'm worried again. It seems to go on and on, until 3am.

Aaron: Several points here, Q. First, when you're “trying to fall asleep” and these worries come, sit up in bed and stop trying to fall asleep. Simply meditate. Be aware of tension, contraction, fear. What is this worrying mind? Feel the agitation in it, like a dog grabbing something and shaking it, won't let go. See the mind that won't let go.

Then invite compassion for this human. You love animals. Bring forth an image, here. Your favorite dog has found himself a dog biscuit in a jar. He's stuck his long nose in the jar and he's got the biscuit in his mouth, but the biscuit is too big to come out of the opening of the jar. So he's stuck there. He's worrying at the biscuit; he's yelping; he's very unhappy. See how much pain he's in and understand deeply for him that what's needed is for him to understand that he has to let go of the biscuit if he wants to stop suffering.

For you this repeated worry is a way of grabbing hold of the biscuit, in a sense. Ask yourself about this dog, what is it he really wants? He doesn't want to be caught in the jar, and he wants the biscuit. The biscuit soothes him. The biscuit is happiness. You want an answer for your friend. It's not that you want to worry; it's that you hope that the worrying will allow you to come up with an answer. But you know that's not so any more than the dog is going to get the biscuit out of the jar by holding on to it. And you want to divert yourself too, from the helplessness you feel. Worrying then becomes a sort of diversion,

Become aware of the suffering that you are creating for yourself and how that suffering adds to the suffering in the world. Come back to your deeper intention to be free of suffering for yourself and to reduce suffering in the world. Really state that as a clear intention to yourself: My highest intention is the release of suffering for myself and for all beings, and I see the direct connection between holding on to this worry and the creation of suffering.

Now, seeing it doesn't mean that you're automatically going to let go of it. It's just a first step. Then you're sitting there on your bed and meditating. Ask yourself: what if for one breath I let go? Can I take one breath into spaciousness? Feeling the tension release in your body. Ahh... And then come back to the image of holding on and shaking the bone again. Again, my intention is to let go. One breath. Feel the spaciousness again. Maybe two breaths, three breaths. Don't fight with the mind that wants to go back to the worry, but watch the impulse energy wanting to go back and ask of yourself: can I take just one more breath. And then allow it to go back and grab at the worry again. How does it feel to return to the worry? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? What do you get out of holding on to the worry?

Keep playing with that, over and over. Resting increasingly in the spaciousness that can watch consciousness grab at the worry, and see the karma, the habitual tendency, which is to believe, “If only I could get that worry out of the jar, I could fix it.” Grasping. So you start to see the karma and to understand that right there with that karmic stream is a parallel stream that's open and spacious. And how much more, not just comfortable but wholesome, it is to rest in that spaciousness. Does that sound workable?

Q: Yes. It sounds like practice, again.

Aaron: Practice, again! What else is there! There's no magic solution. One sees what the karma is. One sees the suffering that's resultant from that karma, as in the demonstration, walking up and down and all the stickers being put on until I'm being weighed down by 100 lbs of sticky notes. One sees this is simply enhancing the suffering, and it's not doing anybody else any good. What alternative is there? What if I allow myself to shift into a different pattern, a more spacious and wholesome pattern? As you breathe and rest, you get a taste of that spaciousness and it's pleasant. From that spacious place you see the potential to help your friend, which does not exist in the contraction. This is the return upstream, along the shore. The love and the wisdom can come through in the spaciousness and cannot exist in the contraction.


Q: When I feel like I stepped out of the running river and into the calm water, it was something I supported my daughter with. And it was negative for me. (She's in gymnastics.)

Aaron: I'm not quite following—your support was negative? Or when you were trying to support her it was negative for her?

Q: The environment was negative for me.

Aaron: The environment in which you were trying to support your daughter was negative for you?

Q: So I stepped out. And she's 14. She's hurt her hamstring in May, and she started to get better, and she hurt her ankle and then her toe. She keeps hurting herself, earaches, etc. So are our karmas linked? Is there something I can do for her?

Aaron: Your karmas are always linked to those around you. That does not mean she is hurting herself in order to teach you something. She is hurting herself for her own reasons, and you as her mother have the opportunity to address your own karma and to learn, as related to her injuries and your feelings about her injuries.

One can open the door for another. One cannot push them through that door. You can ask her, in a calm loving way, “There keeps being one injury after another. What do you think this might be about?” If she just says, “Well, it happens to me. The world's to blame, ” you might reply, “well, “I hear that you're struggling with this. There's a lot of injury and you don't want to look at what part you may be playing in those injuries. Certainly there are coincidences, there are other things that have caused the injuries, and yet you're a participant. At some level you are participating in these injuries. You might think about it.”

That's as far as you can go. At age 1, perhaps you could control her movements. At age 14, you cannot. It's up to her. Her karma is the river flowing that way and yours is an intersecting river. It's a personal karma, and it's also the universal karma of the parent, the parent who loves the child and wants to protect the child. Part of the reason that you are a mother, undoubtedly, is to learn more about trust of others and letting go. And it's hard to trust another when they're not being trustworthy. How do you say no without fear?

You might look at any ways that you're enabling. For example, if she hurts herself and cannot walk, are you willing to drive her everywhere? Or are you more interested in saying, “You work it out.”? You have to be supportive to some degree, but not to constantly pick her up each time she falls. You help her know that she can figuratively and literally walk on her own feet. So she's challenging you in a sense by saying, “Look, I cannot walk on my own feet. You need to carry me.” And you're saying, “Okay, I'll carry you.” Or, “I opt out. I can't carry you anymore,” but saying it with resentment and fear. How can compassion say, “No, I cannot carry you. You're almost an adult now and you have to be responsible for yourself, but I'll help you in whatever ways I can. Not carry you but walk beside you.”? What fear is in you for saying that?

So yes, she has a certain stream of karma, you have a certain stream of karma, and they've crashed. And you cannot fix her karma or even attend to it, only your own. That is, you attend to your own karma, and that changes her karma. We're back to the people rushing down the river. Each time they plow into people trying to say, “No, no, you can't do that,” and knock them over, it increases their unwholesome karma. How many people can you knock over before you stop to pay attention? This is unwholesome.

If you present yourself in front of somebody who's rushing downstream, so to speak, and allow yourself to be bowled over, you're enabling them, allowing them to knock you over. So this is where you figuratively get out and walk up the stream, up the bank. You sit in that calm space and invite your daughter, who's swimming frantically, to come up and join you in that calm space, or to keep swimming frantically until she's ready to join you in the calm space.

Q: Thank you.

Aaron: Other questions? These can be personal questions or more universal questions about karma.

Q: I have a series of problems with my eyes that have been getting worse, and I will probably need surgery later this spring. I've been beginning to look at what this might mean, and what karma might be involved in this. Can you give me any insight with that?

Aaron: It's important to remember, with these physical bodies there is physical karma in the cellular level of the body that is not always related specifically to emotional or conscious karma. The bodies are also simply affected by genetics, by environment, so that there can be a malfunction in the body that's not presently karmic but is the outflow of the past. It's important to ask in your meditation. For example, to ask, is there any part of me that does not want to see deeply? Your work involves your vision. Is there any part of you that is resentful of your work or wishes you had a different line of work?

So you can ask those questions, but you may come up with a no. “Well, I'm perfectly happy with my work. There's nothing I don't wish to see. I surmise, then, that it's just environmental or genetic.” Then know,  “This is the way the eyes are right now, and I hold the intention to allow the eyes to heal.” But if you do see something, then follow it. You're not trying to fix it, just to bring gentle attention to any areas that are inviting lack of vision in a habitual way, in a karmic way.

I see possibilities but nothing very big. I think it's just more what the body is doing right now. But you can still support healing by knowing, “I choose to see.” And if surgery is necessary, that you choose that that surgery be 100% successful and restore clear vision.

I don't see any deep areas of karma about your vision.

Q: When there's karma from a previous life, there's no need to know what that was all about?

Aaron: Sometimes it's helpful. Sometimes it's just curiosity and wanting to fix. That doesn't give you much of a guideline. I think the most important guideline here is that there be a willingness to understand, and in meditation, to be willing to ask if there's something I need to see from a past life. You're not going to get it in detail. You're not necessarily going to get the full name of that being and the year and place he or she lived and the kinds of clothes the person wore. But you may get a glimpse of something that's very helpful in resolving and healing the present karma.

Barbara speaks about this in several places in Cosmic Healing. She was looking at the karmic tendency of self-judgment, self-criticism, not opening her heart deeply to herself. She was aware when she meditated and used crystals and tuning forks that the heart chakra was not fully open. She was asking, what would it mean for the heart to be more open? She could sense how vulnerable it made her feel to allow the heart to open. She was still in so much pain about being deaf, and it was frightening to her to allow herself to relax into compassion about that deafness rather than holding a heart-closed stoicism about it. “What if I can't cope? I've got to be strong. I've got to be stoic.” That was her habitual stance, so she didn't let the heart open.

As she asked what this was about, she began to see in her meditation as she worked with the heart, an image of a karmic ancestor long ago being captured by an enemy. The way that that particular culture dealt with its enemies, it didn't intend any special cruelty to her, to the man she was, but she was tied down, staked to the ground and her body was slit open. Carrion birds came and began to feed on the organs and up into the heart. And she could see the anger of that man, the hatred, for his enemy and for the birds.

He suddenly realized, “I will be dead. There's no way I can survive this. I can die with hatred or I can die literally offering this body to these birds, offering the heart to these birds. Allowing them to feed off me and to survive and be strong through my death. So I cannot control dying but I can control how I die.” There was an enormous release, releasing and opening the whole body. Allowing the birds to feast on the organs. And there was great pain, as she recalled it—she did not feel the pain but she could remember that man's pain. To feast on the heart, literally offering the heart. It's a process that she worked through for perhaps two months, day after day in meditation, asking spirit for help, praying. Gradually learning to release and open her heart, offer the heart. And that shifted the karma for the present being, allowing her to open her heart much more deeply to herself, to feed herself in a sense, to offer the heart, to offer her whole body to herself as she was in this moment. So it shifted the karma.

Now, she did not have to see that lifetime. And I repeat, she had no details. She didn't know his name or where he lived, what culture, what year or century. Those things were superfluous, only this deep karmic experience, and trusting that shifting and releasing that karma would help this present being realize its deepest intention.

Let us go on a bit now with karma.

I think this question brings us to a new area of karma. All of you have lived in countless bodies, human and other forms of bodies. People so often ask me, “What was I in a past life? Why am I experiencing this now related to my past life?” Sometimes it's helpful to know. More often you do not need to know. You can tell what happened in a past life in large part simply by where the pain is now in this life. You don't need the details.

Often people come to me and say, “In meditation I see this or that situation. Am I imagining it?” Usually if you're seeing this from a past life you're not imagining it, but to some degree it doesn't matter if you're imagining it or not. If you see yourself as a shaman in some South American country who could not save his people and felt angry and frustrated because there was a famine, people were dying and he could not save them, maybe you in reality were not a South American shaman. Maybe you lived somewhere in Europe during a serious famine or period of disease, and you could not save people. The details are not important. What's important here is the frustration. “People are suffering and I don't know how to save them. I feel angry at this human being that I am that I feel so helpless to change the cruelty and suffering in the world and in my loved ones around me.”

If an image comes to you, work with that image. If no image comes to you, simply acknowledge, “Somewhere along the line in the past there was a karmic ancestor who experienced deep frustration at being unable to help those who were suffering, and my heart goes out to that ancestor. I hold him or her in my heart.” Talk to that ancestor without knowing who they were. Or, if you have an image, work with the image. Help that ancestor find compassion for him or her self. Be a beloved friend or sister or brother to that ancestor.

As you change it for that ancestor by bringing in kindness and wisdom and compassion now, you literally shift the karmic cycle in yourself. Try to trust that if there's something specific you need to see, you probably will be led to see it, and that the details don't matter. What matters is the opening of the heart, the dawning of ever-deeper compassion, and touching the terrible pains of past lives with love.

Let us think of a river that has a hundred different streams pouring into it, feeding it. A spring at its source creates the first flow. Run-off from hillsides and snowmelt contribute, all of this pouring into the river. Up at the source that spring is pure but 100 miles downstream the river is polluted. It's helpful to walk the stream and see the worst sources of pollution, that is, the karmic streams that are most distorting the river now.

In parallel to your life experience, if there is, let's say, a deep sense of unworthiness that constantly has you struggling, feeling shy, inept and afraid, it's helpful to reflect back through this lifetime. Psychotherapy can help you. Beyond that, simply watch the experience of feeling unworthy and note how it feels; know that it's an idea, a thought. So doing this meditatively can help. Reflecting, “Somewhere in some past lifetime I must have been taught that I was unworthy, that I was bad, and now as this present human I release that old belief.”

So you're working with the distorted inflow into the river and helping to purify it, but in the end, the most important thing is to go back downstream where the river is full and has many pollutants, find yourself a good strainer and clean up the water that you're taking out. “I do not choose to take these pollutants into me anymore so I use a good filter.” At the same time, recognize the innate purity of the pure spring that is the original source. This is what you truly are; yet both are present, pure spring and pollutants. It really is as simple as this. “I do not choose to be with the belief that I'm helpless, that I'm unworthy, that I'm bad, that I'm inadequate in various ways. For whatever reasons, they have come to me through eons of old karma. At this point I release it. I am the pure spring” And you CAN do that.

You're going to find that as you hold the ever-deeper intention to release those old harmful beliefs and to know the deeper truth of yourself, that as you meditate with a habitual tendency like unworthiness and keep asking, “Why does this keep coming up? What is this about?”, that you're going to receive certain kinds of clarity in meditation. For example, feeling unworthy because you attacked yourself rather than letting the anger go out to others, because it felt too unsafe to be angry at others. Allowing unworthiness because you at some level are aware of the depth of your own power and are afraid of that power. Gradually there will be ever-deeper insight into the strongest karmic streams, and understanding of how best to purify those streams.

So yes, it can be helpful to see a past life but it's not necessary to do that. But also, if you do feel you see something in your meditation, trust yourself.

What we would like you to take home with you here is to choose one area of karma that you can identify in yourself, something like feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy, wanting to control, the one who wants to control. A karmic stream of fearfulness, fear to move into new situations, fear that you won't be safe, fear that your needs won't be met. A karmic stream that feels, “I must be strong. I must be good and take care of everybody,” which can also be a huge burden.

Pick one karmic stream, and I do not want you to try to fix it, simply to watch it. See the different ways it manifests, and each time that you feel it coming up, ask, “What is this?” I would like you to ask yourself - the simple words I like to use are, “Is that so?” Three words: is that so? “I don't have to skill to do that.” Is that so? “I must take care of everybody here.” Is that so? “They don't love me.” Is that so? “I'm not smart enough.” Is that so? “I don't have the physical endurance to do that.” Is that so? Whatever comes up, ask after it, “Is that so?”

Second. Begin also to ask, what is this story line? What is this belief? Watch the strong karmic flow of it, of the ways it constantly invades your life. Beyond the “Is that so?”, what do I get out of perpetuating this story, this particular stream of karma? You can certainly see the suffering in it. Begin to see also that you've allowed it to continue for some reason. What do you get out of it? “If I were to release this karma, or what I experience...” sometimes you may find that you're more afraid of what you might experience than you are of the karma.

For example, feeling, “I'm inadequate. I'm weak.” That's a belief. Is that so? “If I'm not inadequate, maybe I'm strong. What if I really AM powerful? But I still experience anger and other emotions and it's not safe to be powerful and have those negative emotions so I'll keep hiding in ‘I'm powerless.'” That's just one kind of example.

So first, ask after that particular habitual tendency, and please choose just one. I know you're going to be tempted to say, “Well, there's this one and this one and this one and this one,”— choose one. We're going to watch one for this month. Is that so, this old belief? What do I get out of perpetuating this belief? What if I release it? Just consider the possibility of stepping aside from this belief, even momentarily. I'd just like you to explore in this way.

There's no success or failure with this. I'm not asking you to get rid of old beliefs, I'm asking you simply to consider the karmic nature of them, the old conditioning behind them, and that maybe you don't have to hold on to those beliefs. What if you don't? Who are you when you let go?

Are there questions?

Now, taking you back into the work you've been doing the past 6 weeks while I was gone—not gone, I was really here with you as well as in Brazil, but not with a body to speak through. The body was in Brazil. You've been doing work connecting with your guides. As you ask these questions, “Is that so?” and “What if I were to not be caught in this belief?” and you begin to see the intention to release the belief, ask for help. You are not alone here.

Here I am sorry Barbara did not have the crystals to give you because I wanted you each to hold the crystal as you asked for help, to help ground you into that high energy. So you're going to have to imagine it. Perhaps it's even better without the crystal though because you're forced to go into your own heart. (aside from Barbara while reviewing the transcript; the crystals are found)

Open your hands. State your intention. “This old belief has been with me forever and it causes suffering for myself and others. Please help me to release it, to find guidance and strength. To most fully release it for the highest good of myself and all beings.” And trust, my children, that the help you seek will come to you. Where would it be? The door is not closed from our side. It's always open. You closed the doors. Open them. Or are you afraid that we really will respond and that you're going to need to give up some of these old habitual tendencies?

My love is with you. Call your guides, call all these brothers and sisters of light, call upon me and I will be there. Is there any question?

Then I wish you a good night and we will see you in two weeks. And please do these exercises that I've just asked. The class does not help you if it's merely conceptual. Take it into your meditation and work with it. But remember, you are not trying to fix something that's broken in yourself but rather simply to move past really an artificial barrier of belief and into a deeper truth of your wholeness and radiance.

Again, my love is with you. Good night.

(session ends)