October 27, 2014 Day One: Monday - Remembering Wholeness at Geneva

Geneva workshop transcripts by the day:

Monday: Day 1 of Aging workshop in three parts (opening, afternoon, evening)

October 27, 2014 Monday, Geneva Retreat, Opening Talk

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. For those who are not particularly familiar with me, if I simply look like Barbara and you think,"I don't see an Aaron there, it's just Barbara,"don't worry about it. I have no need to prove I'm real. If what I say is useful to you, use it. If not, discard it. That's all you need to know.

I want to begin by welcoming all of you. I see so many dear friends, as has been said, from all different parts of our lives, from many retreats–east coast, west coast, north and south–from the Casa, people we've known for less than a year, people we've known for 20-plus years. It's such a joy to have you all here together.

When we considered this workshop, at first Barbara said,"Only advanced students."I suggested,"Why would you cut people out simply because they don't have a practice in vipassana? They have a deep spiritual practice or they would not be called to the retreat. Trust and let them come. We'll handle the vipassana, which I consider to be a vital element of this week.But even more important is their deep commitment, their deep aspiration to live with increasing love and wisdom; to find the roots of confusion, of hatred, of fear, in themselves, and the possibility, I don't want to say so much to release these but to go through them."

This last is like the sun. If the clouds come in thick, you don't think the sun has disappeared. Where would this awakened nature go? What we're doing is breaking through the clouds to find the awake part of you, the radiant heart, and help you learn how to live from this heart, living from your true nature.

This first part of the retreat happened because, while we were at the Casa sitting around a dining table-- a number of you were there--we talked about the retreat from Wednesday to Sunday, and several of you coming in from far away asked, could we do something Monday and Tuesday also? But what? And then later that week, sitting at that table, people began to ask me about aging. They said,"Aaron, you have aged in so many lifetimes. How do we do this skillfully?"Then somebody asked, can we make that the focus of the first two days? Ah! So here we are.

So we're really continuing this conversation from that pousada dining table. We didn't have that much time there and I don't incorporate there at the Casa in this way, so I'm very happy to be able to carry on this discussion more directly.

The inner work that we do to age with consciousness, I call it becoming an elder, not elderly. You're all going to become elderly. Some of you are going to become elders. What is an elder? To me it's a person who is able to live from their deep wisdom, a person who has deepened in compassion in their life and is able to respond compassionately to the various catalysts that come to them,  like mud thrown in the face. How do we respond with a compassionate heart? How do we then act with wisdom?

Eldering does not have to do with age. You are an elder whether you're 30 or 90 if you have developed the heart of compassion and the ability to be present with what you're experiencing in each moment. So this is one option for these 2 days. There are those of you who really want an opportunity to develop a vipassana practice; I deeply value that. John is here to do that with you today and tomorrow. You are free not to come to any of the work we're doing with aging. But you can also find some balance in yourselves. This afternoon John will be giving instructions and finding out where those of you are, who have little experience.

Further on, I think this happens tomorrow so we'll give these out tomorrow, not today, but we're going to be looking at three areas of reflection. These you will take back to your vipassana practice.

Where have we matured, and where have we resisted maturation? Exploring resistance and closure. (I'm not reading the whole thing, just a few pieces.) What is my resistance to being fully present? What are my distractions? What are my fears? How honest is my self-inquiry? Where do I not want to look? Where do I hold back from love? Where do I grasp for it? That's one portion.

Exploring opening. What supports my ability to release the heart's armor and be more vulnerable and tender? How thorough is my forgiveness of others, of myself? How deep is my gratitude? How generous is my heart? And so forth.

And the third portion concerns moving forward. Am I ready to set aside judging and attachment to negative thought? What helps me to experience the presence of spirit? What keeps me from living in that presence?

These questions are going to be with us tomorrow and also through the week. A lot of the exploration of them will be in the small groups that sit at the table, at a meal once a day. I've divided you into small groups that I think are suitable for you. Not just advanced groups/beginners groups, because then the beginners wouldn't have the support of the deepening wisdom of the more experienced people, and the experienced would lose the "beginner's mind" but more mixed groups. This is an opportunity for you to sit and dialog about one or another of this series of questions in your small group.

We'll do this here also with a method of dialog for 20 minutes, perhaps, and then silence for 10 minutes to reflect, not just talking and talking and talking. So those of you who choose the"just meditation"are welcome to do that, or welcome to use these reflections as you meditate, or welcome to join in for some of the discussions and be with John at other times. And I'll leave you and John to talk about that, each of you, and work out your needs, and what feels most appropriate to you.

We are at a time in this earth where there is a great deal of pain, of violence, of hatred. It has happened before on earth. I find it different today because there are so many more of you who are deeply committed to moving into a higher, let's call it non-dual consciousness, that is able to feel compassion for others and also to say no, firmly, from that place of compassion, rather than being swept away by fear and anger.

If somebody is abusing you, it's kind to say no. You all have an intention to do no harm. It's harmful to others to let them abuse you. It's also harmful to others and to yourself to have them abuse you and scream at them because they're abusing you, to hate them. How do we keep our hearts open with the myriad pushes and pulls of the world, the enormous pain?

This is really what my bookHuman is about. Would somebody hand me a copy ofHuman, please? There are very few words on a page, one or two sentences. I'm going to read you the first 6 pages. I actually thought of making this assigned reading for the workshop but we didn't have it published in time. So here we are.

My friend, you are human and yet you are also spirit.

To be spirit is to rest in the core of being that is birthless and deathless.

To be human is to contemplate the cessation of your conscious existence.

To be spirit is to live fully in the heart of love.

To be human is to know fear.

To be spirit is to offer everything.

To be human is to experience the fear expressions of greed and clinging.

To be spirit is to know divine compassion.

To be human is to know the fear expression of judgment and anger.

To be spirit is to know your completion.

To be human is to hunger for it.

Yet to be human and to be spirit are not at all incompatible, for you are not incarnate to abolish fear and its expressions but to learn to draw them into the heart of love.

Walk by my side for a while and I will teach you.

So here we are together; I have you walking by my side this week, and I'm delighted, because we'll have an opportunity to explore these issues. It doesn't matter what the catalyst is-- the body aches and pains, memory failing, loss of loved ones, aging, everything that happens as the body diminishes--it's a big push. How do we respond with love?

Q, will you come up for a minute? You know what I want you to do. Just stand sideways for a moment.(pushing arms exercise is demonstrated)Q pushes at me and I push back hard. That's how we usually live. Or she pushes at me and I collapse. We're here to learn how to dance with life's pushes. She pushes, I just let it go and I can keep talking. It's very little effort. No matter how hard she pushes, I dance with it and then I give the energy back. I let it come in and I give it back, until we're dancing with it. Thank you.

So we're going to learn these two days how to dance with a push of aging, of the diminishments of body and mind; how not to take them so personally, not to be caught in punching, or running from them in denial. Through the rest of the week, we'll be doing much of that, too.

We will have the opportunity starting with the Mother on Thursday–how many of you have not met the Mother? Most of you have. People ask who is she? She tells us she is a mix of expressions of the Divine Mother: Mother Mary, Kwan Yin, the Black Madonna, Kali, a variety of expressions of the Divine Mother. She comes forth more in one expression or another individually, to the expression that you call forth in her from your need.

What she does is simply (calls Q up to assist)–I am pretending I am the Mother. She simply takes your hand and looks into your eyes. Thank you.

But of course I'm not the Divine Mother, and her energy is different than mine, and so filled with loving radiance. You see yourself mirrored in her eyes, as she knows you. It's very hard to believe in your brokenness when you look in her eyes and see her love reflected. It doesn't mean, for example, you suddenly cease to be deaf, or can go dancing out of the room instead of using your cane. When I talk about moving through the brokenness, it means non-self-identity with it; knowing the self that is whole, as you see yourself reflected in her, and choosing to live that wholeness. That is the path to the healing with that which seems to be broken. As long as you believe,"Well I'm broken and I have to take these steps to fix it,"you're not going to get there. But when you remember,"I am whole,"then you have the opportunity to choose to live that wholeness, and mindfully to understand why you may not be fully inviting it. What are you backing away from? And then our questions: How honest is my self-inquiry? Where do I not want to look? How well am I able to be with unease, disappointment, and suffering? And so forth.

So what we have planned for you this week is a mix of vipassana, reflection, and inquiry, dialoging with each other, and also some good times: singing, dancing, walking on the beach, whatever appeals to you.

I have overrun my time. Actually I have under-run my time, but the time was shortened as we started late, so time to stop. My blessings and love to you. And I'm very much looking forward to this time with you.

The Mother says she wants to come in just to say hello for a moment. She will not spend much time with you.

(the Mother incorporates)

M: My love to you all, and again as Aaron said, if what you see here is simply Barbara and now she says she's the Mother, what matters is not even what I say. It is not my words that matter but my energy. Is that helpful to you?

(to someone arriving) Ah, you've made it, broken car and all! Come, daughter. Our retreat supplies and bearer have arrived.

So, while Aaron's darshan is more about talking, mine is more about simply sharing energy, more about loving you until you are so convinced that you are loved that you forget about how bad you think you are. Can you let go of it? How long does it take sitting on the Mother's lap in her embrace before you let go of all these ideas of wrongness in yourself? You are beautiful. I love you.

We'll release the body to Barbara...

(session ends)

October 27, 2014 Monday Afternoon, Geneva Retreat

Aaron: Once again I greet you in love and in light. We have an hour and a half to do what we had suggested we would do in 2 ½ hours. We'll leave some of it out, giving you some of the exercises that you can do yourselves.

Let's start with a question: who and what ages? Look at an infant, one day old. Twenty-four hours later, two days old, doubled in age, just like that. At what point do we look at someone and think, "Oh, they are old."? And yet, I'm sure you each know people old in years who are so young in the heart, who have so much delight in life, are playful and active. Think about those people who seem to suffer most from their aging. They are not necessarily the ones who are the oldest. They are the ones who are suffering most because they cannot let go into things as they are.

My original plan was to have Barbara speak to you, but that's one of the things we've cut out. So I'll sum up what she was going to say very briefly. Some of you have read her bookCosmic Healing. In the opening chapters she talks about losing her hearing and how terrifying it was, how painful it was. When I came to her she was so caught in grasping, "I must hear. I need to hear," rather than simply investigating the experience of not hearing. What is not hearing?

You have sense organs: ear, nose, eye, tongue, body that touches, and the mind; they each touch an object. When the eye makes contact with an object, seeing consciousness arises. When the ear touches an object, hearing consciousness arises. When the mind touches an object, depending on whether it's a memory or a plan or a judgment, judging consciousness or planning consciousness or remembering arises. When the object passes away, it's no longer predominant in your experience.

Do you hear everything that goes past you? There is a lot of background sound. How many of you can remember if you heard a bird when you awakened this morning? Was it likely there was a bird singing, but you may not have heard it? Because mind was immediately someplace else. So while the ear organ was intact and the sound was there, there was no hearing consciousness. Attention must be directed toward that object. Then the object passes away. It's all impermanent.

Some things that arise are pleasant, some are unpleasant, and some are neutral. When it's pleasant, you want more of it. "Oh, a plate of nuts and candy! Oh, good!" Some things are unpleasant.  "Get this away!"  Some things are neutral and don't hold your attention much at all.

So we have contact, consciousness, and the feeling about it, and then you either go out to it because it's pleasant or you pull back from it because it's unpleasant. But liking and disliking are not directly related to what's happening externally in this moment, but to what is happening in you. Let me say that differently. What's happening in you IS happening in this moment, but it has little to do with the object. It has to do with your own old long-held beliefs, opinions, judgments, and so forth.

In your culture there is a strong judgment against aging. Nobody wants to be limited in their capacities, but certainly you all know it happens. The body will age. Your body strengths will diminish. Your mental strengths will diminish. This is how the body is.

So Barbara had such a strong feeling, "Ishould be able to hear. If only I do something right, I'll be able to hear. What did I do wrong to punish me so I can't hear?" I simply said to her, "Can you just be present not hearing? What is the experience of not hearing?" She realized mostly it was unpleasant mostly because of the grasping, "I want to hear," and the feeling, "If I don't hear, I'm isolated. I'm cut out of what's happening." But she had a son whose band practiced in their basement room adjacent to the room she used as an office and meditation room, a hundred decibels roaring with only a flimsy wall divider. She could feel the floor shake sometimes, but it certainly did not interrupt her meditation. I asked her, "Is it unpleasant not to be able to hear?" She would go in and see them all playing and, "Yes, I really would like to hear them." But after a few minutes she was ready to go back to her office and meditate again. "Do you miss not hearing them now?" No. Starting to see that not hearing is just not hearing.

Now let's talk about the various capacities that diminish as you age. There are a few younger ones of you here, but I would guess for most of you have found yourself growing a bit more forgetful, yes? Even the younger ones may find yourselves more forgetful. I'd guess many of you have aches and pains you didn't have ten years ago. Can you climb a tree as you could ten years ago? Can you run as fast?

You can dwell on what you have lost, thinking, "Oh, why me?" But you can also choose to move your attention to that which is positive for you. The body can't run as fast. It sits still more. What do you notice in that stillness? Are you able to be more present now that you can't get up and run around? Some of you still get up and run around, I know.

What I'm after here is to invite you to look at the gifts that you receive from this process of slowing down, and that you can enhance the gifts by slowing down in a compassionately way rather than saying, "It's not fair."

For much of her life, Barbara's truly greatest joy in life was to canter a horse across a meadow, or down a beautiful wooded path through an autumn woods,. She was an excellent rider, she trained horses, and she loved to ride in the autumn. Every autumn, craving starts to come up. "Oh, if only..." And she starts to think, "Oh, how can I replicate this?" This year she was thinking, "Maybe I could find a horse and carriage, a horse and buggy, and go for a horse and buggy ride."

I asked her to simply go out on her back deck, and instead of thinking about the beautiful wooded trail she can't ride down, to feel the immense gratitude for the great colors of her backyard. She has a big yard, lots of trees, very colorful, very beautiful, very private.

She had not been meditating as much as usual, because of the pain of loss and sadness that was coming up. So I emphasized with her the importance of being honest with herself about the loss, because only when she was honest with herself about that could she also be honest with herself about the joy, and what was really an enhanced ability to experience that joy, that beauty.

How many of you have paused for more than 5 or 10 minutes in a wooded place in the past week?(a few hands raised) Only a few, considering how many of you there are. And yet this is the season of all that colorful beauty. How many of you gave the story, "I'm too busy. Next week I'll do it."? You're aging–next week may never come. Do it today. In fact I'm tempted to cut short my talk and all of the teaching I was going to do this afternoon and simply send you all outside in silence to enjoy this beautiful day.

Amy, is there a path that goes to the lake, and is it accessible?

Amy: There is a lookout that is accessible, and then stairs down to the beach. (directions)

Aaron: So we'll talk here for a while, but instead of the exercises I had planned to do, I'm going to invite you all-- because the weather forecast is for cloudy tomorrow-- I want to get you out there to enjoy this beauty.

The exercise I wanted to do with you was focused on letting go. What supports letting go of grasping, of clinging, of fear, of the old stories, "Poor me. Not fair."? What invites you into the already present open heart? How deeply can you experience that loving heart and let yourself rest in it? What supports that? Gratitude is one thing. Feeling deep gratitude for simply being alive in this moment, with this body that doesn't work the way it did when you were 10 years old. But it still works. If nothing else, you can at least get to the lookout and look out over the lake. All of you can see. All of you but Barbara can hear the waves. You can see the colors, the light, and the water.

Sit on that observation deck or down on the beach. Meditate and feel the elements. The sea in front of you, vast lake. The sand. The wind, the sun. Meditate with joy and gratitude for how much you have been given.

I want you to look at that which feels unwhole, aging, broken, "not as good as I was," and any sadness or resentment about that. And the sadness is honest. You're not trying to get rid of the sadness, but simply to remember what you have–not the diminished capacities, but the capacities that remain. How wonderful it is that youcan see,can walk,can hear. Or if you can't hear, you can see. If you can't walk, you can be pushed in a wheelchair. You're still mobile. You're alive! What a gift!

It is this wisdom that leads you into becoming a compassionate and wise elder. Blessing what you have. Each time mind turns to, "Oh, but I don't have this," just note it. Note any sadness. Not pushing the sadness away. That which is aware of sadness is not sad. Resting in this loving heart that truly knows joy, even in this moment of pain.

I would like you to reflect on letting go. What does it mean to let go? One of the exercises I was going to do with you, and for those of you who make it out to the platform or to the beach, I'd like you to try it with each other. Just find a partner. Person A, close their eyes. Person B, take their hand and lead them. Or you can do it as a threesome, A with eyes closed, B and C holding A's hands. Person A with the eyes closed, watch resistance. What allows you to let go and trust? Trust your partner that they're not going to lead you off into deep water in Lake Michigan or off a bluff. Trusting. Opening your heart and being with things as they are.

How does it feel to not see? What is the fear that comes? It's part of aging. Your hearing may diminish, your vision may diminish; how does it feel? Can you trust to allow yourself to be guided? What enhances trust? What diminishes trust? It's the same trust that will allow you in your later years to trust your life and move ahead with things as they are.

I'll speak here for a minute of Barbara's mother, who passed on this last summer at age 97. Until just a few weeks before her death, she was walking with her walker. She was laughing and smiling and enjoying her friends at meals, talking on the telephone, watching television; enjoying her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She had an immense zest for life.

Barbara asked her once, do you ever feel depressed that you no longer can do the things that you could 10 or 15 years ago? Remember, 97, we're talking about things you could do at 82 or 87. And she said, "No, because there's still so much Ican do. I love life." What allows you to nurture this in yourself, this true zest for living? This true gratitude and enjoyment?

Coming back to letting go. We're speaking here of letting go of all the stories, "I wanted to." "It's not fair. I wanted to be able to canter across a pasture one more time. I wanted to be able to climb a tree." Barbara and John were in a Thai restaurant last night and there was a statue of an elephant. She said, "I always wanted to ride an elephant. I guess I never will." And then she thought about it and she said, "Well, that's okay. I've ridden horses. Maybe if I need to ride an elephant, next time I'll come back and ride an elephant. For now, I can just be content."

Life is so filled with riches. And if you say, "I must have this one," you forget to pay attention to that one. What are you forgetting to pay attention to because you're grasping at something else? What sadness and resentment are you dwelling in?

So I'd like you to try this exercise. I'm going to ask two of you to stand up here, one of you with eyes closed. R, I want you to just lead her around in a circle a little bit... (leads her in circle) Thank you. That's what I want you to do. And then stop and talk about it. How did it feel? If it was scary, it's okay that it was scary. If it was fun, wonderful that it was fun. Were you able to let go of that immediate fear? As you started, I saw you tense, just for a moment, and you let go of it so quickly and started to laugh. What supports letting go?

(Aaron gets a game, Jenga,  from a box?) I said I would invite you to do some of these things on your own. Barbara has two sets of this. Have any of you ever played this game? What I'd like you to do is, we'll put it on the table there. It's okay if the two sets get mixed up. Take blocks and build it as high as you can. Watch the intention to build it high. Watch any tension, "One more block..." It's a good idea to do it with a partner, or many partners: one person, second person, third person, so it's not just you. And you feel a sense of, "If I'm the one who makes it topple, I'll be disappointing my partners." Pausing, all three of you, hold hands. Breathe. See if you can find that spaciousness. Are the instructions clear?

(pause, Aaron retrieves another game from the box?)

These can go out on a table. The same thing with these. You can either try to make it into the cube it's meant to fit into, or you can just stack as blocks. What I want you to watch is tension. "I've almost got it. I've only one more block to put on. Can I get it on?" Crash! And of course it's a game. It's different when your life crashes than when a pile of blocks crashes. But I want you simply to be aware of tension. And pause: breathing in, I am aware of the tension; breathing out, I smile at the tension. Then present with that which is free of tension, right there with the tension.

Life is a game. It's a serious game, yes, but it's a game. Play it with joy! You're not meant to get it perfect. Nobody's asking you to stack 150 blocks on top of each other. You only believe that's what you're supposed to do.

So, we're going to stop now. Thank you and I will talk to you all after dinner. I'll be happy to hear what you experienced. Enjoy the beach. I think Barbara will go there, too.

(session ends)

October 27, 2014 Monday Evening, Geneva Retreat

Aaron: Good evening. My blessings and love to you all. You are all here out of an intention. What are some of the intentions that brought you here? To play by Lake Michigan? To watch the sunsets over the lake? What else? To ground. No other intentions?

Q: To unfold a new view and way of approaching aging.

Aaron: Thank you. Others? I'm not just talking about these two days but the whole week.

Q: I just came out of a 6-month lawsuit, which was tremendously stressful, and what I need is to be very quiet and just allow (inaudible) to deal with the stress.

Q:How to relate to my physical body.

Q: To be with sangha.

Aaron: Thank you; so, a variety of intentions have brought you here. But none of you came because you were greedy and wanted to acquire some kind of wealth. Maybe to acquire wisdom, to acquire love, but it didn't come from a place of greed. If it did, it's not going to work. "If I go to this retreat, maybe it's going to fix what's broken in me, and finally my heart will open. I have to go to this. I have to get that love." It's not going to work, is it? "I aspire to be more loving, to live my life with more wisdom, and perhaps the retreat will help me recognize the already inherent love and wisdom within me. So I choose to go." Very different, yes.

In your lives, often you make your choices based in fear. You all are mature enough spiritually to understand that those choices need to be grounded in love or it's going to backfire. So the real question is, acknowledging that both love and fear are present, what prevents you from choosing love? What leads you to getting caught in moving from a place of fear?

Intention is very important. It's important to know what your highest intentions are. And sometimes there seems to be a conflict. To be safe, not to be vulnerable, not to be hurt. These are reasonable intentions. To love. To be connected to the world and other people, that's a lovely intention. Is there a conflict? To be safe, not to be vulnerable, to be connected?

When you see what seems to be a conflict, then it's time to investigate it. Can I really attain that which I seek if I continue to hold myself separate and armored? What holds this old armoring, these old stories, in place? We have armoring of the body, armoring of the mind, and armoring of the spirit.

Armoring of the body. How does it look? Somebody who holds themselves this way(demonstrating). Do you know people who, when they talk to you, instead of being open, they're always closed up, arms crossed in the front? Body language. What do you think it does to a body to be held in this way for decades?

Now this is extreme, but what happens to the small areas of the body? For example, how many of you experience occasional neck and shoulder pain? Let's use this old tool. Many of you have done this with me. I'm going to shout. You're probably going to react. You don't know when I'm going to shout. You know it's just a shout coming from me, Aaron, and that I've warned you about it. You know basically it's safe. And yet your body is going to move into an habitual pattern in reaction to that shout. Just this startledness from a loud (shout!)

Any of you with some neck and shoulder pain go like that (demonstrating)? How about people who have chronic tension in the belly, did you hold it in here? In the jaw? Where do you hold it?

So this patterning is going to affect the way the body ages, because there are chronic patterns of holding in the body, some of them karmic from many lifetimes, from a wound of some sort. Some of them are just conditioned by, perhaps your mother always went (motions contracting) when something angered her, and you observed it and learned from her. However it came to you, just because you have that response in your body doesn't mean you have to perpetuate it. The response at this point is simply reaction, a kneejerk. However, it is based on conditions. yu have the opportunity to observe these old holdings of the body and to make a choice: I choose to release this out of love and for the highest good of all beings. Not, this is bad; I'll get rid of it; I choose to release it.

You have similar patterns in the mind. If I walk up to you and look at you in an angry way, how many of you suspect you would pull back and say, "What did I do wrong?" Put your hands up, how many would feel that? A lot of you. Are there a few of you who would say, "Gee, I wonder why Aaron is angry?" Anybody with that? A few, wonderful. That would be a wholesome response. But most of you carry old layers of shame and guilt, fear, and feelings of unworthiness, and other chronic armoring. Those emotions and mental formations affect the body. If you feel that kind of shame a lot of the time, and the mind is constantly giving off stories, "I must be bad. Did I do anything wrong? Is anybody looking angrily at me?", how do you think that's going to affect your body? There's going to be a response in the body.

Spiritually, perhaps the spiritual unworthiness is the deepest-held because you are what I call old souls, that is, wise beings with a deep intention to live this life with love. And because you are human and negative emotion still arises in you there's a sense of shame, of wrongness, an old belief in wrongness. You see that divine light as radiant and you see yourself as shadow in front of that brilliant light. The belief is often: I must cleanse this shadow, not just rinse it gently and release it, but use a scouring pad, scrub it away. And of course, that only makes you bleed. It doesn't heal anything.

So here we come to look at the old notions we have taken on about ourselves as not radiant, not divine. And this is where the Mother comes in this week. Opening her heart in connection to you and inviting you to bring your heart and her heart together, not just for a half an hour at the close of a retreat or an hour on a Sunday morning, but day after day. To challenge you to stay there with her, with your heart truly open to the possibility you are also that. You are divine, you are beautiful. And perhaps it's time to release.

The body is the heaviest. It picks up these reactions and it releases them slowly. We start the release with the spirit, and then the mental body. So as you connect with the Mother and the heart opens, you then begin to reflect on some of the old patterns and to look into the body and see, where and how am I holding these old patterns within my body?

I am not suggesting that every illness is caused by some mental aberration. Some of the illnesses are karmic and also may be based in genetics and with environmental causes. . Barbara did not think, "I'm unworthy to hear things so I'm going to shut my ears. I'll become deaf." Barbara had a tendency when there was tension to tense her shoulders, her neck, and that probably constricted the blood vessels in the neck area, because it was not just a tension from this but from many lifetimes, so that during childbirth when there was a lot of pain and tension and constriction, it caused the blood vessels to close. There was no oxygen supplied to the nerves, and the nerves died. She became deaf.

It's important not to say she caused the deafness. Lifetimes of old patterning participated in the cause of the deafness. The particular genetic structure of this body is a participant, and old karma, the old karma that she's looked at. Those of you who have readCosmic Healing have picked up some of her thoughts on this, the part of her that did not really want to hear the cries of pain of the world because she felt so helpless to attend to that pain. So that part karmically chose to back off from the cries of herself and the world.

However, the loss of the hearing became a catalyst to open her heart, to ask herself, "What is it I'm afraid to hear? I choose to hear. I choose to hear the immensity of sorrows of the world and know that I am capable of holding space for all those sorrows." Through decades of opening her heart in that way, she now has the pattern... (to someone-  Push-) ... The old pattern was this. Now push again. Now she has the pattern of dancing with the push, responsive but free of tension. She doesn't contract in here in the shoulders anymore. So the karma is healed. The body is releasing its old patterns.

At this point now, all these years into it, if the, how can I phrase this? If the neural connections can be formed, she will not destroy them immediately again by  tensing. She won't react and close herself to the world pushing at her. If we had done this 20 years ago and there was any possibility of restoring the neural network, it would have closed off immediately again because she was still contracting. I'm exaggerating, but I think you understand. I want you to take it into your own patterns. Where are the places of holding?

We'll talk more tomorrow about what happened with your letting-go practice. Did some of you practice leading each other blindfolded and being led? Was it fun?(yes) Did you learn something?(yes)How does it feel to let go, was it good?(yes)And yet you can still see that if somebody grabbed your hand and said, "Come!" the first impulse might be to back off. Letting go comes gradually. It's something that you learn. It's safe to open. It's safe to allow myself to be vulnerable. It's safe to let go.

For each of you it's a slightly different learning, but overall it's the same. Either all the cells of the body are contracted and the mind is contracted, or everything is open and spacious. Why is this important, other than for your health?

We talk about positive and negative polarity. Negative polarity is grounded in fear, and positive polarity is grounded in love and the highest good for all beings. With positive polarity, there is no contraction. I'm not saying, "She's going to push me off the chair! She's going to push me out the window! Oh my!" I'm just relaxed. But eventually I kindly put a stop to it. It's not contraction. The words or movement are not based in fear.

I want you to use this week to watch the patterns that lead to contraction. When I said (shout!) did you feel the contraction? Just now, could you feel it? Okay, let me define this further.

(sound effects) Startle. Contraction. The body of the mammal will contract momentarily. We're not talking about the contraction, but the contraction around the contraction. Boo!, the startle, and then the, "I shouldn't have startled again. I shouldn't have contracted." That thought brings the secondary contraction, if we could phrase it that way.

So, compassion for the human that will contract when something says Boo! without building a story, "Something is wrong with me because I contract. I am not good enough. I am not loving enough. I am not radiant enough. Something is wrong with me because I hunch my shoulders and therefore get an ache in my neck." Just pay attention. Note the, "I don't really choose to have an ache in my neck. I'm going to make a conscious effort to notice the impulse to hunch my shoulders and not need to follow though on that impulse."

You don't need to raise your hands on this one, but I would assume there are a few of you at least in the room who now or in the past bite your fingernails. Eventually the fingers can start to bleed. You look at these bleeding fingers and make the decision, "I'm going to attend to this behavior." You become conscious that it's doing harm to you, and from a place of love, not chastisement, but love, that mindfulness leads you to, "Oh, no, I don't choose to do that. I will harm myself." Gradually you release the pattern.

In the same way, gut, bellyache, constantly walking around with a churning gut. Holding all the tension in your gut. You can choose to release it, and also to look at the stories, because there will always be stories behind that kind of contraction and churning. What asks to be released? What asks to be healed? Truly, what is the healing for which you took birth? It is different for each of you, but for most of you, it connects to living life from a more openhearted and loving place, uncontracted. Learning that you are stable in that non-contraction, that you truly can love, can embrace. And how wonderful it feels to embrace.

Take a minute now and turn to the person next to you and give a hug. See how it feels... (group does this; many smiles)

You can live this way, even in this big, bad, crazy world.

We began with intention. You have to have some idea what your highest intention is. And if the intention is to be safe, that's fine. But right there with being safe, I know for all of you, or you wouldn't be here, it's to learn how to live your life with love. You start to understand that the deepest safety lies in love. There is no safety in hatred and separation, only in vulnerability and connection. It seems a bit contrary to the myth that you've held, whereby you armor yourself. But love is the core of it. All the great masters have spoken of this. Love one another. It's as simple as that. And to trust the heart of love that's already there and present. You don't have to create something, only to let the clouds drift away from the sun, or break through the clouds. Be a rocket ship that cuts  right through, so that you find a blazing radiance that's already there.

There's a beautiful dharma practice of clear comprehension. The first part is clear comprehension of purpose. What is my highest purpose? And here you come to that, to be safe, or not to hurt others; do good, not to do harm. But how about also the intention to love, to be open, to be connected; to live the true radiance that you are?

Then, clear comprehension of suitability. Is what I am doing now or about to do suitable to my highest purpose? Your purpose to live a life of more love and wisdom. Here at a retreat, is this suitable to your highest purpose? Certainly, yes. How about if I said, "Let's all go to town and get drunk," is that suitable to your highest purpose? Not really. Not what we came here for. "Maybe when we're in town and we're all drunk, we can get into a big fistfight!" No? No takers?

Clear comprehension of purpose. Clear comprehension of suitability. Is what I'm about to say or do suitable to my highest purpose. Push... (demonstrating shoving back) Is that suitable to my highest purpose? No. Reminding myself, "Ah, she's pushing me and I'm tensing. Okay, I can roll with it. Now I'm pulling away. Is that suitable to my highest purpose? No, not really." So I start to engage her. Absorbing the energy and giving it back, is that suitable to my highest purpose? Yes, much more suitable. I'm not pushing or being pushed, I'm just sharing energy. And as long as sometimes she wants to push hard, she can push as hard as she needs to and I'll return the energy. But I don't have to get upset about it or take it personally.

Clear comprehension of, it's entitled, of the domain of meditation. Taking it into meditation and looking deeply at the patterns of mind and body that are so habituated, so reactive, and finding, ah, I don't have to do it this way. The shout–hmm, shoulder pain. I don't have to do it this way. The shout–(exhaling) just taking a deep breath, changing the pattern.

And clear comprehension of the dharma, the fourth point, in which we note the simple truth: whatever has the nature to arise has the nature to cease and is not me or mine. I'm responsible to it, but it arose out of conditions and I don't have to build stories on it. It's impermanent; it will pass.

Again I'm going to use Barbara's shoulder as an example. Certain injuries led to the pain in Barbara's shoulder. Then the doctor sent her to physical therapy. The physical therapist pulled the arm and stretched it for several months, increasing the pain as he said he needed to do so to enlarge the range of motion. This created much worse pain, and finally she stopped the physical therapy. Then looking at the belief, the doctor has said the only thing we can do is shoulder replacement surgery. Barbara says, "No, I don't believe that. I believe in the body's capacity to heal." And then the entity coming along, just saying, "Let it rest. Treat it with kindness. In meditation, touch it with love. Let the body know its potential to heal itself. And just see what happens."

This is clear comprehension of the dharma. Everything is impermanent including a very sore shoulder. It has the potential to heal, no matter how bad. Yes, bone is hitting bone. The x-ray shows there's no cartilage. The body can grow cartilage. It's not usual because most people don't approach it that way.

The important thing for Barbara is twofold: to know it's possible and open to that possibility. "I choose that possibility." But also knowing, if it doesn't work then the shoulder replacement surgery will need to happen, and it will be perfect. And the new shoulder will work well and be free of pain. Give it love. So it's not a sense of, "I'm a failure if I can't heal this." Just, "I invite the deepest healing possible." And allow it to manifest in whatever way it can.

So I want you to take this idea to yourselves. Clear comprehension of purpose, of suitability, taking it into meditation and watching the areas of closure and tension, the old stories. And then clear comprehension of the dharma: whatever has the nature to arise has the nature to cease. It's all impermanent. It's all in flux. And you are not these bodies. The bodies are one outer expression of you.

A second and harder step: you are not your minds. As you age, there's going to be perhaps less clear thinking, memory lapses, and so forth. But your mind is not who you are any more than your body is who you are. Who are you beyond the body and the mind? What is the essence of your being? Can you live from that radiance? You can, yes. You can.

So we start with seeing the places of old habitual holding in the body and mind; the old stories that the mind tells and that the body tells. Then know the possibility to move past these stories.

If you wish to shoot an arrow, you take the arrow out of the quiver. You notch the arrow; you draw the bow. You must to aim. Which way am I going to shoot the arrow? You can't just let it go. Where do you want it to go?

So your assignment for tonight is to reflect on what is my highest intention. What is my deepest purpose beyond all the others? Which way am I shooting this arrow, to love, or to where?

Let's pause and give you 5 minutes to stretch. Then we're going to do a guided compassion meditation. Why compassion? Compassion is really the heart of this choosing of purpose. Knowing the innate open heart, the compassionate heart. I'm not asking any of you tomake a compassionate heart but to open to the innate compassionate heart so that you can live from it. Many of you are very compassionate to other people, but it's much harder to be compassionate to yourself. How do you ground that compassion for the self?

So we'll do a guided practice of compassion and then move directly from that into a silent sitting. So take 10 minutes to stretch now...

(session ends)