Inner Garden Workshop: July, 2015 at Michigan Friends Center

July 11, 2015 Saturday, Inner Garden Morning Talk

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. We are here for a day in the woods to explore the radiant seeds within each of you and what stimulates their growth. Look out there at the trees,(looking up through the skylights to the tree tops)looking out the skylights at the trees-- the green tips, the small shoots of new growth. Are you still growing in that way? What are the radiant shoots that are expressing out of you?

We start with vipassana, which is, as Barbara just described in her brief historical memo, how I started with her. The wordvipassana is a Pali language word.Passana means seeing, to see. Vipassana means a deeper, clearer seeing, to see deeply into the nature of how things are. We hone this skill because such deep seeing is what truly liberates us from the constant re-enactment of our old habitual tendencies.

Dottie spoke of anger. Well, anger will arise. It is a human experience. If you were walking barefoot on the floor and you stepped on a tack, would there be pain? Yes. Would you say there shouldn't be pain? The pain arose because certain conditions were present for it. You sit down and gently extract the tack, maybe wash the wound or put a Band-Aid on it if needed. You take care of it and it heals.

If you experience a certain condition that punctures your emotions and anger arises, one doesn't say, "I shouldn't be angry," one takes care of the anger. But in order to do this, you have to slow down enough to see what's really happening, how certain conditions have given rise to this anger, this fear, this confusion, this sadness. So we attend and see what is arising, and we take care of it.

One challenge is that often you drift through seeing the stubbed toe, the tack in the foot, the confrontation that brings up anger or fear, but how often do you really pay attention to when things are beautiful, to the peacefulness, the joy?

Driving down the narrow road from the cabin this morning, Barbara and Hal simply stopped the car because the sun was streaming through the trees, creating shafts of sunlight. (shows picture) It was so beautiful. Now, this is the outer beauty. How often do you stop and find that inner beauty in yourself? Ahh, here is kindness. Joy you more often catch, but generosity, just this moment to give somebody something, to do something for somebody. I'm not saying stop and say, "Aren't I wonderful! Look what I did!" Just, this is the feeling of generosity, and how lovely it feels. This is the feeling of peacefulness. This is the feeling of energy. All of these beautiful qualities within each of you, sometimes big shrubs and sometimes little sprouts.

Vipassana helps us to stop, at least during the time we're sitting, at first, just meditating. Breathing in and breathing out. Feeling an itch. Unpleasant. It's strong. It becomes predominant. Unpleasant. Breathing with the itch. And then, right there with the itch there's all the space. Does the rest of my body itch? No. Is there an itch in my ear? No. My toe? No. Just this. Appreciating the rest of my body that doesn't itch. So vipassana helps us move deeply into the direct mind and body experience. This is why we focus on it. But we are not practicing vipassana just to become vipassana practitioners. We are practicing it to learn to live our lives with more love, more skill, and more wisdom. So we'll start with vipassana today and then move into the Inner Garden exercise to work to nurture these beautiful seeds.

Try something with me. Close your eyes for a minute. Imagine we have all landed on a very barren place on earth. We are in a desert, hot and dry; very little is growing. As far as the eye can see is only barren flat land and hills, and an occasional cactus. We are going to live here for the next 30 years. This land can be fruitful. It's up to you what you make of it. Each of you come up to me in turn, and I'm going to give you three things: a jug of fresh water, a reasonable sized pot with good fertile soil, and here I have a precious apple. Inside this apple is an orchard!  I'm going to cut the apple open and I'm going to give each of you one seed from that apple. Besides that, we have a big storehouse back there. There's a floor with blankets. There are thirty years' supply of some kind of government ration food that will supply all your nutrition needs but is totally dry and tasteless. But here you have these apple seeds. Maybe we'll toss in a few cucumber, tomato, orange, pear and other seeds as well.

Put your seed in the pot and water it. Reflect, "How am I going to relate to this seed?" If it's with fear, it's not really going to help. You'll constantly be tense, perhaps overwatering it. You will not be negligent or you'll lose it. What kind of energy best nurtures this fragile seed? Watch it sprout, now an inch tall; now three inches tall; now a foot tall and growing small branches. Another year passes; it's four feet tall and it has a few flowering buds. We will have a few apples this year. After a few years of those dry rations we're going to finally have some apples. Now it's 8 feet tall and providing some shade, beautiful pink buds in the spring, lots of apples.

As you take care of your seed, your sprout, your tree, you observe that there are things that can cause it harm. Too much sun could burn it away, and yet it needs sun. Too much water could wash it away, drown it, and yet it needs water. So we don't think of the sun and the rain as enemies, only, in what proportion is each needed? We don't think of anger as an enemy in our own life. It's energy. Only, how am I going to use the anger? Dottie will talk more about this later.

In that first meditation, for the beginners, you're simply going to learn the basics of practice. For those who are more experienced, I'm going to talk more to you, but basically I want you to watch what arises in your meditation. See it arise, become predominant over the primary object, the breath or whatever you're using as a primary object. Know if it is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, and watch what mental formations arise based on that experience of pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Is there grasping to hold onto it? Is there aversion to it? How are you relating to it?

Usually in meditation, what arises as predominant is something like the itch or a strong emotion; something that pulls your attention from the primary object. But I'd like you to become quiet enough to feel, what if an object like peacefulness, joy, ease, gratitude-- once they arise, let awareness note these also. In what way am I taking care of this by just bringing a loving attention to it? There's nothing to fix, there's nothing to do. But so often these moments just pass us by, as would have happened with Barbara and Hal had their eyes not been open, if they just zipped down their cabin road without looking at the beauty of the woods. Look deeply at the beauty of the terrain as you move through.

So this is my primary instruction for you this morning. I'll talk more later. I want to stay on schedule. I know we started late so this talk has been shorter than I intended, but I think it's sufficient. I've given you the information that you need. So I'm going to release the body to Barbara, and Barbara and Dottie will instruct you further.

When I release the body to Barbara, often she's disoriented. She's out of the body and if she falls into an energy-less body, that is uncomfortable. So forming a small circle like this helps give energy and support so that she's much more oriented; she has something to home in on; a loving energy to re-enter the body with.

(firstrecording ends)

July 11, 2015 Saturday, Inner Garden Workshop, continued:

Aaron: Once more, my blessings and love to you all. Take this next step of the day from the place of silence, where you have just been resting. If you have not been resting in silence, if there's been turmoil, find the silence that's right there with the turmoil. That which is aware of turmoil is not caught in turmoil. Where is this precious, gracious, radiant awareness? Right here in this moment. This is the fragile, beautiful seed I give you that has the potential to be nourished into a great blossom, or it already is a great blossom. Don't create dualities, the idea, "I have to get rid of this before I can have that," but ask how "this" used in a skillful way can support "that". Nothing is wasted.

Within the garden we cut off the dead parts of plants. They decay into the soil. They nurture the soil. What is it that you're trying to get rid of that you believe is not good in you, that can instead be turned into this rich compost? What are the seeds that are radiant and shining forth already, and what wants to emerge?

I'd like you to spend this time reflecting deeply on what is beautiful within you that you have pushed aside because you thought, "I can't get to that until I finish with this, until I fix this." Come to the radiance; find it.

Barbara was telling the group with which she worked about a very frustrating computer incident. And part of what I asked of her repeatedly during that 5 or 6 hours where she was trying to download and install this program, was, as soon as she felt tension, to stop. Where is patience in this moment? Where is trust in this moment? Stop. Come back to the open heart. No denial of the frustration, no denial of the anger. But in this moment, where is patience? Feel it. Feel the spaciousness; this one knot of frustration and all that space. Radiance, trust, ease. Keep in balance.

That's all. I'm going to turn you over to Dottie for her instructions.(instructions not recorded). Then working session while we do the projects and have lunch.

July 11, 2015 Saturday, Inner Garden Workshop, afternoon: The partivcipants have met in small table-groups to share their projects.

Aaron: Once more, my blessings and love to you all. So, for some, transformation is about universal transformation. Everything that you do that encourages growth in consciousness in yourself transforms the world. Every time you touch a place where the fire is burning and cool it, it cools the fire in the world. Those of you who stepped a little bit over your presumed prior limits today and jumped in to create something, this is transforming the world. As you raise in consciousness, everything raises up.

It's a beautiful process. This inner garden that you are nurturing, each time you find a small sprout and invite it to grow, it brings color and radiant energy into the universe. It brings love. So this is not just a personal process, but a gift to all. And I thank you for your willingness to participate. I am open to your questions and sharing.

Q: Our human world seems so violent and misdirected. How can our little garden help that?

Aaron: Imagine yourself in a movie theater where suddenly people smell smoke. Everybody becomes agitated, jumps up. People start to run out the aisles and the doors. One person standing up and simply saying, "Go quietly. Move carefully so others are not hurt." One person saying that, not just whispering, "Now wait a minute, don't rush," but (loudly) "May I have your attention. Don't trample each other. Move with love." One person doing that with strong energy can change everything. The question is, within your garden can you develop the capacity to do that, to shape things in a loving way, even when the world is violent, disorganized, and misdirected, as you put it?

You used a phrase earlier, the experience of not having control, and how that experience brings up fear. Our lives are constantly filled with situations in which we're out of control. When we learn to relax and just be out of control, then suddenly we're in control. We're not in control with all the things that are passing by, but we're in control of our own consciousness, and consciousness is a very strong energy.

Imagine if you had water and people were pouring in many different colors–red, purple, orange, green, blue, so it was muddy-colored; you took one look at it and poured in a big vat of clarifier that dilutes all the colors so that the water is clear again. Clear consciousness is that kind of clarifier. When you meet dissension of any sort in the world from that place of clarity, it does have an effect. And if you run around hysterical, that has an effect.

Your vipassana practice gives you the tool to bring clarifier into the world around you and your own inner life. And then you practice in various situations, like today. You get better and better at it. Now in this group, it was a safe, comfortable place to do this. But what if we had a room of a thousand people, same exercise, but we were going to divide you into the top 10%, the next 10%, and we were going to give out colored ribbons, and everybody got to vote on your final product. And in the end you had to wear your ribbon even if you were in the bottom 10%. You couldn't do it, could you?

So we set up safe situations in which we can explore what it means to step beyond our boundaries. That was part of the exercise today for some of you. And for some of you it was not hard to do the artwork. The exercise led you more into discovering more clarity about who you are, living with that clarity, open to that clarity, able to express it. If you can express it with the art work, you can express it better in the world because you have a clearer understanding. And I think each of you got some sense, at least, some deepened sense of who you really are, through this art project today. I hope so.

Q: ...(noise,inaudible) the idea that some people have, that our current life here right now is being influenced by our past lives as well as our future lives and also our "what if" lives, other paths that we might have taken.

Aaron: You're just asking me to talk about that, yes? Let's say that you wanted to go from this point to that point, and you always go a specific way, a specific path. There are a dozen paths available but you always go that way. But now, because of heavy rain, the path that you habitually take is ankle-deep in mud. You've taken that path for years. Other people walk the other paths but you've never chosen another path. You start to walk and your feet are sinking in, even above the ankles. Take a deep breath and back up. Maybe there is another way. Will you be willing to give up the habitual path and try something new?

Sometimes the habitual path has to become that uncomfortable–not just ankle-deep in mud but truly fiery, stinky, and messy, before it gets your attention so that you're willing to back up and say, "How else could I do this?"

(noise, inaudible, Aaron is going to demonstrate pushing arms exercise)

Many of you have seen this exercise... If every time she pushes I push back, it's a lifetime habit. Every time something pushes at me, I push back. When I push back, she pushes back harder. I push back harder. Eventually we're both sore from it, weary of it. Now she pushes. I just let her push go past me. I don't get drawn into it. But I do give the energy back to her, not pushing, just returning the energy. She pushes again; I just let it go past me. I give the energy back. She's not sure she wants the energy back that way. She pushes again even harder. I just let it go past me. I'm totally uninvolved with it except to be attentive to it. I'm not hooked into it as a power play. It just flows back and forth very gracefully. Then eventually we just put our hands down.

This is what you're learning constantly in your lives, looking at the old habits that have not served you well, such as fear of drawing in public or presenting some kind of art work in public, that's one kind of fear. But that's a mild one. Many of you have many other kinds of fears. Needing to be the best. "Is my art work the best one here? Will everybody love it?" Needing to be the person everybody loves. Needing to be powerful. Whatever the habit is, we see where it is not serving us and we begin to consider, what other path is there?

This is where we come back to this inner garden; we may see the one who wants to be powerful, who needs to be powerful, who is afraid not to be powerful. Right there with those fears is the one who understands that they are safe, and knows that everybody has power. We understand then that we don't need to steal other people's power or have our power stolen by others, but that energy is shared. We begin to let go of being this or that and simply to be.

I didn't really hear a question, just a statement, so I'm not really answering a question, just speaking to the statement.

Q: A while ago you said, consciousness is powerful. I always viewed consciousness as weak, not enough.

Aaron: My brother, how could you be weak when you are divine? How could you be weak, how could the consciousness that you are be weak when you are of this divine radiance? I understand that this is how you may feel, but I would like you to use the practice, "Is that so?" every time this idea comes up in your head. "I am weak in this way. My consciousness is weak. My thinking is weak. My body is weak." Whatever. "Is that so?" Is this just an old habitual story? What does this story protect me from? If I was to acknowledge how powerful I am, what might I experience that's frightening? Will you try that?

We have to stop. We have just a few more minutes. Thank you for this opportunity to share with you. I hope you take the inner movement of today home and continue to nurture your radiant gardens. I hope to see you again in August. I love you all very much. I'm going to return the body to Barbara. I think she has a few final things to say.

(recording ends)