Santa Barbara, Sunday May 9, 2010

Keywords: dharma basics, mindfulness, dependent origination, heavy emotions, vipassana meditation

Barbara: Good morning to all of you and thank you for coming here today on Mother's Day, those of you who are mothersy. Thank you to William and Lauren for setting this up.

When William says Aaron incorporates in my body, what he means essentially is that I move myself out of my body and Aaron moves into the body. I have no idea what's being said or only a vague idea of what's being said.

I used to do what's called conscious channeling with Aaron. I would hear his words, hear his thoughts, almost like an interpreter hears thoughts in that language and phrases them into words. It was hard work. I had to stay very present and catch thought after thought. Then spirit said, just release the body and let Aaron come in and do the work. You don't have to listen to his thoughts and interpret them.

It is much easier. I just kind of sit under a tree and relax. He uses the body. Most of you will feel a difference in our energy but not all of you will. Don't try to figure out when he comes, "Is he real?" Instead just listen to what he's saying, and if it's useful to you, use it; if it's not useful to you, toss it. The words are coming from somewhere; don't try to figure out where.

One more thought before we start. What Lauren is doing is using the fingerspelling alphabet. There are some copies of it on the table-- A, B, C, D, E, and so forth. Signing the first letter of each word...

When I lost my hearing I knew nothing about deafness and my husband and I tried to learn American Sign Language but it's a foreign language. It's a beautiful language but we needed a way to use the language we already had. So we just picked this up and because I travel and teach so much, it's something that anybody can use. They pick up a card and at first sign haltingly but can work their way through-- "I... want... to... ask... this." It slows people down so I can read their lips better and it gives me a clue because so many sounds look alike.

For example, watch my mouth. The sounds for p, b, and, bay, may, or t,d, and n; toe, doe, no. So I need a clue! But this is all we're doing as we communicate. If you speak a bit slower when you ask questions, Lauren can keep up better.

I'm a dharma teacher, that's all I am. Yes, I'm a channel for a spirit plane entity. He's also a dharma teacher. A lot of people think of channeling as woo-woo, beings from the Pleiades, whatever. What we're teaching and focused on is how we live our lives with more love, more skill, more wisdom. How do we live with the hard things that come along, with body pain, with emotional pain, our own emotions and watching the pain in the world around us.

Let me backtrack. I lost my hearing in 1972 when my first child was born and it was traumatic, obviously. I knew nothing about deafness at the time, nor did my husband. And one day I had normal hearing and the next day I was deaf. I was flat on my back in bed with terrible vertigo. I couldn't focus my eyes enough to read so there was no communication possible for at least a month. I couldn't move; I couldn't walk. If I tried to lift my head I would pass out, I was so dizzy.

We got through that first month or six weeks somehow and the vertigo receded, but I was still left in this prison where I would look out at people talking and I couldn't hear. Gradually I actually learned the fingerspelling from a close friend who went and found it and brought it to my house to visit me, and said, "We... are... going... to... use...this... to... talk." And it worked.

But I was still in a prison of my own making because I felt so cut off from the world. One to one communication was okay but if I sat in a room and saw 2 people talking to each other, immediately it brought up all of my old conditioning of feeling abandoned, cut off, unloved. And I had worked very successfully with issues of abandonment and so forth with a very compassionate therapist years earlier. I had thought I was pretty much past them but this total cutting off from the world brought it all up again.

I met for awhile with a therapist at that point and we both agreed my anger was appropriate; my grief was appropriate. I was coping well. I saw it was more of a spiritual issue than a psychological issue. The psychological part of it was there; it was bringing up unresolved feelings. But also, I was feeling myself separate from everything and yet my deepest meditation told me that everything is connected. How do I get past this? What does it mean to be separate? What does it mean to be connected?

I coped well. I was teaching sculpture at University of Michigan and I got back into the classroom the next fall and was teaching again. I had 2 more children. I became supermom. My husband and I enrolled the children in Suzuki music classes. I taught them how to play an instrument I couldn't hear. When I say taught, I worked with a teacher, the little ones work with a teacher and the parent at home. But my husband didn't do it, I did it.

So I was doing everything to cope and I was using the coping as a way of suppressing the pain, not really letting myself feel the pain. Obviously one can only run from pain for so long. So finally I was at a stage where despite doing everything right, there was still a lot of pain. And I felt stuck and I prayed for help.

I don't know what kind of help I was expecting. In my spiritual life I was a Quaker and had been a Quaker for many years. I meditated daily. I had never met Buddhism at that point but my meditation practice had evolved from the prayer and reflection of Quaker practice more to just being in silence, being with the breath, watching objects arise and pass away. It very closely resembled vipassana but I didn't have the term vipassana in my vocabulary.

So I was sitting in my living room the next morning. That night I had said, "I can't do this, I need help." I came in and sat in meditation and suddenly there was a powerful energy there. Do you know the feeling when your back is to a door and somebody approaches, how you can feel their energy coming into the room? There was certainly an energy there. And I thought, I'm hallucinating. I got up and went into the kitchen, I had a cup of tea. I came back, he was still there. I could see his face, facial features-- high cheekbones, intense blue eyes, white brilliant radiance pouring out of him. An almost Biblical looking man with a long white beard and a very gentle smile.

I thought, I didn't know which was worse-- either I was hallucinating or he was real! Neither way pleased me very much. I figured I had never hallucinated before, and I don't do drugs, so I thought he must be real. I said, "Who are you?" And he said, "You asked for help."

I sat there and meditated with him for about 3 days just feeling his energy, with no pressure from him to speak to him. He was just sitting there beside me. Finally I said, "How are you going to help?" He replied, "You are suffering. Let's start there. Let's look at the nature of the suffering, what causes it and where there's freedom from it."

For those of you who have any knowledge of Buddhism, these are basically the Four Noble Truths. There is suffering, the causes of suffering, there is an end to suffering, and the path out of suffering.

Later as I got to know him, very gently he introduced Buddhism. For the first 6 months he would not use the term Buddhism. He said, you don't need any isms. It's not about a religious belief, it's just being present with your experience and seeing the causes of the suffering, and where there is real freedom from it.

As he began to work with me there were enormous changes in those first 3 months. He helped me to see that the deafness was not the problem, the deafness was just not hearing. But the grasping, wanting to hear, and all the stories that mind built up-- "I'm bad, I'm not good enough, nobody loves me, I'm abandoned, I'm cut off,"-- these were causing the suffering. When I could just be deaf, I was just deaf.

At the end of that 3 months I went to a workshop. For years I had studiously avoided any group experience because it was so painful. I don't know if you're familiar with the work of Stephen Levine; you probably are. Those of you who are not familiar with his work, as therapists I think you'd really enjoy his work, especially his book, Healing into Life and Death.

So I had gotten a flyer about his workshop and went down to North Carolina. I wrote to Stephen and said, "I'm coming not to hear you but to not hear you." And he understood exactly what I was saying and he said, "Come sit in the front row and don't hear. And we'll be with you." And his wife Ondrea said, "Just sit and if the not hearing gets too intense, just look up and me and meditate with me."

The first day was horrible. There was so much grasping. I had read his books. I was familiar with what he was teaching. I knew there was nothing he was saying I needed to hear, nothing I needed to know. It was just fear; just feeling cut off. Then slowly I relaxed. The second day there was more ease and by the third day there was just somebody sitting there not hearing. That was the miracle, just not hearing.

And at that point, upon our return to Michigan, Aaron began to teach me more directly from Buddhist teachings and dharma, to use more terminology and to deepen my meditation practice. He tells us in his final human lifetime in the 1500s in Thailand he was a meditation master. He found liberation in that lifetime. He also says he has been in many different cultures and religions, male and female bodies. That there are many paths to liberation but this is the path he used and he would not just toss it aside, it's a viable path. So this is the heart of what he teaches. But he definitely is not a Buddhist meditation master. His whole approach is so much broader than that.

He's simply a very wise and loving being and I think you'll enjoy him. It's been such a blessing to have him in my life these past, almost 22 years, and to share his teaching with others.

I think that's enough, I'm just going to step aside and give you Aaron. When he comes into my body, you'll see my body shake. This is because he has a very big, high energy and he's putting it into a lower vibration container. He says it's like putting on a tight bathing suit or girdle...

He will speak and then we'll have a break and then he'll answer questions. One thing you as therapists may find interesting about Aaron, because he's both male and female, when we work with couples his couple counseling is profound because he really understands both so well. He really knows how it feels to be a man and how it feels to be a woman.

What we do is not therapy, of course, it's more spiritual counseling, but sometimes we work with couples who are having marital problems and help them to hear each other better and to work out their problems in loving ways.

Are there any questions to me before Aaron comes in? Okay.

There's one thing I'd like to add before Aaron comes in. After doing this healing with him, personal healing work, I had no intention to become a channel for others but people began to ask me, can we talk to him? And I said I suppose so.

So at first there were yes and no answers and then there was a longer answer. He said, just close your eyes and repeat what you hear me say. Just as you hear me talk to you, now say it out loud. So I did. And somebody said, "Oh, you're channeling." What's channeling? At that point I had never heard of channeling.

The same thing happened with teaching meditation. So we started with maybe a half dozen people in my living room who wanted to learn the meditation he was teaching me and, as I said before, which I already knew. But he was giving me more articulation of it.

This has evolved now into Deep Spring Center. That first year Deep Spring Center was founded when people came to me and said, let us take the organizational stuff off your back so you can just teach and channel.

We now have about 17 teachers, a board of directors, several hundred students in Ann Arbor, and many more across the country that come for retreats and such. It has left me in awe to watch this process organically happening, how many people are looking for these answers in their hearts. How do I live with love? How do I help others live with love? How do I help support the world's living with more love? So it's been beautiful to watch this.

You'll find information about Deep Spring Center there. If you want to be added to our mailing list, leave your name on the form, and if you would like a transcript of this talk emailed to you, there's a place for email transcripts. You can ask for all the email transcripts or just receive this talk. All means probably an average of one a week.

There are some books from Aaron on the table. We sold out of one yesterday but there are some of the other two left. And, I think that's all I need to tell you...

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. As Barbara reminded you, please don't try to figure out if I'm real. I feel real to me! That's enough.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak with you today. I understand you are all therapists and that means to me that you are deeply involved with the alleviation of suffering in others and in yourselves and in the world, so we have that in common. I speak to you as brothers and sisters of light. I deeply respect the work you do. There is so much suffering in the world and it needs loving people to attend to it.

The challenge for many of you that as you attend to others' suffering it deeply awakens your own suffering and you don't know how to release that.

What is suffering? We must differentiate between pain and suffering. Pain happens. You stub your toe and there's pain. It's part of the human experience. Suffering arises as resistance to pain. As Barbara explained in her own story, she was suffering as well as experiencing deafness because there was so much fear and resistance to the deafness.

But she actually found that being deaf was not so terrible all the time. Her husband likes to attend the football games. Barbara's not a big football fan but he wanted her company. How many people do you know who can meditate in a football stadium with a hundred thousand people screaming? So she found the deafness has its uses. Living in a home as a mother of 3 energetic sons, it gave her a place of solitude. She could not go off to meditate in a cave somewhere and find silence; she could close her eyes.

So often in your life you are afraid of the unknown. So much of your energy is spent trying to control, to make what is pleasant remain with you and to push away what is unpleasant. But you can't do that. Sometimes what's unpleasant just is unpleasant. Sometimes what's pleasant is fleeting and then it's gone.

I understand that you've all met some Buddhist psychology (some discussion of past event) Let's start more at the beginning.

First, the nature of the mind is to give rise to thoughts. The nature of the body is to feel sensation. These thoughts and sensations may have a quality of being pleasant or unpleasant or neutral. What happens at a very basic level is that the sense organ, for example the eye, touches an object, and seeing consciousness arises. So there's contact of sense organ with an object, then consciousness.

As soon as there's consciousness there will be feelings and perception. What arises will feel pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. That habitual pattern is that when feeling is unpleasant, aversion arises, wanting to push it away. When feeling is pleasant, grasping arises, wanting to hold on to it. Often when feeling is neutral, there is boredom and turning away, attention seeking a more interesting object. There's nothing bad about this, this is simply how the human is wired.

However, it leads to suffering. Furthermore, that shift from pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral to grasping or aversion is merely conditioned and is not necessary to the human experience. Contact is necessary. If the sense organ is working and it touches an object, there will be contact and there will be consciousness. With consciousness there will be both perception, seeing what it is, and feeling, pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. But the chain can end here.

This is the place where there's a shift, where freedom is possible. You can watch yourself making that shift from unpleasant feeling to tension or aversion, to pushing it away, or the shift from pleasant to grasping. For example, a delicious meal. "What a feast. Oh, so good." You haven't even finished chewing this morsel yet and you're looking around saying, "Is there another one? I want another." Already you're suffering and this delicious treat is still in your mouth.

This is called the active moment, the moment of shift from pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral feeling into grasping and aversion. It's the active moment because it's the moment where karma is created and where it may be released. It's the moment where liberation is possible. But in order to do that there has to be mindfulness of that shift and how it feels.

You don't need to become Buddhists, of course, and you don't need to become vipassana practitioners. (Aaron asks the participants about their meditation experience) There's no right form of meditation any more than there's a right house to live in. What do you want for your home? Do you want a big home or a small home? Do you want a home with a view or a home in a sheltered space? Do you want a home that is bright and wide open or a home that feels secure and sheltered?

With meditation we choose the practice that suits the needs at the moment but along with the present meditation that you do I would encourage you to deepen simply in mindfulness, not calling it vipassana, just presence. This will support any meditation practice.

Vipassana: passana means seeing. Vipassana means deeper seeing. It's just a practice of being present in this moment and seeing what's happening in this moment. If we don't see what's happening in this moment, how can we know why we get swept away?

Let me use an illustration here. Let's say we all went rafting together. We put our inner tubes in the water, each of you with your own tube and a paddle, and we're going to float down this river, but I have one word of caution: part way down the river you will come to a fork. If you go right, the river winds gently around and on down the hill, but if you to go left, and the current seems to sweep you left, you go over a lot of rocks and will probably get banged up. You'll come out in the same place but it will be a rough ride. So as we go down the river, don't be afraid, just watch and be aware, and when you see the fork approaching, pull right.

On we go down the river, and the scenery is beautiful. An hour passes. You're lulled into a dreamlike state, appreciating the beauty, enjoying the flow of the water, the warmth of the sun, and suddenly this fork is in front of you. As I said, the current pulls you off to the left because you were not present to propel your tube the other way. Over the rocks you go. Ouch! Bang! Scrapes, bumps.

Everybody misses the fork. You come out together at the bottom, bruised and bleeding. The guide says, "Shall we try it again? This time take the right fork." We try it again and you have an idea about when this fork will come, now. You start to pay attention as you see the scenery approaching the fork but a big eagle flies overhead, "Ah, look at that!" and you're pulled into the left fork just as you turn to watch the eagle. Off you go down the rocky fork again.

How many times do you need to go over those rocks before you're ready to pay attention and say, "I choose the smoother ride? I'm ready not to get beaten up by this river."

Mindfulness is like this. It's a way of paying attention so we start to see where we end up on the rocks and start to know, "All I have to do is pay attention and I can avoid the rocks. And I do this not out of fear but out of love and out of kindness, because it's not kindness to keep bruising myself on the rocks."

We watch this whole arising of experience. The physical senses: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, touch. Sense organs connecting with objects; contact and consciousness. The mind touching mental objects: memories, planning, judging, whatever kinds of thoughts have come. Whatever arises with that contact and consciousness will either be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral and there will be some perception of what it is.

Sometimes the perception is as though you were wearing filtered lenses, maybe a very dark lens, so what you see takes on a different color; it's not how it really is. It's conditioned by your experience. As a simple example, if somebody who was grievously bitten by a dog as a child, sees a dog, he doesn't just see a dog, he sees the whole attack with its fear and pain.

I'm speaking to you here for your personal work but this is also something that you can communicate in simple terms to your clients. There's a big difference when you get sucked into the story. It is like being sucked into that rocky fork of the river, "A dog! It will attack me!" Terror, terror.

Or, seeing the chain of objects arise, "dog, unpleasant, memory, fear." In this moment, fear is just fear, memory is just memory. If we learn to slow down the process in that way we can become more attuned to how we get drawn into that rocky fork and steer ourselves clear of it, not out of fear but out of kindness.

There's a challenge in work with some of your clients, in that they may not be ready to choose kindness. That's a different point and we'll come to that later. But assuming that many are ready to choose kindness and simply don't know how, when you start to talk to them about slowing down, experiencing, perceiving the flow of experience, they can see how they're getting caught in what we call old mind conditioning, the old stories. I'm not telling you anything new here, of course. You know these stories intimately from your own lives and your work.

This process does bring freedom. Barbara tells a powerful story of her early childhood. She experienced abandonment by a mother figure. It wasn't planned abandonment but through illness, so it was very painful for her. She grew up with this feeling of unworthiness, feeling unloved, abandoned, and that she personally had done something wrong that had caused the mother figure to leave.

She worked with a therapist for a number of years and got to the point where she understood this was just a story, and she didn't have to live her life around it. So she had a lot of freedom. But still the issue would come up.

She was at a month-long meditation retreat, held in silence. There is instruction given, not just no talking but no eye contact; silence, inner silence. She began to notice when she walked along a pathway and somebody was coming toward her, and she reached up her eyes to make eye contact, they followed instructions and looked away. For Barbara it brought up these old feelings of shame, fear of abandonment, and unworthiness.

So I said, "Is there anybody here who is unworthy or is it just the old conditioning coming forth?" She said, "Well, if I'm not unworthy I guess I'm worthy." I said, "No, that's just the flip side of the coin. Nobody's worthy; nobody's unworthy. All that's happening is when the person looks away there is seeing, eyes seeing the person looking away. Contact, consciousness, perception, seeing the person looking away, unpleasant feeling, then pulled into the aversion and the shame." Pulled into that rocky fork.

In that moment, the active moment, we stop the flow by being present with the feeling that's come up. Tension, feel the tension in the body. Open to the tension, hold the tension with love. The feelings of shame and abandonment are a subterfuge, they're a way of escaping the deeper pain, and when you are with that deeper pain, and allow yourself to remember the feelings of loneliness as a 5 year old, the feelings of being so cut off as a young adult with the hearing loss, you really touch that pain, open the heart to that pain and can be less afraid of it.

Through the month she continued to try to make eye contact with people and each time, they looked away. By the end of the month when they looked away, it no longer brought up these intense feelings; it was just somebody looking away. Now, she had a month of silence to do this work; that's pretty intense. But she was able to open her heart to her pain so deeply that the chain that bound in unworthiness, resolved.

There was a very different result because when somebody looked away or said something unpleasant to her, she just heard it as unpleasant words, or saw a person look away. Sometimes the angry words might have grounding in reality, if somebody said, "You're being noisy," she'd have to stop and see, "Am I being noisy? I don't hear myself walking or closing doors. Am I being noisy? No, not at this time, it's just this person." She didn't take it personally anymore. Here is freedom; no more suffering. We still have to attend to the world and the pain we experience in the world. We do it with an open heart.

So objects arise into your experience. There is perception about what has arisen and feeling, and then you may watch the tension of either grasping or pushing away. To illustrate, please raise your hands as if you were pushing something away. Feel yourself pushing. Can you feel the tension in your body when you push? Your body really can't stay relaxed and push. Generally there's a tightening in the belly, and tension.

We know that moment of unpleasant feeling and we watch the shift into strong aversion. Then we know, this is aversion. What is the experience of aversion without any stories? Can there just be aversion? Can there just be unpleasant feeling, but if unpleasant shifts into aversion, can there just be aversion? All the stories of a self that has to be the good one, has to fix, to make everything right, the incessant stories begin to fade away.

I'd like you to try an exercise with me here. I want you to hold an arm out, straight out so it feels heavy, one arm. In the first moments there won't really be discomfort but as I speak, slowly the arm is going to feel heavy.

Begin to feel sensation, as touch. The body feeling the heaviness of the arm; maybe there is the beginning of an ache. Watch very carefully for the shift, where the focus of your attention moves from the discomfort in the arm or the sensations in the arm to the unpleasant feeling and then wanting to get away from it, wanting to put the arm down, wanting to stop the experience. It will come at different times for different ones of you so I'm going to just keep talking.

Try to experience that shift and that first moment when you want to put the arm down. You're no longer present with the sensation in the arm but with the aversion, as the thought, "I don't want this," and the body tightened in aversion. Then, depending on who you are and your habitual energy, for many of you there will be a response to that "I don't want this" of tightening in the body, with another thought, "I'll bear it, I'll put up with it." Hardening the heart, pushing away the experience. Or for some of you, you may be feeling helplessness. For some of you, probably for many of you, a thought, "I shouldn't mind this." Different emotions will come depending on your conditioning.

Whatever is coming, can you simply open your heart to this human who's experiencing some physical discomfort? Breathing in, I am aware of the discomfort; breathing out, I smile to the discomfort. Breathing in, I am aware of the aversion to the discomfort; breathing out, I smile to the aversion.

I hold this human being--literally take your other hand and hold it over your heart. I hold this human being in love and kindness. Allow this human to be present with its experiences without fear, but if fear comes, to be present with the fear.

Many of you can feel a softening. There's still physical discomfort, perhaps more intense because it's been a longer period of time. But there is a softening of the tension around the discomfort. How is one relating to discomfort? Discomfort will come; this is the human experience. How is one going to relate to it? Can there be kindness, an open heart, patience, wisdom that knows that whatever has the nature to arise has the nature to cease? It arises out of conditions; just see it out. It will go.

Breathe deeply, keeping the arm out but relaxing the body. Soft belly. Breathing deeply into the belly. From the hand that's over the heart, sending love into the heart and out into this arm that's painful. Just body sensation, perhaps throbbing or aching, heat. Breathing in and smiling to this discomfort, opening the heart to it...

You may put your arms down. I'd appreciate if you would share your experiences. I'd like to hear from you.

Q: I was very grateful for the experience because it reminded me when I do yoga, I feel a lot of aversion, and this helped me to be aware of what I do. And I am one who pushes, so now I can be more kind.

Aaron: Thank you, Q...

Q: I was remembering childbirth and the experience of pain and learning to breathe through the pain. And that it was joyous in spite of the pain.

Aaron: The natural childbirth classes that you have are a wonderful introduction to this form of meditation for many women.

Q: It made me aware of just being a witness and the power of being a witness.

Aaron: Which is probably one of the most important parts of your work, that you not get caught up in self-identity with your clients but remember that you are a witness, first of all, and second of all, that as you remain an openhearted and loving witness, it helps them move into that place, to become their own more loving witness.

Could you feel the shift from absorption in the sensations in the arm and shoulder to aversion to the sensations-- the belly tightening, the heart closing? And when you brought kindness to it, could you feel the shift back? More spaciousness? (Nodding yes)

Is there anyone else who would like to share?

So we bring in this skill, this learnable skill, into our lives. Watching that shift from unpleasant feeling into aversion but sometimes pleasant feeling into grasping, and watch for where one gets pulled off into the rocky channel. No matter how far one has gone one can say, "Ah, I'm getting sucked into that rocky channel." Sometimes you're so far in it's hard to extricate yourself but usually you can back out.

I'm speaking of your own personal lives and the places that each of you get caught. Everybody has their own stories, their own personal stories. It may be the need to be the good one. Those of you who are caregivers – many of you are caregivers for beautiful reasons, because you deeply care about people and you want to alleviate suffering – but also because there's something in you that needs to be good, needs to help people.

When you can stay centered in this loving heart that is deeply compassionate and cares about human suffering and wants to alleviate suffering, you're in a centered space. But as soon as you get pulled out of that centered space, there is a shift into being the conditioned one who had to be a good little girl or boy, had to take care of your younger brothers and sisters, had to take care of your sick mother or whoever it might have been, and who started to find self-identification in that, the feeling of being loved through these actions of caretaking. It's not that the caretaking was wrong; it's that you're pulled into those stories. Then when the client is suffering, you get pulled in and then you can't be as accessible to the client.

When it's about yourself and you get pulled in, it's harder to see it because it goes so deep. But each of you have your own habits. Barbara mentioned Stephen Levine before; Stephen calls it the Top Ten Hit Parade. Your own top ten of the specific stories that catch you most. What are these? Start to become aware of when they arise in the daily life, in small things.

Perhaps it's as simple as this; there is a bee flying around your child's room and you don't want your child to get stung. You don't want to harm the bee. You don't want to close the door and say goodnight and leave the bee in the child's room. What are you going to do? From a place of clarity and love you might find a way to catch the bee. From a place of fear, you're going to either say, "I need to kill this bee," and get out the swatter or, "I cannot kill the bee." What does love say? What does the open heart say? Watch the self pulled into the place of fear. Can you come back to that place of center? Let's call it the One Who Knows. Within each of you there is this One Who Knows. From fear's perspective, "the one who knows" is not accessible.

You all know that experience resting in that place where there's an intuitive wisdom from the heart, and you know the place where it's coming from the ego and from fear. How does it feel when it's coming from fear? How does it feel when it's coming from wisdom? What's the difference that lets you know which it is? What lets you know?

Q: I feel grasping.

Aaron: How do you feel the grasping, what does it feel like?

Q: Tension.

Aaron: Tension. Contraction, tension. Others?

Q: When I'm feeling tense I feel faster, pressure, and heat...

Aaron: Which is another kind of contraction. I think the primary experience is one of contraction felt in different ways-- tension, fire. Running, moving fast. Tension. Another experience, though, the opposite experience, is one of pulling back, disassociation and flatness. Everything gets flat. It imitates non-contraction but this is really a state of contraction itself. So we have contraction in either direction, one that's moving fast and one that's flat.

I have the image here of a logjam. First the logs are moving slowly down the river, just flowing. Then they get jammed up and they're banging into each other. And the river is flowing fast, tumbling over itself. Tension.

But then they get so congested that there's no motion at all and it looks like stillness but it's not stillness. You can feel the tension in it. It's still tension. It's very different than a smooth flow of energy.

So you can feel this energetically. When you feel it, my guess is that for many of you the first thought is, "I shouldn't feel this," trying to control it. The tension is a result of conditions. If the conditions are present, the tension will arise.

If you were walking across the floor here and you put your foot on a tack, ouch! You pull the tack out, there's a drop of blood. How many of you would say, "I shouldn't be bleeding, I shouldn't feel pain."? But if you have an emotional tack, stub your toe on an emotional object, you say, "I shouldn't feel this."

This is what creates the logjam. When there can be presence that sees that thought arise, as soon as you see "I shouldn't," please note, "Judging, judging. Here is judgment. In this moment can I just be with the judging mind?" You might ask, " If I were not feeling judging now, what might I be experiencing?" It's a powerful question. "What does this judgment protect me from?"

It's the same thing with anger, stepping on the tack of anger. Somebody says or does something and anger comes up and then the thought, "I shouldn't be feeling anger." Judging, judging. As soon as you hear "I shouldn't" just note it as judgment. If I were not feeling anger right now, what might I be experiencing? What does this anger protect me from? You all know many answers to that. This is part of your work. You understand that behind anger are fear, shame, and other different emotions. The anger becomes a smokescreen. If we feel the anger we don't have to feel the fear.

How deep are you willing to let yourself go, to be fully present with your experience without judgment, but if judgment comes, just to note it as judgment and not to be afraid of the judging thought? It's part of this whole flow of conditions. There's no reason to self-identify with it. The judgment is not who you are, it simply is risen from conditions.

When you attend to the conditions, the result will pass away. It all arises from conditions. So you don't have to fix it. If there's judgment, there's just judgment. It doesn't need to be fixed, it needs to be taken care of so it doesn't pour over and harm others. But it's a result.

The more you try to fix it, the more tension, then the more negativity, and the deeper you get yourself into that rocky channel. But when you stop and say, "I'm headed for the rocks!" and just pause and breathe, "Here I am present with judgment, with anger, with sadness, with confusion," what happens? What is the direct experience of anger when there are no stories about who's to blame or how to fix it, but just anger? What is the direct experience of confusion, of shame, of loneliness? Can one just bear witness?

When you work with the vipassana practice it leads you step by step in these paths, but one does not have to do it in a formal vipassana practice. Of course the daily practitioner finds it easier because with daily practice, you're more likely to catch these things before you get swept so far into that rocky channel. But just the determination to be more present is a very good starting place, holding in your heart the highest intention to live your life from a place of kindness and in service to others, in kindness to all beings including yourself. You ask yourself, as a kind of self-affirmation, to be more aware when you're pulled out of that intention. That's all you need to start with. And then you become increasingly mindful of the places where you are most apt to get pulled out.

I'd like to do a short guided meditation with you, just introducing the basics of this mindfulness practice. I'm going to talk for a few minutes and talk you through it and then ask you to just sit in silence for 2 or 3 minutes. (there are pauses, not typed in)

We start with a comfortable posture and closing the eyes. Bring the attention to the breath. Feel it at the tip of the nostrils, cool air entering the nostrils, a very light touch. Know it as touching.

And then the out breath. It feels warmer. Know the breathing in and the breathing out, just touching, touching. Let mind rest there at the tip of the nostril and the upper lip...

Just witnessing the flow of the breath. Don't follow it all the way into the lungs or the belly, just watching it at the nostril and lip. Bare sensation, touching...

Know it as breath. The perception of breathing, and if it's a pleasant feeling, know it as pleasant. If it's neutral, know it as neutral. It's probably not unpleasant unless you have a bad cold and are struggling to breathe...

Breathing in and breathing out. A little smile on the lips; ease. Don't try hard, just relax. Then there will be a sound. Of course, my voice is a sound and pulling your attention away from the breath. But we're going to go back to the breath and then I'm going to ring the bell once. I want you to move attention from the breath to the sound. Hearing, hearing. Perception knows the sound as bell. Know if it's pleasant. Stay with it until the sound dies out and then come back to the breath. Just that.

Starting with the breath, (some time passes) ...


When the sound is no longer predominant, return to the breath. Present with the in breath and the out breath, body relaxed, mind relaxed. Don't force attention anywhere, just let it stay with this primary object of the breath. And when something pulls you away, move to it. No object is better than any other object, go with whatever is primary in your experience. Again, breathing in and breathing out, and when the bell sounds, move to it and note, hearing, hearing...(some time passes)


The bell is a pleasant sound so you know it as pleasant. There's no aversion to it and there's probably no grasping for it to repeat itself, just hearing it and letting it go.

Sometimes an object may come that's unpleasant. (tapping/hammering sound) hearing, hearing. It's loud enough to catch your attention, and then it goes. Are you staying with that object or did you come back to the breath? Note any tension that wants to stay on guard with the object lest it come back. Can you simply return to the breath? Let the object go, don't chase it.


When the sound is gone, you have returned to the breath. Breathing in and breathing out. Letting the mind and body be at ease and spacious.

(bell hit repeatedly?)

If it's unpleasant, know it as unpleasant. Just as with the arm exercise, does tension start to come up?

(bell hit repeatedly?)

When tension comes, the clang of these bells is no longer the predominant object but the tension is. Shift your attention from the sound to the tension...

(bell hit repeatedly?)

Can you meet that tension with kindness, with spaciousness, nothing to fix, just tension, tension? As the tension dissolves, the sound may become predominant again.


(bell hit repeatedly, and other piercing sounds)

(the transcriber is experiencing some tension as she holds the headphones away from her ears! )

If there is still tension, don't force your attention back to the breath just because the sound has stopped; stay present with the tension. Hold it in a space of kindness. As the tension dissolves, then come back to the breath...

The hearing has been a physical experience. It could be an acrid smell, perhaps a skunk wandering in through the open door. Unpleasant, unpleasant. The windows are open and the scent wafts away. When tension goes, return to the breath.

Objects arising and passing away. It could be a mental object. You're breathing in and breathing out and suddenly mind is planning. What am I going to do this afternoon? Just note planning, planning, and come back to the breath.

It may be an emotion that arises. This is much more like the physical object. When you note, "planning," you're no longer planning so you simply return to the breath, but if you note sadness or anger, they don't go just because you've noted them. As with the sound, can there be full presence, kind presence, with whatever emotion has come? Where does it settle in the body? How does it feel? Instead of picking up a stick and trying to chase it away, can one just be with it? In this way we make a bigger container for whatever arises because there's freedom from tension, from contraction. Kind presence.

Watching any concepts that come, such as anger and then "I'm bad, I shouldn't have anger." Opinions, opinions... An interesting practice for an hour or two is to watch how often the mind rushes into judgment or opinion. You're not trying to fix that, you're just observing, "Ah, so this is how it is." This is a primary habit that one might have, to rush off into judgment or opinion. Ask, " If I were not holding these judgments now, what might I be feeling?"

Perhaps one sees helplessness that one cannot control something unpleasant that's going on around them, or disappointment, futility, sadness, even loneliness. When judgment arises it always arises out of conditions. It's simply a result. It's not bad but we inquire after it, "What is this judgment? How can I not just take care of it so it doesn't do harm to others but how can I shift the conditions out of which it arose by bringing kind attention to them?"


As I'm silent here, a few of you asked inwardly, what next? And almost immediately thought, "I shouldn't be thinking." It is the nature of the mind to give rise to thoughts. Rest in the clear space that sees the thoughts come and go and is not self-identified with them...





You may open your eyes. So this is a start. Perhaps you could spend just 5 minutes at your desks in the morning before you begin your day, centering yourselves, attuning yourselves more deeply to the places where the mind is habituated to go, to the patterns of the mind, and opening your heart to them. I call it making a bigger container.

If I sat each of you in a small box, each of you just with your head sticking out of a small box, just your size, and then I came in with a tarantula and went to put it in your box, how long would you stay in the box? (laughing) How about if we had a room this size and we were all sitting here like this but no furniture. You could see a bit more. Might you stay for a second or two until it started to move toward you?

Now how about if we had a room ten times this size with nothing in it, just bare, and I put the tarantula in the far corner? You might be able to stay there with it because it's a big container. As it comes toward you, you just get up and walk to the far corner again. You keep your eye on it-- you don't forget about it, you watch it. But you're not terrified of it because there's space around it.

As you observe it, you become familiar with it and finally you're able to just say, "Oh, you again. It's just the tarantula. There he is moving again. People have told me they are gentle creatures and do not mean harm. Can I just sit here and let it approach me?" Eventually you're going to let it climb up on your lap. You going to look at it and really see it for what it is, just another sentient being that means you no harm. But that readiness comes out of kindness, not force, and out of creating the bigger container.

I'll leave you with that thought. You'll have a break and then I'll be happy to answer questions. You'll find some books on the table and one of them is my book Presence, Kindness, and Freedom, which is in large part about what I've just been speaking of, to be present with what arises, with kindness, and how that leads to freedom.

Thank you for allowing me this time to speak. I'm going to release the body to Barbara.


Barbara: People have asked for more of my personal story. Before I could consider the possibility of healing the deafness I had to see the ways I was attached to the deafness. That may seem like an odd idea at first, but maybe not for you who are therapists. I began to see the ways it provided an escape for me.

Ultimately it kept me from needing to be directly present with the pain and anger in the world. As a simple example, when my husband is angry at me and yelling at me, it's very easy to look at him--this is really getting the last word!--to look at him and say, "Would you mind repeating that? I didn't get it."! But in a larger way, deafness allowed me the illusion that I could avoid the enormity of pain in the world, not needing to hear it. What does it mean to allow oneself to be fully present with the world's pain?

I got to a point where I felt I no longer needed the deafness. But still, the nerves were dead. The medical doctors had told me for years there was no possibility of hearing. And I also had no balance because the nerves in the semicircular canal were dead, so outdoors, I walked with walking sticks.

I said, okay, I'm ready to consider the possibility of healing. So many people through the years had come to me and said, "Why don't you try this technique or that." And I knew it wasn't right. There's no such thing as coincidence in my view. I got an email from a woman who I had never met whose mailing list I had somehow crept onto, telling about her trip to John of God, who I had never heard of. I googled John of God and immediately upon seeing his picture I said, "This is it. This is right." I knew I needed to go there.

I went down there. I figured I had nothing to lose. I thought, "It's a pretty Brazilian town. I'll fly down there. I'll see what it's like." The first year – when I say the Entity, these are entities like Aaron who incorporate in John of God's body, many different entities that incorporate one at a time – the Entity said, "It is possible we can help you. We will try. You'll need to come back many times, and we'll see."

I came back the next year and he said, "Probably we can help you." The third year finally they said, "Yes, you will hear." Since then it's been amazing to have these bits of hearing coming back. And I'm still not hearing voices. I hear sounds like car doors closing. I hear thunder and some music.

Two years ago, not this year but the year before, I was sitting in a big room with people at the Sunday morning service that they offer, an interfaith service. A man behind me started to sing Amazing Grace in a beautiful operatic voice. I was sitting there and suddenly this melody filled my ears. I didn't hear the words. I heard the sounds, the tones, and it was just startling. Of course I just began to cry. Really hearing the sounds and knowing this is Amazing Grace being sung.

TheEntities had me working with one octave of tuning forks. I hit each one and listen to it and just sing. I use the syllable OM. They said use any syllable I want. I use OMMM.... On each note. And I can now sing this whole octave of tuning forks in tune.

And I don't have a balance problem anymore, I can walk around. This is a big one because I used to walk like this, there was no balance. (Barbara demonstrates)

Healing is a process. We just go along, deepening in this process, looking at what blocks healing, looking at what supports it, entering further and further into what supports it. I have a new book coming out next March published by North Atlantic books in Berkeley called Cosmic Healing, so next year when I come I'll bring that to you.

Let's move to questions. I'm going to stay here for the moment. You can address questions to me or to Aaron. When a question comes in that needs Aaron, he'll come back into the body.

Q: First I want to let you know that I have to leave for work.

Barbara: No problem.

Q: So my question is, when I meditate, sometimes I don't know if I'm just spacing out, and therefore I'm bypassing something.

Barbara: Do you do vipassana meditation, or what kind of meditation?

Q: I have not been trained in vipassana but I sit in silence and I often pay attention to cessation or breath, and notice thoughts and feelings.

Barbara: What is the experience of spacing out?

Q: It's blank, calm...

Barbara: ...The power of attention is very strong. We bring attention to whatever object, pleasant or unpleasant. When you bring attention to sleepiness for example, and you start just looking at sleepiness, you can ask, what is this experience? Not asking in a conceptual way but, what is this mind and body experiencing? Feel the heaviness of sleepiness; feel the flatness of it. The bringing of attention wakes up the sleepiness.

In the same way, when we bring attention to what you're calling spacing out, what we call in vipassana "sinking mind," like a ship that sinks, there's a flatness to it. It's not sleepiness, it's a dullness. There's a feeling of low energy. Bring attention to it, not to fix it, just to be present with it. The process of bringing attention to it will wake up the energy.

If you're in a very deep meditative space, nothing will change; the spaciousness will remain, but there will be strong presence with the spaciousness. If there was no presence but just a sinking kind of experience, it will bring energy back up. Just the power of attention.

Q: That makes sense. Thank you, that really helps.

Barbara: For those of you who are interested, I don't know, Spirit Rock is quite a ways up in San Francisco, but there must be teachers here. Many people come from all over the country to our June retreat in Ann Arbor. It's a silent retreat, weekend or week. The only difference from traditional vipassana retreat is that in the afternoon there's an optional period when people can just hang out on the lawn under a beautiful tree with Aaron and talk and ask questions. Not metaphysical kind of questions but these kinds of grounded questions; how do I do this kind of work. So it's a chance to spend very relaxed time with Aaron within the structure of the retreat and with instructions for people at all levels. But I know there are things close to home. So if you want to deepen in this practice, L and W can direct you to teachers, I'm sure.

Q: I'm interested in that idea of people choosing the rocky river instead of the calm. Understanding how it is why we do that.

Barbara: Let's let Aaron come back in for that... He says I can answer that. I'm saying yes, but you are present to hear him. (Aaron incorporates)

Aaron: Why do they choose the rocky branch of the river? Certainly you all know people like this. Part of it is self-punishment, but that's too simplistic-- why are they punishing themselves? My experience is that for many people. . . first there's not consciousness that they're punishing themselves; they feel helplessly drawn over the rocks.

But if they go deeper, there's eventually some recognition that if they make a choice for the smooth branch they're going to have to look at the pain that drove them into that rocky branch in the first place. And it's so frightening to do that that they would rather just feel helpless.

It's important to help people to understand that at the point where they were first pulled into the rocky branch, they did not have a choice. We look, for example, at a child who was abused and develops deep feelings of unworthiness. The adults tell him how bad he is and he has to pick up that belief, "I'm bad, I'm hopeless, I'm inept, I'm not lovable." Because if the adult says that and he doesn't believe it, it takes him further from the love that he seeks. The only way that he can get the love that he seeks is to go along with what the adult is saying. It's too frightening to say, "No, I am not bad." So he can't do that.

So he is helpless at that point, he's simply drawn into that current. He doesn't yet have the readiness to make a wiser choice. The child needs love. It's his only way of getting love, or what seems to be a semblance of love. But then the habit becomes so deep that to extricate himself from the habit seems impossible.

When he begins as an adult to consider the deep feelings of shame and wrongness that he has carried, and the possibility of going into the smoother branch, it feels impossible because it brings him up against those early childhood fears that he will lose everything.

And at that point in meditation we can support the wholesome choice. I don't know how you support it without meditation because I'm not a therapist, but it's important that the client be supported to see that this is a myth that had to be developed to survive and that it's not a bad myth but a painful one. He was never bad to choose the myth, but really needs to thank the child he was for just surviving. But now he can release the story. In meditation one can see all of this.

I use an example. What if I brought you to the beach; all your friends are out swimming but you don't know how to swim, you desperately want to get out there in the water so I give you a lifejacket. You jump off the dock and you swim out to your friends. All summer you keep putting on that lifejacket. It supports you. You swim with it. You feel safe with it.

Ten years pass. I come back to the same dock and there you are, putting on this rotten, waterlogged, moldy, lifejacket,. "What are you doing?" "I'm putting on my lifejacket so I can swim." "But your lifejacket doesn't support you anymore." "Oh yes it does."

Then I ask you to climb down the ladder and just hold on to the ladder for a minute and then let go and see, does the jacket bring you to the surface or does it pull you down? It pulls you down. I don't have to tell you then to take it off. It may still be a bit frightening to take it off but you start to understand, "I have been supporting myself all of this time; the lifejacket hasn't been holding me up. I know how to swim." It's still scary the first time you leave the rotten lifejacket on the raft and swim, but you know, "I can do this."

So there's got to be this gradual progression with meditation, helping the person see that the myth they've been carrying is a rotten old lifejacket, that they don't need to carry it anymore, that they do know how to swim, figuratively speaking. And yet to appreciate that they did need it at first and not to condemn the one who first put it on. Then to support them, to be there with them, to help them trust, "I can swim without it," until they see that they can. Then they let go of it. I'm not saying it doesn't return from time to time, but it's never so powerful. It doesn't pull them off into that rocky channel anymore.

Does that sufficiently answer your question? (yes)

Q: How do I stop worrying about my adult children?

Aaron: Perhaps I should bring Barbara back for this one, (lost to laughter; she has 3 adult children and grandchildren). I've been a father and mother in many lifetimes so I'll answer it.

First I would ask you, daughter, is there something specific like a serious illness in one of the children, about which you worry, or is it more the everyday worries?

Q: Both. And maybe not so serious but she has health struggles.

Aaron: The clearest path in my mind is simply awareness. When a worrying thought arises, know it as a worrying thought. What is the experience of worry? Feel the tension of it, the heat, the contraction. Then consider two things. You cannot just cut off the worrying thought. It's there; it does not help to try to chase it away. But that which is aware of worrying is not worrying.

So as soon as you note it, you're open to both the everyday mind that's worrying and this much deeper, centered part of your being that can watch worrying without getting caught up in the story. You may not be able to stay there yet; that's a much longer more gradual process. But it's the start.

The second consideration: coming from this place of spaciousness, see the self worrying as the witness, and ask, "How am I relating to worry? Do I grab hold of it and get pulled along by it, or can I just sit with it with some kindness? Breathing in, I am aware of worrying self. Breathing out I smile to the worrying self." So there's some kindness to this human being who's worrying, not a judgment, "No worry." And awareness is not caught in the story; it enhances the spaciousness around the arising thoughts of worry.

As that spaciousness gets more stable, then you begin to ask another question about the worry. The worry has arisen out of conditions. Which fork do I choose? Is my worrying going to take me down a peaceful stream and take my children down that peaceful stream with me? Or am I caught spinning into the rocky fork and pulling them along? The more you worry, the more they worry.

When you're relaxed about their experience, it helps them to relax and be more responsible and mature with their experience. So you start to see how your old pattern of worry is just banging all of you against the rocks, and that you do have a choice. It's like the lifejacket; you can take it off. Ask, "What does worrying protect me from? If I were not worrying now, what might I be experiencing?' I think you'll find feelings of helplessness, fear, the deep mother instinct that wants so badly to protect her children.

What does this worrying protect me from? And then hold that as an object. What is helplessness? If you see helplessness, what is it? Sadness, I cannot my children. Shame, I cannot protect my children. You've got to be honest with yourself and present with all of those feelings without judgment, simply knowing them as part of the human experience, and nothing bad. But you don't have to get caught up in worry; it just comes, like clouds coming through the sky as the atmosphere changes. It comes, it goes. That which is aware of worry is not worried.

Q: I have a related question. What can you tell me about my daughter's current physical symptoms, illness?

Aaron: May I ask several questions? How old is your daughter and what kind of illness does she have?

Q: 18. It's a presenting as an autoimmune disease, it's mysterious, we don't know.

Aaron: Your name is M, is that correct? First, I cannot invade another being's privacy. I cannot look in the Akashic records and look at those facts about your daughter without her presence and permission.

If I had a daughter with symptoms that nobody could diagnose, I would take her to John of God's Casa in Brazil. Or I would send a picture down there and ask them, is it appropriate for her to come?

My experience with autoimmune illness is that it's often a reaction to literally the earth plane. You understand that, . . . how can I phrase it best? You are all human but you all have different backgrounds. Just as some people may have roots in Africa, China or Iceland, but you come here and you're all Americans, the human soul travels through many different adventures.

For some the Earth has been a longtime home through many lifetimes. Others who may be old souls but are newer to the earth plane, they may have what's almost like an allergy to the earth plane. They made a choice to incarnate on Earth, often for very good reasons. But they are not comfortable. The earth plane feels alien to them in some way. The physical violence on the earth plane feels alien. The degradation of the environment feels alien. The heavy vibration of energy feels alien. And the autoimmunity arises as a part of the trying to reconcile one's presence on Earth with the feeling, "I want to go home. This isn't home."

I cannot say this for certain about your daughter. We call such beings wanderers. That's just a common metaphysical name for them. There is a man named Jody Boyce, who's a psychologist who found himself in this situation, explored it for himself and then for those of his clients who were wanderers, and who has a website. I don't know the name of the website or the link but Barbara can send it... At first glance it may seem "far out" but the information is clear. ( There is a wonderful book about Wanderers written by Carla Rueckart. So there are a number of resources.

I seem to be a clearinghouse for wanderers. Sometimes I find that once a person simply understands, "Okay, I made a choice to come here and it was a wholesome choice; it does feel alien, but I can reconcile myself to it and do the work I came to do," then their body releases the symptoms. It can be a powerful catalyst just to understand why one is here and that one is not here against his/her will.

So I'd suggest that you look into these 2 resources. See if this is helpful to your daughter.

I find that there are many people like this at the Casa, and the entities seem to have a very helpful way of heaping them release these symptoms and adapt themselves more comfortably to being here in the human experience. I cannot say for certain that this is the case with your daughter, I'm just suggesting a strong possibility.

Q: Thank you.

Q: I'm wondering about this coming summer and the big events that are going to happen, and if you can tell us more about them and how we can prepare.

Aaron: What's going to happen? Nobody has told me!

Q: Astrologically there's incredible force culminating...

Aaron: ... I understand-- I'm teasing you!

There's so much talk about 2012 including what I'm told is a quite violent-- I've not seen it-- movie. Cataclysmic disasters. You have free will. It's up to you what will come, this summer, this year, next year, next decade. The earth is in shift, in transition. Here I've promised you that we're going to talk dharma and we're getting into some of that woowoo material!

But it's a reality. The earth is in transition. You're moving from the age of rational man through the age of vision logic consciousness and into non-dual consciousness. Ken Wilbur writes about these levels of consciousness quite well. The earth is changing vibration. It's moving into what we call 4th density earth from 3rd density. It's a different density, a different vibration. This much is real.

Nobody can predict. To predict the future is an act of negative polarity. It violates free will. What if two people were playing chess and I was a chess master? I took a look at the game and I said, "Oh, B is going to win." Both of them would play as if B was going to win. If we say, "This is going to happen," this cataclysm, it leads you into it. People who are predicting these disasters are mostly grounded in fear and speaking from the voice of fear. It is up to love to counter those voices but not by being the ostrich with his head under the sand.

There are changes. There are environmental changes like the terrible disaster of the oil in the Gulf, the volcano in Iceland. These are changes the atmosphere, changing the waters. How are you all going to respond? Each is a recall to respond with love, and for all of you there's such a deep habit to respond with fear. Catastrophe! Fix it!

Barbara was telling a story recently--she was at Thich Nhat Hanh's center, Plum Village in France, and a nun told her this story. The meals there are held in silence for the first half hour. So people are talking, it's not a silent retreat, but when they come into the meal, everybody sits silently.

The nun spoke of a time when there were Vietnamese boat people whose boat had sunk. They were in small lifeboats. They were in danger of drowning. No country would allow them entry. Thich Nhat Hanh and many of the people there were working desperately to try to save these lives. And then the lunch bell rang, and Thay said, "It's time for us to go to lunch." The nun said she asked, "Now? When we're working to save these people's lives?" And he said, "Especially now. We need to go in, you don't have to stay a half hour, just sit and eat your lunch for 15 or 20 minutes in silence and re-center yourself."

So we all get pulled off into fear and we all need to keep bringing ourselves back into love. This is not a war between fear and love, it's simply an ongoing teaching; let's call it that. Fear will come, fear will come constantly and in so many forms until enough of you build up the habitual response to say no to fear with love.

There's a beautiful story about the Tibetan saint Milerepa. He was sitting in the mouth of his cave meditating when the demons of fear and greed and hatred appeared. They were hideous; the flesh hung from the bones. Gore dripped out. They had a foul stench. Bloody knives and swords hung around them.

Milarepa took a look at them and said, "Ah, come, sit by my fire. Have tea." They said, "Aren't you afraid of us?" He said, "No, your hideous appearance only reminds me to be aware, to have mercy. Sit by my fire, have tea." But he didn't get into a dialogue with them, he simply sat by the fire with them and when they started to say, "Well, you ought to be afraid," he replied, "Shh, drink your tea."

When you hear these kinds of stories, the important thing is to watch the fear it arouses in you, to hold that fear with love, to serve it tea. You begin to know, "We have free will and we as a human race can create a peaceful and harmonious future of love if we so choose." Each of you is part of that choice and each teaches others by how you choose. So those who are aware that there is a choice have all the more responsibility to make that choice for love more consciously.

You'll be tested in every area of your life-- with the sick child, with the roof that's leaking, with the traffic jam–are you going to respond with kindness or with fear? With the traffic jam, there you are. You're not going to change the traffic by being angry or upset. If there's a corner where you can turn off and go around it, that's fine. You don't have to sit there with it if there is an option. But if not options, you don't have to hate it. If the child is sick, can you hold that situation with love? You don't have to be afraid of it. This is what life has brought me right now. What can I learn from this situation? How can I open my heart more fully to this human situation, which is really about the simultaneity of two things: the helplessness of the human because what arises, does so out of conditions and it passes away. The human is not in charge; we're not running the show, we're co-creating it. And in that co-creation, lies the power, the absolute power of the human. So the individual is helpless to some degree but when we come together to co-create, we have unlimited power to co-create a beautiful future.

Q: I would like to ask you about death and dying, the human experience of that. My mother is in her dying process and that's very challenging for me.

Aaron: Daughter, there's a beautiful story told about the great spiritual teacher Ramana Maharshi. He was dying and his servants were all gathered around his deathbed crying, "Master, don't leave us! Don't leave us!" Finally he opened his eyes and looked at them and said, "Where would I go?"

The human form is gone. You have 4 bodies-- in order of their heaviness of vibration: the physical, the emotional, the mental, and the spirit. The physical body goes. The emotional, mental, and spirit bodies then move through a process of transition, the so-called bardo states, for as long as there is need in that transition period; there's no right time to spend there, but when there is readiness, the lighter bodies into a new physical body. The human consciousness and karma continue. Consciousness moves into a new body.

L & Barbara were speaking the other day about young children who come up with remarkable statements like, "I remember when I was your mother," to a parent or grandparent. "Do you remember that, Mama? Do you remember when I was your mother?" Where does the child get this idea, this 2 year old that can barely speak? But there's still some memory left.

My experience is that dying is safe. You have done it many times. It looks scary from your end because it looks like a hallway that just suddenly drops off, but as soon as you go through the door you see that there's a long space in front of you and you can look back through the door and see where you've been. It's safe.

If your mother has no faith in this and feels great fear, there's nothing other than loving her that you can do to help her. But rest assured that her not knowing what will happen will not interfere with what's happening. Loving guides will be there to support her as she emerges from this transition. She will be held in love, she will be supported. Her guidance will help her to make the right decisions for what comes next. She is safe.

Do you have further question about it?

Q: For me the most difficult is her denial and fear of death. And I want to be as supportive as I can for her for this journey, and present.

Aaron: Does she have any specific religious faith?

Q: No.

Aaron: Was she raised in any specific religion that she has departed from?

Q: Yes, Catholicism.

Aaron: So she has, even if departed from it, she has the image of Jesus and the resurrection.

Q: Saints.

Aaron: She is comfortable with the saints. Perhaps there is a story, and one does not come to my mind immediately, but if you look through the libraries of the saints, perhaps there is a story of a saint and the way he or she faced death that can be of some comfort to your mother.

For you, the most important thing is not to try to fix her fear or denial. You want to fix it because you want her to be comfortable so you can be comfortable. And that's natural. It's so hard to see a loved one suffering so you want to fix it. But the more you're able to just hold space for her fear and her denial, her denial of death, in other words she's saying, "I'm not really going to die now"? But you feel she is.

Q: She does not want to use the "d" word.

Aaron: Don't use it, don't force it on her, just let her know you love her. Let her know you love her now; you will love her forever. You don't have to say "after you die," just, "I love you now and I will always love you." Let her approach it when she's ready. She may never approach it; she may simply die before she approaches it.

As I said, it will not affect her transition. Let me restate that. The very conscious human who has done a lot of meditation practice and knows how to work with consciousness can positively affect the transition process, but the human who was not so conscious and had not done that kind of spiritual practice will still be supported and move through the transition. She won't get lost along the way. Nobody will come along and say, "Well you didn't face facts so you're off into limbo forever." She'll be supported. She'll be fine.

Try to trust that she's making the choice she needs to make for whatever reasons, and while it doesn't feel like the choice you would choose to make, you can support her in her choice by not trying to force her into your view. Watch your own fear for her and also your fear for yourself. I think there is likely to be a fear, what happens right at the end when she is very clearly dying and can no longer deny it, and becomes panicked because she has not prepared herself? Will you be able to handle that? I'm not asking, will you be able to, I'm suggesting there's probably some fear about that. You want her to do her work so it doesn't feel like something that you have to carry for her at the end. But you don't have to carry it for her; all you have to do is love her. She is responsible for her own choices.

I wish you well and your mother well.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Is it helpful for me to work on past life memories for myself and with my clients?

Aaron: It can be enormously helpful. I would not say it's necessary.

Your suffering is right here in this life. Usually what needs to be healed can be seen here in this life. But sometimes seeing the past life reality in whatever ways it's seen, can help provide clarity. It's most helpful when you see it for yourself rather than a "past life reading" but everybody doesn't have the ability to do that. Sometimes through hypnotic regression, through different energy practices, whatever ways are helpful, the life can be seen.

Often there is something bleeding through from a past life that just doesn't have any roots in this life. Often in Michigan we have therapists referring clients to us who seem stuck. There doesn't seem to be any reason for the particular mental state they're experiencing in this life. Maybe somebody's experiencing extreme abandonment issues but had a loving childhood, was never abused, had no big loss in their life. Where did this come from?

There was a student almost 20 years ago, a very loving woman with beautiful children and a loving husband. She was working with us with vipassana practice. Her life was filled with good things, she enjoyed her work, but she could not easily let herself be touched. She allowed her husband to touch her, of course, but even then it was not comfortable to be embraced. She kept herself at a physical distance.

She finally stopped the vipassana practice because it was coming too close to painful areas. She couldn't do it. But then about 2 years later she said to me, "I'm ready." We worked with a body energy meditation that I use and teach that often brings up spontaneous past life memory when it's done as a form of meditation. It's not done as a therapeutic technique but as a form of meditation.

So with her husband present in her own home we worked with this process. And suddenly as we were working with the body energy, just hands moving in a specific location, moving the body energy in a certain way, she began to tremble and then she literally went into shock. And she started to cry, just to sob.

We quieted her down, brought her tea, wrapped her in a blanket, and finally she was ready to speak. And she began to tell us how she had seen a past life, the immediate prior past life, in which she was a victim in a concentration camp and the horrors she had experienced. We sat with her through most of the night with her crying and talking. And finally it evolved to the statement, "I don't have to be her anymore, I can be free of her."

So, she had taken birth almost immediately, not moving fully through the transition but coming back to birth after a traumatic death. And she had not released what there was of this karmic ancestor. Now she was able to release it. It changed her life dramatically. She was always a friendly and warm person who made friends but she became much more open, able to hug people, and was not caught in her own armor. It was essential for her to see this.

I find in addiction where there is not any logical cause for the addiction in this life, it's often a past life issue and past life work can help to release the addictive pattern through bringing awareness to the cause of addiction. It can help even when the individual is told the story rather than seeing it directly.

For example a woman a therapist sent us a client who was terrified of cats to the point that she could no longer go out of her house for fear of that a cat would cross her path on the sidewalk, she was so traumatized by it.

We began in two ways, just talking to her--we had put Barbara's cat out of the house but it climbed on the windowsill so she could see it through the glass. And through several visits she just accustomed herself to seeing the cat through the glass. And finally at the point where she was ready, I shared with her a past life in which, not a pussycat but a bigger cat had attacked her and her newborn child. She saw this and suddenly there was the same awareness: "I don't need to be afraid of cats anymore. This is just from the past."

And then we let the cat into the house and Barbara held it. The woman reached out and stroked it. She realized, "I don't have to be terrified anymore." Several years of therapy had not gotten her there. She had to know about that past life and to see where this came from. So it's not always essential but there are cases where it can be very essential.

There's one more story that comes to mind of again, a referral from a therapist, a woman who was in seeming fine health until her baby was born. With the birth of the baby she had what seemed to be a psychotic episode. She kept screaming, "I have to kill myself. I have to kill myself, I have to kill my baby." Of course they separated her from the baby. She was institutionalized. She was in the hospital for over a year. The husband was caring for the baby. Now she had been released from the hospital but was still highly medicated and filled with fear. The therapist sent her to us.

We were able to help her see a past life in which she also experienced a very traumatic situation; the baby was born and taken from her, tortured and killed. There was the fear, "If I don't kill my baby, they're going to torture it. I have to kill my baby and kill myself." And as she saw that, the psychotic episode completely died away. They were able to take her off medication. She was reunited with her family. It was a very dramatic experience. Not all healing is that powerful but this was an especially powerful one.

Q: What's your sense of how mindfulness practice has become so popular in psychology?

Aaron: I think it's very beneficial for the most part but unfortunately some of what is left out dramatically weakens the practice. The practice derives from Buddhism. One does not have to be a Buddhist to do the practice, but a base for the practice is what we call the Triple Gem of Buddha, dharma, and sangha.

Taking refuge in the Buddha. The word "buddha" simply means the one who is awake. You are the one who is awake. Taking refuge in that awakenedness of our own selves.

Taking refuge in the dharma. That means the peace that comes from knowing that everything arises out of conditions and passes away, is impermanent and not of the nature of self. This is the heart of dharma. That means that when something arises into my experience, I have to be responsible to how I relate to it. I have to take care of it, but I don't have to be afraid of it. There's a refuge there, a resting place.

And taking refuge in the sangha, in the community of people who walk this path with me.

The weakness in translating this into general psychological use, is that these refuges are not available. So people are asked to do this work but there's no support behind them. The therapist can become the sangha but there's still not an awareness of the awakened nature. There's not an awareness of the dharma and this truth, "whatever has the nature to arise has the nature to cease and is not me or mine." So without these refuges, the self has to take over and say, "I will do this." That makes it much harder.

There is a non-Buddhist alternative to the refuges that the therapist can provide. I'm talking about simply this One Who Knows. That which is aware of fear is not afraid. Coming to know that essence of your being and to trust that essence of your being, is vital. This is basic dharma experience. I teach this a lot and Barbara teaches this a lot with our students in Ann Arbor including many therapists, who now work without using Buddhist terminology, working with their clients but making sure that a parallel to these refuges is included.

Q: Thank you.

Q: About something you said before, about the person reincarnating too quickly. How does that happen?

Aaron: As you move through the transition process, your guides will meet you. There will be a period first of understanding that you are no longer in the human body, an acceptance of that. A transition period, a chance to rest and come to know who you are when you're not the human body. This is the ideal. And then there's a period of time reviewing the past life, making the decision of what is most skillful for a next life. What karma you wish to work with in the next life. What situation, not what will be most comfortable or convenient, but what will most support the learning that is desired.

But sometimes the human moves through from a traumatic death, especially a violent death, and the spirit simply reverses itself and almost dives into the first possible body available. Just, get back. It's almost like a wish to continue the life that was taken away. There's no chance for understanding what was completed and what was not completed in the past life. There's no chance to understand why you are moving into the new life.

And there's no chance to resolve on the astral plane anything that's unfinished from that past lifetime. Perhaps that's the most important thing. So in the case of a violent death, there is no opportunity to release the anger or hatred or fear that was part of that violence. Then that's carried into the new lifetime.

Beings always have free will. The guides are present and can suggest, but you have free will and cannot be stopped from the rapid incarnation if you so choose.

Q: Do we carry with us from our past lives knowledge that would inform us of our purpose here for this one?

Aaron: Yes. But you have to learn to access it. The everyday mind, the mundane relative reality mind does not have access to it. This is why we meditate.

Think of this as a linear process, not a horizontal process. It's not that the mundane mind is here and the highest spiritual mind over there and you go from one end to the other. Think of it instead as water, deep water. When it's clear, you can see right through to the bottom but when it's murky you can only see the top. You don't know what's on the bottom, then.

Meditation settles the mind. It allows you not just to slip down and see the bottom but also stay connected to the top. So you know there are waves on the top, you know what's happening on the top, and you see the bottom. It is the simultaneity, being able to hold what we might call mundane and supramundane awareness, relative and ultimate mind.

In the Tibetan system they have specific words-- sem, everyday consciousness, and rigpa, pure awareness mind; I am speaking of the simultaneity of these. So the meditator can go into a deep place and experience something of their life purpose but if they can only go down to the bottom and then lose the insight and leave it at the bottom and come up to the top, it doesn't do them any good. The meditator needs to link it together, to be able to go down to the bottom and bring it up to, "What does this mean today in my life?" This a fruit of meditation and a learnable skill. Otherwise you simply forget.

Q: Thank you.

Q: It's related to what we're talking about. I've had the experience of experiencing two lives in the same time period. And I wondered if it was possible to enter the same time period twice.

Aaron: Of course, time is not linear. It's all simultaneous. But also, you can be in two time periods simultaneously, not seeming one after or before the other, but simultaneous, because your energy is big and it can be in two places at once. In the dream state you lie asleep in your bed and you're also in the astral plane. In the same way, the body literally can move into two places at the same time.

I see that it's 12:30. I don't know how rigid our schedule is. I'm happy to answer more questions but I don't want to hold people here.

(people have to go)

Okay, then we will end here. Thank you for being here with me today. My love to you. It has been good to share this time together.

(announcement about materials and future contacting)

I'm going to release the body to Barbara so she can say goodbye.

(session ends)