June 29, 2013 Saturday AM, Trainings Workshop One

Trainings Workshop Weekend One - June 29, 2013 Saturday morning.

Barbara: Welcome to you all. Almost all familiar faces; there are a very few of you I don't know and look forward to getting to know you. This series of workshops has been in mine and Aaron's mind for several years, since Venture Fourth ended, as a next step  for all of those people who asked for a continuation of that series. Big thanks to Deep Spring Center and Interfaith Center for co-sponsoring it. Most of you are familiar with both of these centers-- both in Ann Arbor: Deep Spring Center for Meditation and Spiritual Inquiry, and Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth.

We are sitting in Michigan Friends Center, another non-profit organization, which is situated on the grounds of Friends Lake Cooperative Community, both of which are also dear to my heart. I've been a member of Friends Lake for 45 years and helped build this building. Not up there on the roof, but hammering nails, painting. It was built largely on volunteer effort. It was a dream come true: it provided us this wonderful oasis in the woods to present workshops and hold gatherings like this.

I have a cabin up the hill in the woods where I spend my summer. During the day, when there are breaks like lunch breaks, you are free to go anywhere on the grounds. We are hoping the sun will break through. There are canoes, kayaks, rowboats, a children's beach, and then further down along the shore another 70 yards or so, an adult swim area. There's a place to change into bathing suits. Picnic tables are down there where you can eat lunch, as well as eating in here if it's raining. We have 100 acres of woods to walk in. So make yourselves at home here. Our membership is open to anyone who shares our values. It will be wonderful we'll be here through the seasons and watch the seasons change; October will be glorious with the changing color.

That welcome said, I'm going to simply give you to Aaron to offer his welcome.

(Aaron incorporates)

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. It is a joy to be with you all today; this weekend, actually. These stones are my gift to you. As they come around please choose one that suits you. Consider it a direct gift from me to you. Choose one and bring it up to your heart. Ideally I would have you hold your hands out, your eyes closed, not knowing what I'm giving you, and I would simply place one in your palm. But tit would take half an hour to get around to each of you that way. I do not choose to use our time that way.

(hands one to someone whose eyes are closed) She feels it with a sense of unknowing. Not knowing what color it is. She knows it's a stone. Not knowing anything about it. So I'm going to ask you to take one with your eyes closed. Just choose energetically. Feel over the bowl. You can touch with your fingers a bit, but really try to choose the first one your hands touch upon once you hover over the bowl for a minute. This is my gift to you. Hold it with that sense of unknowing and then gently bring it up to the heart. Throughout these four workshops, we're going to use these stones, so keep bringing them back with you. They may be passed out now. Close your eyes as you choose.

As Barbara said, we've been planning this for several years. I consider it the next step in the talk from 10 years ago, “Trainings,” which is in the book Cosmic Healing, and I believe in other books as well. Is there anyone here who has not read that talk? Almost all of you have read it. I'm not going to elaborate. It was part of the course pack. Please read it when you can.

I speak about the different levels of learning as a spiral. I speak about my lifetime in an Essene community 2,000 years ago, where the littlest children were taught when something arose in their experience that was unpleasant and brought body pain, anger or fear, instead of reacting to it, to notice it, open their hearts to it and to themselves, to the human experiencing this unpleasantness. If they contracted, they were reminded to watch the contraction, too. Given a  loud noise—(says loudly) boom! Did you contract? A little? Contracting, contracting. This is how life is. It keeps throwing rocks at you. Occasionally it goes “Boom!” It smashes into you. The question is not how to stop that from happening in the world. You cannot stop it. How do you respond from a spacious place?

From my perspective, the highest model of positive polarity is non-contracted spaciousness. A model of negative polarity is contraction into the small solid ego self. Contraction and negative polarity separates self from other. Positive polarity is inclusive. Yes, on the mundane level, here is a separate self, there and there and there and there, but on a supramundane level, no separate self. (holding up an open hand) So positive polarity learns to hold both, the place where we come together as one, one hand, and yet separate fingers. There's no statement that the thumb is the same as the little finger; they're different. But they're all extensions of the hand.

So this was the first spiral of the circle, learning how to respond from that place of connected heart. The second spiral of the circle we worked on with the two-year program Venture Fourth, of which a number of you were part. Here we learned how to work with the elements, the chakras, grounding in vipassana meditation, and the various other tools that help to support your resting in this place of spacious awareness, even if the body is shaking from that loud boom. You have a choice.

People became stable in that. Many of you, even though I have not met you, have learned that stability elsewhere. I fully trust that when we sent out the call for this workshop, those for whom it resonated would be those who were ready for it, without its being spelled out what that readiness entailed. Energetically we sent out this call: are you ready to ascend the spiral?

Ascending the spiral, we take more responsibility. We begin to see how energetically what we present in the world touches everything. We begin to understand how things manifest out of intention. Rather than that frightening us, or along with the fear if fear is there, we feel gratitude for this opportunity to bring loving presence into the world and help to co-create the world that we envision. Co-creating a future without hatred, without violence, without fear: are you ready for that?

There are two primary added elements for this series of workshops. One is the addition of the element akasha or ether. I'm not going to explain that now, but we'll be talking about it this weekend. And then in workshops 2, 3, and 4, really learning how to live from that place, how to enter what I call the akashic field.

This teaching is similar to something taught in the Tibetan tradition. The practice of dzogchen or pure awareness has two levels. Trekchod, which many of you have done with Barbara and me at retreats, which teaches you how to rest in awareness, or the Tibetan word rigpa. Catalyst comes; asking after it, “Is there anything other than the unconditioned here?” and opening back up to spacious awareness. I recognize many who have done this practice with me. The second level of dzogchen is called togyal. It is a very restricted Tibetan teaching. I do not teach it as togyal. I am not a certified dzogchen master. So rather than using the Tibetan terminology with long Tibetan words, I'm simply using the word akashic field. In the equivalent of the Tibetan word translated as All-Ground, the ground of everything.

So as we enter into this third round of the spiral, we'll learn how to be present, both in that ground and in what's expressing out of that ground. How to use the various practices that we'll be teaching here through these four weekends to help us stay centered-- not taking off into all the outer expressions, not hiding in the ground.

How many of you have done my pole meditation? Most of you. It's a lot like that, grounding in the ground, and seeing the expressions. If I picked up a handful of rocks and said I'm going to throw them, right there in that moment before I throw I can see the rocks shooting out, some of you catching them, some of you perhaps being hit by them and hurt. I can see the whole play of possibilities. Then I ask myself, what is my intention? To do no harm. I put them back. I do not throw.

This is an oversimplified example. Sometimes there are many conditions, and you have to be in a deep place of meditation to see the possibilities. This is what I hope to help you remember. Note I am not saying to teach. All of you who are here,-- I've looked over the list, I've connected with each of your energy and names-- each of you has the background karmically to remember these teachings, and to begin remembering how to use them in the world, or, having remembered them, to begin using them in the world.

Why now? As you probably have noticed, your world is in a state of transition, whether you look at this as simply the physical manifestations of that transition or from a spiritual level. Your world in some ways is becoming increasingly polarized, because as more of you learn to hold love in the world, those who are negatively polarized become more defensive of their stance. We'll talk about this, I don't remember if later today or tomorrow, in terms of states and stages of consciousness. Then through the following weeks we'll look at the simultaneity of different states and stages of consciousness. The work is to remember how, by resting in the akashic field you can see all the various stages that are present in you in any one moment and choose consciously the stage that most suits your highest intentions; how energetically to release what does not suit. That may sound like impossibility, but I assure you it is not. I'm not saying you'll become perfect at it in four weekends. We will remind you to the point that you can work with it.

So why now? We are going through a transition into what I call higher density. You are all remembering who you are beyond just this human mundane consciousness, remembering your spiritual core, your interconnection to all beings. Many of you find yourselves increasingly telepathic. Many of you find yourselves with more power than you dreamed you have, and sometimes afraid of that power, unsure how best to use it.

This is a time of dramatic change for the Earth, this move into a higher density, higher vibrational planet, both the sentient beings on the Earth and the ground, the earth itself. At this point we need as many loving beings as we can have with deep commitment to bring the Earth through in a highly positively polarized way. People have asked me why. Well, would you rather live in a world that's filled with anger and hatred, or a world that's filled with more lovingkindness, compassion, and connection? It's as simple as that.

This, then, is an overview of what we will be doing. Barbara will be teaching, or reminding. I will be reminding. Also some of the Brothers and Sisters of Light who incorporate in this body besides me, will speak. We will call on whatever experts are most appropriate for any given presentation. I'm sure you would rather learn, or remember, with an expert than a, I would not call myself an amateur, but there are beings who have deeper knowledge of specific areas of what we will be teaching than I do. So they will incorporate.

Probably this is comfortable for all of you, but if there is anyone for whom it's uncomfortable, who says, “What kind of lunacy is this? She's imagining these different beings are incorporating in her body. She must be totally crazy.”, let it go and listen. If the words are helpful to you, use them. We will be as a book without its cover. You pick it up. There's no sign of the author, but you read the first pages and it either speaks to you so you read it, not knowing the author, or you toss it out because it doesn't speak to you. If it doesn't speak to you, that's fine. I think it will. But don't try to figure out who I am or who any of the Brothers and Sisters of Light are, or if we are real. Just ask, does this material resonate with me? Am I learning something important?

We're going to move on now to vipassana practice. The word passana in the Pali language means seeing, to see. Vipassana means deeper, clearer seeing. Vipassana practice is a core of our toolbox. It gives us the opportunity to watch what arises in any moment without contracting around it. Or if contraction arises, to see the contraction also as an object that has arisen into our experience. How are you relating to it? When something comes up, it will either be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. If it's pleasant, are you relating with grasping? If it's unpleasant, are you relating with aversion, trying to push it away? And how does that feel, what is that experience? What about a neutral object? Does it bore you?

So this is a ground, learning how to hold space for what arises. At this point I'm going to break you probably into two groups for the next hour. I want to know how many here have not had any formal vipassana instruction. Put your hands way up... Okay. (Those of you who have), you have two choices. One will be to meditate quietly for half an hour while Barbara or I work with the beginners. One will be to listen in with me or Barbara as we teach the beginners... (more about breaking into two groups)

I'm going to release the body to Barbara. Barbara will give the vipassana instructions.

Barbara: Vipassana is a beautiful practice. It's drawn from the Buddhist tradition, but one does not need to be a Buddhist to practice it. There are no specific beliefs. It's simply the practice of being present in each moment with whatever is arising in that moment.

(a loud timer goes off and is reset) When that went off, did it startle you? A little. Sound, hearing. What happens in that moment is that the ear, the organ of the ear, touches a sound, and with that contact, hearing arises. Then the sound stops. Let's try it here.

Quiet. (bell) Hearing, hearing, hearing... fading, quiet. Here the sound was probably pleasant. With the alarm, it was probably unpleasant. So there's a relaxation when there's a pleasant sound. When there's a jarring sound, there is tension.

We start with what we call a primary object, often the breath. Breathing in and breathing out. Breathing in and breathing out. Feel the breath at the nostrils. The in-breath cool, and then the out-breath warmer and softer. Breathing in and breathing out. And then (bell, bell, bell, bell) hearing, hearing. Pleasant, but you're not grasping, saying, “Oh, I want more of that. Ring it again.” Just letting it fade. And then you come back to the primary object.

However, if I ring it this way (tapping rapidly on wood), hearing, unpleasant. If I keep doing that (tapping), can you feel yourself contracting? At what point is the sound no longer predominant but the aversion to the sound? I want you to watch this. Again (rapping, tapping, rapping). Can you feel that shift? There are different objects coming to us all the time.

So first there is hearing, ear organ making contact with a sound, and hearing consciousness arising. It will be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. A perception of what it is, perhaps—bell, stick hitting wood. Then suddenly there's body contraction, feeling this in the body. Or anger, feeling the heat of the anger. “I don't want this.”—aversion. As this becomes predominant, what happens when you bring kind, openhearted attention to it? Here is this human being asked to listen to a sound that's so unpleasant. What happens when instead of bringing force to the discomfort, you bring kindness to it?

Let's try it again. First, just (bell)...hearing, hearing. Probably not any contraction or thoughts about it. It fades. Then (rapping, loud banging on bell)... Can you feel the contraction? Now, (loud banging) while putting your hand over your heart, “Breathing in, I am aware of the contraction. Breathing out, I smile to the contraction, offering kindness to this human.” I'm going to hit this again and I want you to watch what happens when there's an ongoing, slightly unpleasant experience. You don't have to go with the aversion to it, you can rest in a place that's much more spacious and just watch the body. The body will contract, like a knee-jerk reaction if you hit just below the knee. The body will contract. The thoughts don't have to run rampant, saying, “Get rid of that sound. I hate that sound.” Watch it. See what happens.

(loud banging, rapping, for a minute)

The sound stopping, the body settling. Can you see the connection between the body and the mind? The body can experience an unpleasant sensation without the mind rushing off with anger. Can you feel it? Most of you are nodding yes.

So we learn with vipassana to be present with whatever arises in our experience with an open heart. Not trying to fix anything or change anything. But we attend if it's appropriate. For example, if the window behind me was open, it started to rain hard and rain was driving in on my back, and I was meditating, first I would note “Wet, wet, cold. I don't want this cold. Ahh, kindness to this human who doesn't want this cold.” And then out of kindness I get up and close the window. I don't just sit there with the rain pouring in on me. But it's kindness that closes the window, and not anger and contraction. This is the predominant part of this practice for us in this series of workshops.

In the beginning we tend to be reactive. This is the training we've had, this is our life conditioning. With this practice we learn that we can watch reactivity as an object and bring that to the open heart as well.

Use the stones that Aaron gave you; when you're meditating and something is painful, maybe just pain in your back or a painful memory, a skunk smell coming in from outside, anything you don't want, I want you to pick up this stone and let it be that object. Literally bring the object up into the heart center... Feel the wanting to push it away. “I don't want this object touching me.” Can you relax and really let it come into you? All it is is that skunk smell or that throbbing in the back or that rain coming in on the back; that's all it is.

A friend who is a senior teacher in this tradition tells a wonderful story of going to Burma for an extended meditation retreat with a well-known master there. When he got there he was given a room, and the first morning he was awakened by loud hammering on metal, right near him, just a few feet away from his window. There were construction workers doing construction work, and it went on for hours and hours and on into the night, not stopping until after dark. “How can I meditate!” And then the next day it started again pre-dawn.

So he went to the teacher and told him about this. He may have expected the teacher to say, “Oh, that's terrible. I'm so sorry. We'll change your room,” or “I'll ask them not to hammer during the early morning or evening hours,” or whatever. His teacher, U Pandita Sayadaw, simply said to him, “Did you note it?” Just noting hearing, hearing, loud, aggravating, incessant noise. Hearing, unpleasant. And then, anger, body contracting, anger. Just note it.

This story is from Joseph Goldstein. He goes on to say that our freedom is not from controlling conditions, although we do attend to conditions, close the window, for example, when we can. Our freedom lies in non-reactivity to conditions that comes when we hold those conditions in spacious awareness.

A familiar example for most of you is a visit to the dentist. Not necessarily getting your teeth filled but just cleaned. But it can be an unpleasant experience. There's scraping, and it sends chills down your back and there's a little bit of discomfort. Have any of you ever punched the dentist? How do you get through this? Sometimes people will tell me they fantasize. They just get out of their bodies and go someplace else. But basically if we're not in our bodies, we can't really change anything around us, and we don't really change ourselves. But my first reaction when I sit down in the chair is my hands are clenched on the chair arm and I'm tense, expecting it is going to hurt before they even start. Then I remind myself: relax, open my hands. Breathe. How do I know it's going to hurt? And if it does hurt, well, getting cavities would be more painful. Let's just get the teeth cleaned. Can I simply open my heart and spend an hour holding space for this experience with love?

This is basically what we're doing here, learning how to be present with what arises in our experience, with love. There are different kinds of objects. Body objects. Ear touching an object, hearing consciousness. Eye, seeing consciousness. Nose, smelling consciousness. Tasting consciousness. Body consciousness, touching. And then there's also the mind. The mind will touch objects like a memory or a fantasy or planning or judging. We just note it. Skunk smell, unpleasant. Memory, unpleasant. Pie baking, mmm, pleasant, wanting. A fantasy, mmm, fantasizing, pleasant, wanting. Feel the subtle grasping with that fantasy, just like with the pie baking, the scent of it.

So we simply watch this whole movement of pleasant, unpleasant, neutral, like, dislike, or just boredom and looking for something else more interesting to go with. Watch how liking can turn into grasping. How dislike can turn into strong aversion, wanting to push away, and feeling the tension in the body. We keep moving to whatever is predominant in our experience, and as it changes or dissolves, we simply come back to the primary object of the breath.

Those of you who have not done this before will start with the breath as a primary object. As people meditate for longer periods of time, they find other primary objects that seem more suitable for their own practice. One predominant one that people often use is the sound we call nada. We call this the cosmic OM. It's a sound a bit like crickets chirping. It's not a sound you hear through your ears. It's the sound of the universe, the hum of the universe. OMMMM... It's always there, but unless you're listening for it, you don't hear it.

Another familiar object for people is luminosity. As you meditate, suddenly everything may become very bright. Eyes are closed but there's so much light everywhere. So we allow that light to become the primary object. The breath is no longer very relevant. The light is filling everything.

There are others of these objects. For now, if you're new to the practice, use your breath. But if everything becomes very bright in that way, or if you start to hear this inner body sound—it's not tinnitus, it's a different kind of sound—if you start to hear it, just bring attention to it and rest there. No matter what the primary object is, if something pulls your attention away, go to it.

I like the image of sitting in a chair in my living room. I'm meditating, just sitting, and suddenly the doorbell rings. Hearing, hearing. I get up and answer the door. There's a delivery person with a package. Thank you; I take the package. I set it down on the bench beside the front door, close the door, and go back to my chair. Mind is saying, “Oh, what's in the package?” Thinking, thinking, grasping. Just sit. Right now I'm meditating, I'm not opening packages.

How different it would be if I take the package, I rip the wrappings off. I find the cookbook I've been waiting for. I open it, and right there is a wonderful-looking recipe. “Do I have those ingredients in my pantry? Oh, I need to go to the store. I want to make this. Where are my car keys?” What happened to my meditation? So mind tends to spin out in these ways. I know you've all experienced this. You're on one thing and suddenly mind is just rolling on, thoughts proliferating, one on another. Popcorn popping.

The quiet mind is always there. We come back to this place that's deeply still, settled, loving. There's nothing we have to fix, nothing we have to change. But again, if the rain is coming in the window, I close the window. Then I come back and sit on my chair again. I don't run around trying to fix anything. I don't go out and say, “Gee, we need a wider eave here. Let's call the construction workers.” I simply close the window. Later that week a group of us can decide if the building needs wider eaves. That's not the project of the moment. Can we just be quiet, still, in this moment, and experience what's experiencing and see where the reactivity comes from, and that we don't have to be reactive?

So there are body sensations and mental sensations, and there are emotions. With a body sensation, like throbbing in my arm, say, I just stay with it. Eventually it will dissolve. In the beginning it feels solid, but eventually it will dissolve. There's nothing to fix. But like the open window, if it keeps hurting, I can take some Tylenol or put ice on it. I can attend to it. Can you feel the difference between attending in that way, and saying, “Oh, what's going to happen to me?! My arm!” That alarmed sense. Just, “Ah, throbbing, throbbing. I'll put ice on it. I'll be kind to it.” So we keep coming back to this innate kindness of our being, and find ourselves increasingly able to live from that kindness.

Let's look at thoughts next. Thoughts are different. If I have a planning thought and I note planning, I am not planning anymore, am I? Where did the plan go? Judging thought, judging, judging. It's not there anymore. Maybe it's lurking, wanting to push its way in again, but that's different than actually sitting here with judging thoughts running through my mind.

So, noting that the judgment has stopped, I come back to the breath. If the judging starts again, or the planning starts again, I note it again. After two or three times coming up, I start to pay attention to the push. It really wants in, this judging mind, this planning mind, these fantasies. I just pause. What is this about? What is this move to judgment? Is there anger I'm not noticing? What might there be that I'm not paying attention to? What does this judging or planning or fantasizing protect me from? If I were not experiencing this judging mind right now, what might I be experiencing? I don't go after an answer, I just ask the question and allow it to rest, open space in which insight may come. Slowly we start to feel the anger, fera or sadness that may be there and was pushed away.  If I were not experiencing the arising of fantasies right now, what might I be experiencing? We might start to see a certain sadness, a feeling of helplessness. We don't try to dig out an answer, we just ask lightly. We don't continue the planning or the judging, we just watch how it keeps coming up. Just holding space for it.

With emotions, again it's a bit different, it's more like the body experience. If there's sadness, it doesn't go away when we note it. We just hold space for it. Anger, fear, desire, jealousy, whatever emotion we might be experiencing. What is the experience of this emotion? Can I just be there with it? Anger... (breathing) Breathing with the anger, space for the anger.

So this is the core of our practice. We're going to sit for a few minutes in silence, eyes closed, body relaxed. Aware of the in breath touching at the nostrils, and then the exhale, soft, warm, flowing out. Breathing in, breathing out...

(pause with practice)

(bell) Hearing, hearing. If it's pleasant, know it as pleasant. As it changes or dissolves, come back to the breath. Just resting there in the breath, not looking for other objects. But if they come, don't push anything away. (bell) Hearing, hearing. Breathing, breathing. Can you feel the spaciousness that's possible there? Take a look at your body. Is there tension anywhere in the body? If so, bring attention to it. Belly, shoulders, jaw. Ahhh... just resting with spaciousness...

Maybe a thought comes in. Questioning thought, what's next? Or, I don't know if I'm getting this. Ah, thinking, thinking. But the thought has stopped, so come back to the breath. We are not creating spaciousness, we're finding the spaciousness that's always been there...


(bell, bell, bell)

You may open your eyes. When I say the spaciousness that's always been there, I'd like you to try a very brief exercise with me. I'd like you to hold your fingers up like this in front of your eyes, a few inches away, and wiggle them. Stare at the fingers until you can't see anything but the fingers moving. Now soften the gaze, keep the fingers moving but look through them. Do you see all the space that's there? But if you're fixated on the fingers, you can't see the space.

Our practice is to notice both the fingers and the space, and to choose. Our habit is usually, here's the finger with the aching shoulder. Here's the finger with loud alarm going off, maybe somebody yelling at somebody or some unpleasant sound. Here's the finger of too warm, too cold, whatever. Planning mind. Fix this one, do something about this one! There's no space. How often do you live your life like that?

Ahh, breaking through. Seeing the space. I go and get an ice pack for my arm that hurts. I walk outside to see what all the loud noise is about and if somebody needs help. But kindness goes, not fear. There's no contraction. This is what we're after. This is where our practice will take us.

So we have not done a lot of meditation here this morning, just an introduction. It will be very important for you, when you take this practice home, to work with it daily, even just for ten minutes. Work with it just sitting quietly in your living room or wherever, sitting out on your deck, and also to work with it mindfully through the day. You're in the kitchen baking something and you drop the spoon on the floor. The batter is on the floor. Maybe something breaks. Tension, anger. Just stopping—ahh... In a traffic jam, rushing. On my way down here I was 15 minutes late because we have a one-lane dirt road, and I met a truck driving up to do some repairs going the other way on the road. And my husband was behind me. None of the three of us could back up. It was maybe 100 yards one way or the other to the first turn-off. And we sat there trying to figure out, what do we do? Now I'm late. I wasn't late then, but as we spent 5, 10 minutes-- tension coming up. What's going to happen? --It can't start without me, just relax. Eventually we'll get this figured out. Can I bring kindness to it? So I want you to practice both formal meditation, and practice in these moments when tension comes up. How do I relate to this?

Now I'm going to work for half an hour with the other group. Those of you who have been here are welcome to listen, or welcome to go into the other room or go outside and sit and meditate, whatever you prefer.

(group switches)

Barbara: We've just finished giving basic vipassana instructions and we're moving on now. Some of you who were here for the first session and are newer to vipassana, may or may not fully understand this, but I think at some level it will be meaningful.

I want to speak about a very specific aspect of vipassana practice, that will be important to you as we get deeper into work with the akashic field. Mundane consciousness takes a mundane object. Eye sees a bowl of pebbles, seeing consciousness. Mind touches a planning thought, planning consciousness, mind consciousness. We use the Pali word for consciousness, citta. Pali is the language in which these teachings originated, and I like the precision of it.

Every citta takes an object. Mundane citta take a mundane object. Supramundane citta takes a supramundane object. When I use the term supramundane citta, I usually substitute awareness, pure awareness. Those of you who have been meditating awhile understand the distinction. Resting in awareness, objects still arise into our experience and pass away, but there are no stories of me or mine around them, just awareness holding the space. There are a lot of subtle nuances. In fact, in the fall I'll be teaching a whole semester class called “Consciousness and Its Objects” with Aaron and we'll go into these subtleties, observing the various states of consciousness like jhana consciousness, access concentration, pure awareness, everyday mindfulness, and more.  Second semester, we plan to take the akashic field as the object of consciousness explore that and understand at what level of consciousness the akashic field is most accessible, and at what levels of consciousness we can move in the world while still within the akashic field. So this is a whole one-year class at Deep Spring, registered one semester at a time but familiarity with the material of semester one will be a prerequisite for semester two.  . For now, while we have 8 days, we still don't have all the time that we'd have with that kind of depth.

So, simply, mundane citta, consciousness, takes a mundane object. Awareness takes a supramundane object, such as nada, or luminosity, energy, spaciousness. When we look around this room, there's space. This is a mundane space. Spaciousness exists on both levels, mundane and supramundane. Sound exists on both levels. My voice, mundane sound; nada, supramundane sound. Light coming in the windows, mundane light; luminosity, supramundane. The luminosity is the object of awareness. Spaciousness is the object of awareness.

The important thing to remember and bring into your practice is the simultaneity of mundane and supramundane. Why? If I'm sitting and meditating and my back starts to hurt, body discomfort, aversion arises, some anger. “I don't want this discomfort.” Ahh, opening my heart, I find spaciousness around the aversion.

Some of you have learned to meditate in such a way that you really leave the body and go off into the spaciousness and simply push away the aversion. But aversion is still there. Where is it? What is the experience of it in this moment? I don't want to get lost in the aversion, contracted, tight, and angry; and I don't want to just space out and say, “Ah, everything's perfect.” Can I be present with both?

The way we work with this in vipassana is to be aware of both the predominant object of that moment, such as aching back and the unpleasantness of it, even the aversion to it, and the simultaneous spaciousness. So I'm not choosing one over the other, but holding both. This is where I would like to see your practices develop, to that point where you can hold both.

So how do we do this? First, attention can only be in one place at a time, so it's either with the unpleasantness and contractedness, or it's with the spaciousness. But we can remember: if it's unpleasant, getting more and more contracted, and I stop in this moment, “Ahh,” there's space again. I keep coming back to that spaciousness, noting the unpleasant sensation again.

I had an adventure perhaps 17 or 18 years ago. I was on a camping trip with my kids, with their class at school. We were at Pt. Pelee. The campground was near the beach, with some woods in between. There was a long trail that went around to the beach, but I figured I could just walk through. The woods aren't that thick. There were some old paths. I started to walk through the way I had remembered from years past, and suddenly I found myself sinking in a huge mud hole; I don't know how long it was, and ten feet across. I was with-it enough to bend over forward, plop face down in the mud, arms extended, but I was no longer going straight down. I tried to reach some branches and things. I was really stuck in mud, face and body in the mud. What was I going to do?

I saw how predominant the tension was, wanting to get out. And the more I tried to get out, the more I pulled myself in. The more I just relaxed, the less I added to being sucked down. Now, I have no idea how deep that mud hole was. I don't know if I was in any danger, but my feet were not touching the bottom and there was nobody around. So I saw that I really had to just relax and gradually extend one arm and the other, breathe, until I finally could reach some larger branches. It took me about half an hour of just gently wriggling. I saw that each time I panicked, I started to go down again. It was a very powerful lesson of the simultaneity of this unpleasantness of being sucked into a mud hole, and spaciousness. I can't imagine that I could have died in that mud hole. It must not have been too much deeper because they wouldn't have children camping where there was a dangerous mud hole unmarked.

Just relaxing, being present, finally I got out on the far side. Then there was a whole thicket of thorn bushes on the far side. I could see the lake through the thorns, but there was no way to get through. So I said okay, I'll have to go back, I'll go around the mud hole. There was no way around the mud hole! It just seemed like it stretched on and on, and I walked and walked. I was starting to feel very agitated. It was a couple of hours now; it was getting late. The more agitated I got, the less possible it became to go anywhere.

Finally I came to a little clearing. I was wet, cold and caked with mud. I just sat down, sun coming down on me, and meditated. Aaron said, “Are you through fretting? Are you ready to just be spacious here and relax?” So I meditated for about 10 minutes, eyes closed. Then I opened my eyes and I saw a little deer trail in the direction of the mud hole. So, on my hands and knees I followed it. I could feel that I was coming to the mud, but it was solid, just went down a few inches. I could see where the deer trail was by the opening in the brush above it, and I just crawled my way across, and two minutes later I was back in the campground.

We never get anywhere by going crazy. This ego just wants everything its way, wants to fix everything. We need to keep remembering the simultaneity of the spacious mind, the open heart, pure awareness. Later in this series we're going to talk about how we work from the akashic field in such a situation.

To enter the akashic field, to touch upon the akashic field or All-Ground as object, we need to be resting in awareness. It's a supramundane object. We cannot open to the akashic field from mundane consciousness. We also cannot see the mundane expressions arising from the akashic field, from supramundane consciousness. So we need to learn how to rest in the simultaneity. We'll be doing a lot of this in our meditation practice, in these workshops, talking about finding the specific place in meditation where we can be present with both mundane and supramundane objects.

For those who are more beginners, this is why the vipassana practice is an essential staple for learning these practices. And you'll be able to learn it. Some of you might be thinking, “But I'm new to this.” That's okay. You'll learn it.

(Barbara has requested the small paper cups and pitchers of water)

Let me describe the exercise we're going to do while they're getting the water. You'll each get a cup of water. Usually when we draw water into our mouths, we swallow it. That's our natural inclination. We don't even think about it. Water; swallow. There's nothing unpleasant about water in the mouth. But if we don't swallow, it goes against our habitual tendency.

(A cup of water is handed out to each person)

So what we're going to do is, you're going to take a sip in your mouth and swallow it, first. Just normal, mindfully, watching the swallowing of that sip of water. Then we're going to take a second sip of water, really a good-sized mouthful, and not swallow. What happens in the mind and body when you don't swallow? Watch any contracted energy—tension, tension. First the water in the mouth is predominant, then the tension. Wanting to swallow.

Still holding the water in the mouth, I'm going to ask you with your other hand to breathe and hold space. I want you to experience the simultaneity. (Don't drink all your water yet, we're going to keep it for the exercise. I'll tell you when to start.) I want you to experience the simultaneity of any tension in the body, wanting to swallow, of the direct experience of the water in the mouth, and spaciousness. The feeling of the water in the mouth doesn't disappear just because there's spaciousness. The spaciousness doesn't disappear when you bring attention to the wanting to swallow and any tension in the throat. So I want you to watch that simultaneity.

So let's try the first step. Take a sip of water in your mouth and swallow it mindfully. Pleasant, feel it, cool, wet, touching. If it's pleasant, know it's pleasant. If it's unpleasant for any reason, know it's unpleasant. If we gave you very bitter water, it would be unpleasant. Here is probably neutral or pleasant.

Now, another mouthful of water, and hold it in your mouth. Just watching. Touching, touching, feeling pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Perception might be wet, cool, water. No swallowing. Of course, if you're gagging and you have to swallow, of course it's okay, and just take a new mouthful of water. Can you feel how the impulse to swallow becomes predominant over the direct experience of water in the mouth? Wanting to swallow, feel that grasping energy. Subtle tension somewhere in the body, grasping, maybe in the throat, maybe in the belly. Just a subtle, “I want it to be different than it is.” Tension. Note tension as the predominant object now, tension, tension. If the water in the mouth is still predominant, stay with that. But if the tension becomes predominant, move to that.

Still holding the water in the mouth. When there is awareness of tension, bring your hand to your heart. Breathing in, you've noted that you can breathe through the nose, even with water in the mouth. Breathing in, I am aware of the tension. Breathing out, I hold spaciousness for the tension. Again, breathing in, I am aware of the tension. Breathing out, I offer spaciousness to the tension.

The mundane object of water in the mouth remains. As the tension dissolves, just rest in the spaciousness. Nowhere to go, nothing to do. You may be experiencing that you could sit there for a long time with that spaciousness. There may still be some discomfort with the water in the mouth, or it may actually become quite comfortable.


You may swallow. Conscious of the swallowing, a mundane object. Touching, touching, swallowing. Then take another mouthful of water, do it again. For many of you, this time much less tension may arise. You've discovered that this is not a hard object to be with. But if tension does arise, can there be spaciousness simultaneous with the tension? Seeing the contracted tense energy and the spaciousness. Resting in spaciousness without abandoning the object of tension.


And you may swallow...

So this is the primary area that I want you to observe in your vipassana practice, the simultaneity of conditioned objects, mundane objects, and spaciousness. The simultaneity of mundane consciousness, or citta, and pure awareness. It may be a little hard to see at first. They may seem to be fluctuating. Don't worry about it. It's this old exercise that you've done with me before. The fingers moving—put your fingers up. The fingers moving and the space. If I go like that, I can't see the fingers anymore. I'm trying to get away from the fingers. If I do this and fixate on the fingers, I can't see the space. Holding both.

This needs to become an ongoing area of mindfulness, holding both, so that when something happens—I'm walking barefoot and I step on a tack—Ouch! Tension, pain. Anger comes up—who left the tack on the floor? Body contracted. Ahh, just coming back into that spaciousness. Get yourself out of that mud hole. Spaciousness.

For those with an ongoing vipassana practice, this is what I would like you to especially focus on in the coming month, watching for the simultaneity of mundane and supramundane objects, of mundane and supramundane consciousness. And as I said, don't worry if it seems to fluctuate back and forth fast, just see that they're there together but you can't pick up both at the same time. And that's okay. But keep moving back and forth between them, holding both. Ask over and over again, “Where is spaciousness here?”

That's all. We'll pause now for a 15 minute break.


Barbara: There are many of you with many different backgrounds. Some of you have touched most of these foundation stones for the series. Some of you have gone deep in some of them and not met others. We're trying to make sure everybody is starting at the same place with Workshop 2. Some of you here are only signed up for Workshop 1. Most of you are signed up for Workshops 1-4. We want everybody at Workshop 2 to have the basic familiarity with all of the foundation stones.

After lunch, people who do not have familiarity with the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water, and how they interrelate, and how we experience them in our bodies, will meet with Amy down at the picnic area down the road at the lake about these four elements. We're not including akasha here. We'll talk about that later today. But just to make sure we all know not only the basic elements, but how they interrelate? How do we experience them in our bodies?

Now Aaron is going to talk some about intention, the power of intention, and intention as relates to moral awareness. The Pali language word for this is sila, the deep intention to do no harm, to serve others with love. Then we're going to break up into small groups. I have you divided into 5 groups of anywhere from 7 to 10 people... (group details omitted) Aaron will talk, then, and then the groups will come together and you can continue your group discussion over lunch, sharing your intentions for this series of workshops. What are your life intentions, for that matter, because your life intentions are what brought you to this series of workshops. How does it go together? What is the power of these intentions? I'm going to let Aaron talk more about this.

(reading off the list of group members)

It's important to me and Aaron that what we're doing here be experiential. We don't want it just to be in the head. So all of this, the meditation practice, working with elements, talking about intentions, is not a cerebral “Oh, my intentions are...” but, what does your heart say about your intentions?  

Any questions before Aaron comes in?

(Aaron incorporates)

Aaron: Again, I greet you in love and in light. We all have a variety of sometimes-conflicting intentions. Each of you lives in this self, this mundane ego-activated body. You want to be safe, you want to be happy, and there's nothing wrong with that.

The practice deepens as we begin to regard where service to self and service to others may seem to conflict, between the ego and the deepest heart. And yet at a deeper level, how could there be a conflict? In Barbara's class in the spring, they looked in depth at generosity, and one of the assignments was to spend a week looking at the question, when I give, who benefits more, the recipient or me? In the same way, when fear leads me to refrain from giving, who suffers more? Who is hurt more, the one who did not receive, or me? How do we get past the idea of separation?

How could there possibly be benefit to me when I hold on? “Mine! You can't have them.” (holding the bowl of remaining stones) What are we going to gain by it? And what if we're short? I want one, and there are three of us left. One stone. And it's beautiful, I want it! You want it, and you want it. How does it feel to take that stone? Use a particularly beautiful one. How does it feel to give it, to offer it out?

Daughter, this is particularly suitable to your energy. But I love it! (laughter) But I want to give it to you. So I give it to you with joy. It is for you. (Q: Thank you.) Can you feel the joy in the mutual giving and receiving? Now this is also particularly suitable to L's energy. You decide what you're going to do with it.

Q: I want to give it to her... (movement, light laughter) She gave it back.

Aaron: Can you feel the openhearted... L, here is one that's also suitable to your energy. I give you that. But I love it! But I want you to have it, because it brings me joy.

You see where I'm going with this. How do we give with an open heart? How do we receive with an open heart? Because unless you can give with an open heart, you cannot receive with an open heart.

Then we move into intention. So many of you come to me and say, “My intention is to be of service in the world.” But you are, I would not say fully blocked but partially blocked, unable to easily receive, and you move into your old myths of “I'm not worthy. I don't deserve it. Somebody else should have it.”

L, you did not do that. It was a genuine joy of giving that said that N should have it. You didn't say, “I'm not worthy of it.” But sometimes one does.

I've given each of you a stone earlier today. I want you to turn to your neighbor and pass your stone to that neighbor, and then just hold out your hand and see what comes to you. Not back and forth between two people, but you pass your stone to Person A, and Person C or D might pass a stone to you. Is there any feeling of longing, “That was my stone. I've gotten attached to it.”?

What allows you to receive? Look in each other's eyes as you receive. What allows you to receive? Do it slowly, not quickly, “Get one, pass one.” But take it into you. Now you've got two, and turn and pass one to another person. Maybe pass it on a third time I want you to feel the possibility of deep openhearted energy, giving and receiving.

(giving and receiving, chatter and thank you's)

I've got four nicely energized stones here. Who wants them? (to recipient) Are you going to keep it or pass it on?

Q: I'd like to keep it...

Aaron: Good; enjoy it! Who wants another? Keep it or pass it on? (Q: I want to keep it.) Keep it or pass it on? One more, here. Anybody want this one? Keep it or pass it on?

(bell, bell, bell)

Keep it or pass it on. The hallmark guidance for this: Do it with love or not at all. If you feel a constriction that says, “But I love this one.” or “Aaron gave me this one.” and you feel you can't pass it on with love, then don't. Don't pass it on with an “I should.”

Receiving. Look in the other person's eyes as you receive. Receive the energy as well as the stone. Now do it again.

(giving and receiving stones)


Is there anybody who ended up without a stone? Please come. Everybody who ended up without a stone, please come.

(pause; Aaron gives each of them a stone selected for them)

Anybody else who did not get a stone? I have an especially lovely one here. (laughter)

For me? Thank you, son. (he gives one to Aaron)

The power of intention: When you give, the object given is much less important than the heart energy behind it. When you intend to be of service in the world, if that intention comes from a place of the small ego that says, “If I only give enough, people will like me. If I only give enough, I'll let go of all the grasping. I'll finally get past the grasping energy,” this kind of giving, this kind of intention just takes you deeper into the ego. But what if you say, “The ego is speaking, here. Where is the deeper heart? What is it that truly intends to be of service to others in the world?”

A friend tells us how, at a workshop he was leading, a woman through the weekend kept saying, “I want to serve. I want to serve. How can I serve?” And she also spoke a lot of her family and the burden of taking care of a large brood of children, and so forth. Finally at the closing she said to him, “Now, can you tell me, how can I serve?” He said, “Why don't you start with making bacon and eggs for your children for breakfast?”

Little movements of the heart. We look at our intention to do no harm, our intention to live our lives from the open heart and with love. And this is possible. The next question is, if that is my intention, what blocks the manifestation of it? In what way am I holding on to old fears, old limiting beliefs, and so forth?

What I want you to do in your small groups, however many there are in a group—as Barbara said, within a group of 8 or 10, choose the size. If it feels like the whole group holds together well, fine. If you want to break it into two small sub-groups, that's fine. I want you to share from your hearts. There are two parts to this question. What is your deepest life intention? And it's fine for that intention to include “to feel safe and loved.” Why should you not? Can you acknowledge that that's part of your intention, and to help others to feel safe and loved?

Discuss what blocks me from enacting this intention in the world, and also, why are you here with this series of workshops, or with groups D and E, for this day? What is your intention today? What do you hope to learn?

Are there questions? Okay, you have about 15 minutes here, and then we will ring the bell. Break into your groups, and then at lunchtime go off with your group. Let me bring Barbara back, she knows the logistics.

For those of you who are not used to me, when I vacate the body, the body is empty. It's a vacuum. If Barbara comes back into that empty body, it's very disorienting for her. When she holds hands like this, there's some energy coming in that helps to support her re-entry into the body. She feels that loving energy and she can orient on that and it's much more comfortable. That's why we take hands in this way.

Thank you and I will see you at 2:15pm.

(Barbara reincorporates and discusses the options for groups to gather; rereads names. Break for lunch and groups.)