Wednesday, February 2, 1994

Barbara: Aaron is asking me to read this question because he wants to incorporate it into his opening talk. It is really two questions.

Question: We frequently talk about the self, using phrases like 'the illusion of self.' Once again I want to ask about this. It seems to me that the self is real enough. Granted, the physical, emotional and mental parts are not all there is, and that on a deeper level we are indeed connected with all that is. So, I can see that the entirely separate self is an illusion. Nevertheless, the experiences and memories of this body, these emotions and this mind seem real. For example, if I think about what I am going to do tomorrow, that fantasy is not real in the sense that what I am thinking about is not happening on the physical plane. But the experiences, emotions and thoughts I have had seem very real, even if they are not the whole story.

During the January 19th meeting, when Aaron introduced this four step releasing process, a question was asked to which Barbara replied: 'Instead of just working more skillfully with the relative reality situation, not having to be reactive to what's arising in us, we are noting the ways that pain has caused us to put up barriers, to close our energy, to become 'self.' We make the decision 'not only do I not need to be reactive to this, but I really can let it go.' We see it never was who we are. There never was a separate self feeling or doing this.' I do not understand the last part. It seems that it was a part of who we are. That there was a self doing and feeling this. My memories and old mind come from this, in fact.

When I hear phrases like 'the illusion of self,' and when I read what Barbara has said, I find I am very defensive. In part it feels like I am being told that my emotions and experiences are not important. Can Aaron speak to these two issues. What does he mean by the illusion of self idea and what is this defensiveness about?

Aaron's talk

Good evening and my love to you all. I am Aaron. I want to start this evening with a meditation. I want to continue, weekly, to practice this four step release that I introduced several weeks ago. For those of you who were not here, I am not going to offer extensive introduction; the transcript is available. I believe you'll be able to participate in the meditation without the background information. That information will enrich the meditation, though, and is available if you wish to read it later.

We are working with the concepts we discussed in the fall and moving into the experiential aspect of it. We talked about the light body and that perfect, unwrinkled sheet of paper. When you wrinkle it up and then open out the paper, you can see the perfect, unwrinkled sheet within the wrinkled sheet. We are working to shift identification from the wrinkles to the unwrinkled sheet. This does not mean the wrinkled sheet doesn't exist. This is what the question that Barbara just read is about. That wrinkled sheet is relative reality. Yes, of course a self exists. When we speak of the illusion of self, perhaps more correctly what we mean is the illusion of the totally separate self as independent from all that is. The identification with that identity, to the exclusion of the pure mind aspect of your being, is what I mean by 'illusion of solid self.'

I don't want to get into too many words here before the meditation, but I am not asking you to deny self. Only to cut your identification with that as the essence who you are. As long as you identify with that small self which carries the distortions, you're going to suffer. When your identification moves to the true self, which is not separate at all, that doesn't mean there is no personality, it doesn't mean there is no body. It simply means that personality, body, emotions and thoughts become clearly seen as what they are: tools for the incarnation. You understand that easily about your body. That when you leave this body, eventually there will be a new body. You even understand it about emotions. But somehow there is this stream of consciousness that you take to be who you are.

Just as the chair is made of non-chair elements, the wood from the forest, cotton seat from a field, the sweat of the laborers, the sun and rain which allowed tree and cotton plant to grow, so the 'self' is made of non-self elements. When you examine it closely in this way, there is nothing to be defined as 'me.'

We will discuss this further after the meditation. For now I simply want to remind you of what these four steps are. The last time we did this I told you each to choose some emotion that had been predominate in your experience in the past week. Tonight I would like to choose an emotion for you, if I may. One with which everyone in the room is familiar. It may not be your primary issue, but I'd like to use unworthiness and its many ramifications. So I would like you each to think of a time in the past week when you felt in some way humiliated, unworthy or rejected. Simply remember that.

Now, briefly, the four step process. First, we offer the intention that we do this meditation for the alleviation of suffering of all beings, as a gift to all beings and not just for our personal selves. In the second step we will expand our energy outward. There are many tools for doing that, which we have used here at different times. Tonight I am simply going to choose one. Each time we do this I'll choose a different one, so that you each may see what works best for you.

The third step: from that place of outward expansion and of resting in the much purer 'self,' the self empty of identification with ego, thoughts, emotions and so on, we look with tenderness at the human who experienced a sense of unworthiness. From this higher perspective we see how the human picked up that sense of unworthiness, identified with that wrinkle, that distortion, and that we were never truly unworthy. We see that belief was simply old mind's distortion. In the fourth step, seeing the origin of that contraction and that it was never who we were, we release identification with it. We release the distortion of the energy field. This is not getting rid of it, there must be no aversion to it, just noting, 'It has never been who I am, I don't have to hold on to it.' We allow ourselves to come back and rest in that distortion-free, pure light body. There's no grasping at that distortion-free body. Only clear seeing: 'I no longer need this distortion.' It's like carrying heavy rain clothes because you walked outside in the morning and it was cloudy, so you've got your galoshes, umbrella and your raincoat. You've gone for a long hike. You're coming back the same way, reversing your steps. Half way through the morning the sun is out and you're still carrying all this rain gear. Old mind. 'When there were clouds I thought I might need it to protect this body. There is no longer need to carry it. I put it down here beside the road. I'll pick it up and carry it home when I come back.' We release the burden.

I will offer the steps for doing this within the meditation itself.

Begin by offering the intention: 'I do this work for the service of all beings. Within my own clearly seen suffering, I see the suffering of all beings. The more I can learn to dwell in the light and not in the distortions of fear, the more I can clearly serve all beings.' I will be silent while you do this.

Tonight we're going to do the second step using the breath. Breathing in, just this one breath. Nothing else exists in the whole universe but this one breath. At the end of this breath, this exhalation, this being who you were dies and a new being takes the next inhalation. The whole of the moment is in this one breath. (pause) And again. (pause) Going no further than one breath. (pause)

With the next breath, note the space between the inhale and the exhale. In, pause, out, pause. As you come to that pause, I would ask you to focus as much of your energy as you can on the third eye space in the center of the forehead. (pause) Some of you may begin to experience in that space a sense of light; others may experience a peacefulness. If you don't experience those, that's fine, nothing to worry about. Just continue to breathe, pause and focus. (pause) If there is light or space there, just rest in it. If there's just a pause there, rest in the pause. If thoughts, emotions or sensations arise, do not move attention to them here, simply note their arising and come back immediately to the breath. (pause) That pause is what I call 'now.' Not past, not future. In that pause there is nothing but God. Nothing but infinite light, space and love. Don't get lost in the concept of it, try to keep your attention as present as you can. Even if it's only a fraction of a second, allow yourself that fraction of a second's experience of this 'now.' (pause) Heart opening. Fully present in this wondrous moment of being. (pause)

From this perspective bring thought to that memory of feeling unworthy that I asked you to recall. Look with tenderness on that human who felt unworthy. From this place of greater spaciousness, can you see that that human never was unworthy? For whatever its reasons, it bought into that story. It's an old, old story. A burden that we simply never dared to put down. Look with compassion at this human, who for so long has borne this burden. In the moment of the telling of that story, was there unworthiness? How far back does it go? How many lifetimes? This is the wrinkle, the distortion. I want you to allow yourself to see or feel that space free of this distortion of unworthiness. No getting rid of here, just the skillful and loving decision, 'I'm going to let it go. However I have used this illusion in the past, I no longer need to do so.'

Remembering the story of this week, feeling humiliated or rejected, 'I do not need to identify with this, I release it.' You may want to turn your hands up, or raise your hands, to physically release it. Do so if that feels helpful to you. 'I am not unworthy, I have never been unworthy.' Allow yourself to focus, in whatever way you can, on that perfect light, that perfect unwrinkled page of yourself. In, pause, out. Come back to the breath. With each pause, release. Breathe out the distortion. No war with it, no getting rid of, just a clear seeing, 'It's not who I am. I release that old illusion.'

We come back from that space, now. Back into this body. Wiggle the fingers. Wiggle the feet. Deep breath. (pause)

When I speak of the illusion of self, what I more precisely mean is the illusion that all these old distortions are who you are, or that the identify created with those distortions needs to be maintained for safety. As long as you cling to those distortions you are unable to understand who you truly are. The question was asked, 'Why do I feel defensive when Barbara or Aaron speak of letting go of the illusion of self?' The ego does not want to let go, the ego wants to maintain itself at all costs. When I say let go of the illusion of self, the ego says, 'No!' What else can it say? It's clinging by its fingertips and I'm smacking the fingers; let go. If you let go you're going to fall; where? Perhaps fall into who you truly are when you're not so busy being who you always thought you were. But that's very scary; how do you know anything's going to be there? We'll talk more about this.

I want to give you two examples of working with this practice. One is something that Barbara experienced some time ago. She was at a meditation retreat; not teaching, but attending the retreat. There were times when she felt rejected in one way or another. I asked her to look carefully, to ask the question: who is feeling rejected? Perhaps somebody had walked past her and averted their eyes. She knows that they may be averting their eyes because they want don't want to make contact and it has nothing to do with her. She also knows that, perhaps, she was being rejected. Does that mean she's unworthy? From where did this notion arise that if someone rejects me then it means I'm unworthy?

It's not necessary to look at each historical detail. For Barbara, it was simply enough to look at the pain she felt, occasionally, as a child; feeling rejected, feeling unworthy. When there was that pain of feeling rejected and the ensuing anger, it was too uncomfortable to be there with that anger toward another. So, her response was to say, 'I'm unworthy. I'm unworthy for why ever they reject me and I'm unworthy for feeling this anger. That's why I'm being rejected, because I'm an angry person.' Is there anybody in this room who's not sometimes an angry person? Is there any human alive who's not sometimes an angry person? You're human, of course there's anger. There was fear that she would be hurt or her needs not met. With fear there was a sense of helplessness and lack of control. By saying, 'It's my fault,' she was back in control. If she could 'fix' her anger, then she would have the love she needed. Thus, 'unworthiness' served its purpose, protecting her from deeper fear.

You're all suffering from what I call 'old soul syndrome.' You've heard me speak of this before. You so aspire to be worthy of that union with God, so seek to purify yourselves, to come home, that each perceived fault in you looks magnified a thousand times. As you now become more highly evolved and more perfectionist, each emotion which you may have overlooked some hundred lifetimes ago is seen as flaw and magnified. That purity to which you aspire seems ever further away. Unworthy becomes a defense. In a sense, unworthy is ego's last stand: 'If I'm unworthy at least I'm still somebody.' At least there is still some identity, and it's more comfortable than being the angry one. At any rate, seeing that old unworthiness, Barbara was able to see that in that moment all that was happening was that somebody was not looking at her. How absurd to say, 'Therefore I'm unworthy.' What does unworthy have to do with it? Furthermore, she asked, 'Back when this seed was first planted, was I unworthy? No! I wasn't unworthy then and I'm not unworthy now. This has been a myth I've been carrying around. There was a wrinkle in the paper and I believed it, so I practiced it over and over again, re-crumpling the paper.'

Then the final step, needed because you can do it up to here a thousand times and still get stuck in the myth of being someone who is unworthy: 'I release it.' Have you ever had a sore in the mouth and noted that your tongue keeps going to that spot, worrying it? The more you flick at it, the sorer it gets. You finally have to stop and remind yourself to leave it alone. This is the same thing. Each time unworthiness, or any other heavy emotion, reappears repeatedly, you remind yourself, 'Old mind.' It must be done with compassion for the being that moved into the sense of unworthiness. If there is judgment of that being, that only practices the distortion again: 'Look how unworthy I was to have kept doing this; look how bad I was.' Just more of the same thing; can you see that? A hug to that being and a reminder, 'I am not unworthy, I never was unworthy.'

Then the new part: 'I release it.' The release must be done from this higher perspective. You are resting in that pure, unwrinkled aspect of self; the pure light body. Resting there as firmly as you can. You are not denying the wrinkles, only knowing that they are just relative reality and you've bought into it. Let it go. There is a shift in weight from one foot to the other. It is not a grasping at the unwrinkled, because there's nothing that needs to be grasped. Rather, there's an allowing of yourself to rest in that pure light body. You're going to have to do it over and over and over. How many times did you practice the distortion for it to become solidified into habit? How many times are you going to need to remind yourself, very lovingly: 'Old mind. I don't need to identify with this, nor carry it anymore. I release it. I come back to my true being.'

We return to the words, 'Illusion of self.' Equate it with ownership of the wrinkle. Your true nature, the God-, Christ- or Buddha-self, the unblemished light body, it is still a self. Just as each drop of water may be taken separately out of the sea, yet there is nothing that is not of the nature of the sea, so within that light body there is nothing that is not of God.

(Tape ended and was not restarted on the second side. After Aaron's talk was finished, we discovered that and filled in what he said.)

Barbara: I'm just briefly going to say here what Aaron just said so we don't lose it. He has given us an assignment to be conscious during the break of moving into defendedness, seeing it as old mind, making the skillful decision, 'I don't need to carry this defendedness,' and releasing it. Can we feel our energy opening again.

Comment from someone: I think he started the second side by saying that on a soul level we still have a self … Help me, what else did he say about that? I remember that's how it started.

Barbara: He was speaking about the drop of water to the ocean. He said, we're each unique, but we don't have those attributes that we think of as small ego self and with which we get caught in identification. He says that we will talk more about it after the break; he would like to hear your questions. The question that I read is lying here if anyone would like to read it during the break.


Barbara: Are there any questions related to the question that I read at the beginning of the evening? Can people talk about their understandings of 'illusion of self'? Are there questions about it, or thoughts you want to share with each other about how you understand it? Also, speak about the exercise Aaron asked you to do during the break. Did anybody notice this contraction and release? What happened?

C: Yesterday Aaron said something to me about not identifying with the ego self, the emotional, mental, physical bodies. But that's the only part that I know. So, it's sort of crazy-making to tell me not to identify with what I know.

Barbara: That's what this process is about, learning to recognize a deeper part.

L: I have a cousin who is in the hospital dying of bone cancer. Her mother, my aunt, is staying with me, so I've spent a lot of time in a supporting role; towards my aunt as well as my cousin. This seems to be a very pure state, and I sense that this may be a purer state of self. I am wondering if this is what might be called the self, because so many of what I would think of as ego contractions or manifestations seem really irrelevant and kind of ridiculous.

D: What do you mean by a 'pure state of self'?

L: Well, it's like a pure state of energy, like love. I would say that I feel a lot of love for this cousin and, in particular, my aunt, who I have been very close to all of my life. Is that what a true sense of self is? Is that why it feels so unfamiliar?

Barbara: I understand what you're asking. It's that place that we each occasionally get to, where we stop all the wheels that are usually going about-'What am I gonna get out of it? Am I gonna be okay?'-All the concepts, protection and manipulation quiets down and there is just a real sense of connectedness. It's you lying there with cancer; it's everybody.

L: Is that self?

Barbara: It's not ego-self but what Aaron would call true self. There are degrees of this. In a very, very deep meditation experience, you reach a space where there is no physical body, there is no ego, there's no notion of self. There's not even a thought 'I am experiencing this' there is no experiencer. There is some level of awareness because when you come out of that meditation there is still memory of it. But it's the closest, maybe, that the human can come to complete emptiness of self, to completely entering that space. What you described moves towards that space. There's still an experiencer, so there is some degree of ego-self.

Aaron once used an image that I found very beautiful. He talked about the pure, brilliant light of God and said if you put us in front of that light, we cast a shadow. There would be a silhouette that would show where we were. If you put him in front of it there would still be some small degree of shadow. If you put a being such a the Christ or the Buddha in front of it, they would be invisible. He said that's what we are moving to, this perfect invisibility. To me that perfect invisibility is emptiness of self. Do you know how they print a picture out of black dots? As the picture gets more and more faded there are fewer and fewer dots. There are still some dots here, we're still visible, but we're moving in that direction.

J: Another way to look at this, that has been helpful for me, is to see the self, the emotional, physical and mental bodies as tools for the soul, tools the soul uses to become more invisible.

Barbara: It's very different when they are tools instead of something we have to own and invest our identity in.

J: I think what happens is that we get into this mindset of the self being illusion, not real, and therefore it's not worth anything so we better get rid of it. But, then again, here I am. I can't get rid of who I am, so …

Barbara: It's not getting rid of, it's simply making space around, of not getting stuck in it. I'm paraphrasing Aaron, who is saying it's not disassociation with who you are, it's embracing the relative self while also knowing that you don't have to get caught in believing that's who you are. An image the traditional teachings use is the sea; waves-of physical body, of emotions, of thought-arise on the surface but they never depart from the sea. They are an integral part of the sea. We don't have to get rid of the waves, but we also know the waves are not the sea, just a surface part of it.

Any other comments about this? Any questions relating to the original question, if it's still not clear?

L: Question to J. Are you saying the self is illusion or the ego is illusion?

J: I guess what I'm saying is that I don't like to look at it that way because I find that it becomes too complicated and complex. Excuse me, but it's like we start mind-fucking ourselves with all of that stuff. I just feel that I can look at it more like all those things are tools that I can use, tools that I can look at, little index cards. Something that I can use to help my soul evolve or help me to be a better person. That's an easier way for me to look at it. It just makes it easier for me to work with all this stuff. I don't know if that answers your question.

D: I think that the illusion of the completely separate self must be important or we would not have taken incarnation. So it is not something to be gotten rid of, but is something to aid us.

Aaron: I am Aaron. Consider a very small child with a toy. The child has put down a toy truck and picked up a doll. It's playing with the doll. It's not paying any attention to the truck until another child comes along and reaches for the truck. 'Mine!' it says, and grabs it. If you are the adult with that child, you don't tell the child, 'No, don't be selfish.' In other words, don't grasp onto 'me' and 'mine.' You give the child a hug and say, 'You're afraid that somebody will take away something that's important to you. You can let him use it. When he's done he will give it back. It's safe to do that.' Thus you allow the child to slowly let go of that grip of fear that it will not have what it needs.

The ego self is much the same way. The emotions, the mind, grasp and hold onto this and that. If you mock that small ego self and say, 'Let go,' it just holds on more firmly. If it lets go of the immediate object it moves to something else like guilt or judgment; just another place to fixate. When you make space around it and give it a bit of compassion, it doesn't have to hold on any more. The identity naturally shifts to the larger self, to the God-self. There is no getting rid of here. There is no denying. There is no saying, 'Oh, it's only illusion.'

It may be illusion, but if there is pain, it hurts. If it hurts one must pay attention to it. What makes it so solid? How can we allow this shift and not force this shift? That is what this work is about. We're going to be doing more practices in the coming weeks, dealing more directly with light and energy. In all of them, the focus will be helping you to get to know the other, larger aspect of self. C has just said that this is all she knows, but it's not all she or any of you know. Only, you have not previously been asked to pay attention.

When you rest in that greater self, which is egoless, you don't notice that you're there. It's the same kind of situation when you wake up in the morning and you're feeling good, nothing hurting. You don't generally notice, 'Gee, it's wonderful, nothing hurts.' But if there is pain, you notice it. You don't generally notice when you're not hungry, you notice when you are hungry. When nothing itches, do you notice that? No, you notice when the itch starts. You spend so much time resting in this God-self, but you don't notice it. What we are trying to do here is to help you first, know it and, second, to stabilize the experience of it, so that each time you get stuck in the small ego self, you have someplace to shift your weight, some way to move back to that larger perspective. That is all.

C: I liked it better when Aaron talks of the balance of relative and ultimate reality. Sometimes he has said, 'This is an illusion,' and I have read that many other places, too, like A Course in Miracles. They say that this life is an illusion. When I first read that in A Course in Miracles it made me very frustrated because I was just beginning my spiritual growth and hearing that nothing of this world was real, nothing I knew was real, the only reality was something I didn't even understand, was crazy-making. I would cry in the shower. I was trying so hard to get it. But I like it better when this human experience is not denied, but as Aaron is using the language now, speaking of it as relative reality instead of saying it's illusion. It is painful to deny our human experience, I think.

Barbara: We can't deny our humanness. The ultimate reality has no meaning unless we incorporate relative reality into it. But, they are not separate. Relative reality can not stand on its own without ultimate reality. It's like actors on the stage; there's got to be the stage floor and the curtains and the audience, not just the actors or they have no meaning. But, the stage has no meaning without the actors. It comes together.

Response: It seems like C is bring up this question: If we say that relative reality is an illusion, does this deny the validity of our experience of this place?

Barbara: Does it to you? I think that comes down to asking what we mean by illusion.

Response: For me it's difficult to accept certain experiences. Knowing that they are an illusion sometimes makes it harder for me to accept the painful experiences because while they seem real, maybe I should not be experiencing them if they are illusion. Do you see the trap that sets up of invalidating experience?

Barbara: The thing is, when we get stuck in the identity of 'me,' of self solidified around emotions, body and thoughts, then we get very attached to some things and have aversion to other things. We keep planting the seeds of karma. Karma grows out of this illusion of a solid, separate self.

Question: Is karma an illusion?

Barbara: On the relative plane, no!

C: M and I were talking about that this week. In fact, I wrote a piece to bring and I'm sorry I didn't, but it had some anger in it. I was saying if this life is an illusion then it follows that karma is also an illusion, because you can't deny the reality of this life without denying its by-products. It's not fair!

Aaron: I am Aaron. When M asked is karma is also an illusion, Barbara gave a vehement 'no.' I offer the opposite answer. Karma is indeed an illusion. Once you understand the illusion of separate self and are completely free of identification with that self, but simply embrace it as a tool for living this relative reality, then you cease planting those illusory karmic seeds, and truly become free. As long as there is the illusion of self you're caught with the whole illusion, which includes karma. I am sure that all of you have, at some time or another, played with those bubbles which arise when you dip a wand into a jar and then blow bubbles into the air. Are they real or illusion? That is all.

(Tape stopped and re-started.)

Aaron: You must embrace relative reality, it is your place of learning. The statement that it is illusion in no way invalidates it. A play is a grand illusion, and those sitting in the audience may learn a great deal from a fine, well acted drama. It has its own validation.

We're not talking about validity here so much as we're talking about suffering. As long as you buy into the illusion and stay caught in your separateness, you suffer. You plant new karmic seeds. When you move to J's stance of seeing the emotions, body and mind as tools for the incarnation, tools for learning, you can open your heart around the circumstances of your life. You move to true non-attachment, and that letting go allows you to rest an equal amount, not a greater amount, an equal amount, in ultimate reality. Then they come together, there is no separation. This is not ultimate and relative reality being two sides of a fence. It is the example Barbara just gave, the actors on the stage. The play needs the actors, the stage and the audience. The lines are part of the relative reality, the props are part of the relative reality, but they exist in a greater whole. We treat them with respect, with love. We don't invalidate them, but we don't own them or identify with them as all that we are. That is all.

M: If relative reality were invalid then we wouldn't need to practice it.

J: I think that's what D was saying. It must be important-here we are.

Barbara: Here we are because without this where are we going to be?

(Much laughter.)

C: Apparently it's part of the plan that we experience separation because here we are as individuals with separate minds and bodies, at least it appears so. So it confuses me that we are asked to let go of our illusion of separateness, because it must serve some purpose or we wouldn't have it.

Aaron: I am Aaron. I hear your question. Use your illusion of separation, knowing it for illusion, to learn. Do not cling to it nor fixate on it. Suppose you had an abundance of food, more food that you could possibly use. Somebody said, 'May I have some apples and a bit of bread?' and you responded, 'Sure, here, take it.' Is that generosity? What does it mean to give when there is no fear for the self being short?

The illusion of separation is much the same. How could you have ever left God? Can the water ever leave the sea? It can evaporate into a cloud, it can come down as rain and be sucked into a tree. It can run through the soil and into streams. Eventually it comes back to the sea. Nothing is ever separate. How could you ever be separate from God? What does it mean to know your true divine nature? In just the same way that you can not know the experience of generosity until there is some fear of lack, you can not know the true divine nature until there is some sense of separation from it. Then you come to understand who you truly are and allow yourself to manifest that divinity in a way that you could not do previously. Before you were just a spark of God. Once you move through that illusion of separation and come back to knowing the divinity of your true nature, you become a brilliant sun in your own right. In short, you manifest that divinity throughout the universe. This is the purpose of your spiritual journey, if it could be said to have a purpose. The seventh density being that is finally returning fully to the divine returns absolutely able to manifest its own divinity. Read the Book of Revelation; it talks about this. This is all.

Question: How would Aaron define divinity?

Aaron: I am Aaron. That which I call God is that which we experience as infinite love, infinite intelligence. It manifests itself as light and energy. It is the essence of the universe, without which nothing else could exist. There is no duality, so that which I call God is in everything; not just what you call 'good,' but in everything. There is light and there is relative absence of light, but there is still light in it, even if it's just a small amount. When I speak of divinity, I mean that which radiates that light and love allows itself to be a channel for that light and love, is that light and love.

You can not know God in the conceptual mind. You can only know the projections of God. At first those projections are of the culture or tribe. Thus, for example, in the old testament God was perceived as being a wrathful God, and he defended those whose side he was on. He was a military hero, of sorts. So, there was a projection of God which reflected the values of that culture. This is like taking one slice of an orange and thinking it's the whole orange. Or taking one piece of fruit from a bowl, an apple, and thinking, 'This is fruit'-that all fruit is apple, and completely ignoring the myriad types of fruit. There are thousands of projections of God, each is one small spoke of the whole.

On the next level you move into what I might call a first level God experience; some kind of contact with God. There's not perfect unity with God; there is this being experiencing that as beyond itself. Again, what you are experiencing is a projection. But it's a somewhat broader projection. That's as far as the conceptual mind can take you.

In meditation, as the self dissolves a bit, you make space for God. When you're filled with ego, there's no room for the God experience. As you move into a deeper meditation and the illusion of a solid self dissolves a bit, you start to follow up the sunbeam into the sun. Finally you become aware that the sunbeam is not God, it's only a piece of God. You see the sun for the first time, the whole blazing glory of it. But there is still a somebody who is seeing it. Two who come together as lovers, embrace and even merge; but even the merging means that this that was separate from that with which it merged.

Eventually your meditation experience may take you to the place that Barbara described earlier where all sense of separate self, all concept, is completely gone. Then you'll finally start to know that you are part of that brilliant sun, that you've always been part of it. You are not just one projection of it, you're right there in the center of the blazing fire. Your ego is a projection of that; relative reality is a projection of that. That's why I say you can not separate relative and ultimate realities; you can not separate mundane and sacred.

You move into the experience of 'oneness'-the essential oneness, the identity with God-which is different than unity, Then you start to know the true divinity of yourself and all that is. You are that divinity, and have always been. From that experiential understanding of identity with God, your whole moral system is shaken up. You cease acting from a place of doer, from a place of should, or outward moral imperatives. Your choices of action are based on the simple fact that there is nothing here that is not God, so you may not harm any of it. To hurt another is to hurt myself and to hurt God. It then becomes unthinkable to do harm. That is why moving towards this experience of identity with God is so important. Because until then the earth will need to be run by moral dictates; shoulds and shouldn'ts, commandments. And there are always going to be those who break commandments. Eventually your earth will evolve to a place where all understand their oneness, and the commandments will no longer be necessary. That is all.

Barbara: Aaron asks me to read this question out loud so people can think about it, and we will give it more time next week.

I'd like to ask you to take up the issue of defendedness for women. We women are trained from birth to be defended from men, and indeed, if we relate openly we are viewed as 'available' for sexual advances. It's hard to be openly open. How can we appear open but not appear 'open'?

Barbara: Good question. Next week …

Aaron wants to know if you have anything you would like to share from the break with his assignment. Did anybody notice defendedness? Did you try this process of releasing it? What happened?

C: As you know I worked on this a lot, but it still comes up. During the break, there was someone here, who is not here now, with whom I had a deep connection last year. We never had an argument, but as spring approached a discomfort, because I think this person …

(Tape ended-a part of this person's talking was missed.)

We had exchanged a few words tonight and smiled. When this person was leaving I attempted a hug and felt resistance. I said, 'You don't want a hug?' This person said, 'Not so tight.' Well, it wasn't tight; they didn't want it. I thought of the exercise, but the pain was still there. I thought, 'This is old mind, it has nothing to do with me. I've opened my heart to this person. If they don't want me, why should this rejection cause me to feel unworthy, or less than.'

Barbara: Let me stop you here for a second. The pain isn't old pain, the pain is right here in this moment. The myth out of which the pain has grown, 'I'm unworthy, I'm being rejected,' that's an old story. We can see, 'I wasn't unworthy then, I'm not unworthy now.' But, right now you are still feeling the pain of feeling rejected. It doesn't matter if it's ultimately real or not, it's present pain. As soon as we say it's old pain, we invalidate it. When we can say the pain is here and give ourselves some love for that pain, then we outgrow attachment to that pain as validation for small self. There are two different steps. One is recognizing the old mind from which these myths grew. And one is opening and making space for the pain. Our sense of unworthiness was a way of keeping the pain at bay. Can you see that?

C: I've heard that before, but it's still difficult.

Barbara: When we get caught up in, 'I'm the unworthy one,' we're trying to control the pain by explaining the pain. Then, of course you're feeling pain, because you feel unworthy, but there's a way to handle the pain. But, if you're not unworthy and there's all this pain, what do you do with it? You've just got to sit there with that bare pain and make space for it. That really tears your heart open, but in doing so it opens and stretches your heart and allows you to stop identifying with it as 'my pain,' it's everybody's pain. You cease owning the pain. It's very important not to deny the pain, just to make space for it.

C: How?

Barbara: Just watch it. Go deeper into it.