April 15, 1993

(We began with a long meditation and discussion of personal nature.)

Aaron: I am Aaron. My love to you all. It was my original intention to start with a discussion of last week's work to hear about your experiences. The discussion that you did begin with was very important, and I would not interfere with that talk. I do want to have an opportunity to present some new material so I'm going to reverse my original plan and speak first.

We have been talking about these steps: contact/consciousness, perception and sensation, which may involve the move from neutral to positive or negative. The next step is to look at the ways that mental formations arise. If the perception were straightforward, only one memory and emotional response, it would be easy to understand mental formation. But humans are complex, as are human emotional memories.

It is important to note that mental formation has not necessarily arisen out of contact or perception. It arises out of the sensation phase, which in itself is dependent on perception. As a simple example, if you are very, very hungry, aware of that physical sensation of hunger, and somebody places a platter full of food before you, there is sight contact, perception that this is good food, and the move from neutral to liking.

Let us then suppose that the one who had set down that plate says 'Oh, I'm sorry, I made a mistake,' takes that lovely plate away and sets down in its place a plate of three crackers, and hands that first plate to your neighbor. The mental formations of jealousy, grasping, clinging, greed, are likely to appear. The plate of food is not what leads most directly to the clinging, but your relationship to the food. And yet the clinging that appears seems to be to the plate of food.

Let us replay this. You have just finished a big meal, walked in and sat down at your friend's house, and this identical large plate of food is put before you. Moving through contact and perception, one looks into old mind condition and remembers the discomfort of overeating. With aversion to that discomfort, one has aversion to the plate of food. Once picked up and removed, and you get the crackers, there's a sense of relief. Since you had opposite reactions to the same plate of food, depending on your own hunger, or fullness, you see that it is not the contact, but your relationship at that moment, to that which you contacted.

It is easy to understand this, with such a simple example, but sometimes, the response is much more complex. Sometimes the emotional memories are varied. For that plate of food, let's substitute a chocolate or strawberry sundae, a bowl of fresh fruit, or whatever it is you truly crave. You are full as you see that plate being offered. There is a inward groaning, 'Oh no, I couldn't eat another thing,' and then you see what has been offered. Old mind conditioning that says: 'This is my favorite food. This will bring me pleasure; it will be delicious,' moves in and you are uncertain. 'If I eat there will be physical discomfort, but I want to.' The physical discomfort is the reality of this moment. 'Feeling satiated.' The wanting is the mind grasping, saying, 'Yes, good, delicious.' Again, this is a simple example, offered for clear illustration. Most of you would have no problem with this. You're full, it looks delicious, maybe just a taste.

Let us carry the example to something more complex. Sense contact and perception arises, perhaps seeing two dear friends arm and arm around each other. You may move from neutral into liking as you sense the warmth of their companionship, and feel your own connection, your welcome into that embrace. That move to liking, that mental formation of affection, still comes from the self, but from a whole aspect of self. The move to join them and share your own energy and love manifests wholesome, adhering karma.

Then not simultaneously, but just a blink of the eye beyond, may come the old mind experiences of rejection. Then self solidifies. Instead of movement to positive you move to negative, with the mental formations of fear that your needs may not be met, jealousy, and also confusion, because just a moment ago you felt connected. What distorted that connection? Perhaps you smiled at one and instead of returning that smile, a back was turned to you. Of course that back turned may have had nothing to do with you, but old mind enters, and sees it as rejection.

How often you go through this bewildering process in your inter-relationships with one another. There is so much pain, and the moments of joy and connection are cut short by clinging, by negative fears.

I cannot offer the most directly personal example to each of you. This acceptance/ rejection and the feelings of comfort or jealousy, and anger it engenders is something to which you can all relate, even though it may not be your primary issue. Here is the opportunity to practice. The first step is to notice what is happening when you move strongly into craving or aversion, or into a bewildering see-saw between the two.

It is useful first to simply acknowledge, 'Feeling stuck, feeling pain.' Sit yourself down quietly and begin to watch the process through which self is solidified. I do not promise you that pain will instantly dissolve. But as soon as you see the process that has pulled you out of the moment and into old mind which uses its biases to manipulate the present in order to feel safe, then you are able to relax into the present.

When old mind is filtering the interpretation of this moment, you know that old mind is doing so. This simple act of knowing returns you to the present. It's very wonderful. You may need to do it over and over and over again. But you will find it to be a most valuable tool in avoiding reactivity and in coming back to center. When you do this often enough, you start to find a balance between the ultimate reality that you are always safe and the apparent reality of presumed danger. You begin to respond more to ultimate reality, to simply allow apparent reality to drift by like a cloud on an otherwise clear day.

You begin to see the small ego self that frantically struggles to be safe. That self interprets and reinterprets the received sense data, rushing around, trying to be in control. But you cannot always maintain control.

Who knows what that turning of the back means. Is there a part of you that wished it to be rejection, as well as the part that wants acceptance? Look carefully there. See this frantic being struggling to maintain safety. Sometimes what seems to be safe is not the skillful choice. We have used an example of unwholesome co-dependence. A is abusing B. B allows the abuse because it lets B feel valued by A who apparently seeks and values a repository for its anger. Feeling valued is of overriding importance to B and pre-empts not being abused. B needs to feel valued. That feels safe.

In the example of meeting people on the street, perhaps if B invites A's rejection, that also allows B to feel valued, in a backward way, by A who needs to feel rejecting and superior. You do get into all of these complex patterns. My dear ones, as you watch these patterns in yourselves over and over you come to the point where you can only smile at yourself.

When one of Barbara's children was very small, he liked to crayon on the television screen. He was told 'No,' and asked to scrub it off. But he kept doing it. At first Barbara was moved to anger, impatience with this young one and his disdain at this learning. But finally she began to laugh each time she saw it. For whatever pull, he simply could not resist this behavior. Yes, it was unskillful, but he was caught in it. It is precisely that ability to see the patterns with a smile, instead of with harsh judgment which allows you finally to relinquish those patterns. You do not surrender the need to feel safe, but begin to understand that safety is not what you had imagined it to be. Rather, safety is being present in this moment, with as open heart as is possible.

It is here that you begin to balance relative and ultimate. Returning to the above example of seeming rejection and perhaps an experience of feeling unworthy, one may ask, 'In this moment am I unworthy?' You see that all that is happening is someone has turned their back. The interpretation of 'unworthy' is all old mind.

At first you may say, 'Aha, then I'm worthy!' Eventually you come to know there never was 'worthy' or 'unworthy.' They are meaningless terms you invented to explain your experiences. In the moment in which they arose, there was never worthy or unworthy-joy and pain perhaps, but never worthy/unworthy. With the clear seeing of how that duality was created, you come back to your true self, back to pure awareness, back to innate perfection of being. It is a wonderful moment of clear seeing. Simply rest there!

Next week we will speak more specifically about the process of movement through contact, perception, sensation, mental formation. (Homework.) Two weeks ago I had asked you to focus on the shift, contact to perception. Is it bare perception or does the emotional body join in with its old stories? Could you see the old biases which tinted the reality of this moment? Now I ask you to carry that one small step further. Notice how that false tint leads you into the leap to aversion or craving.

When you see that plate of food, and old mind or present hunger leads to craving or aversion, ask yourself to return to just you, this moment, and a plate of food. Can you see that food without the filters of old mind? When you do, what happens to craving or aversion? Can you see the friends hand in hand and experience the turned back with awareness of how old mind is conditioning interpretation? What happens to the solidified self as you look in that way? I would ask you to note this as accurately as you can. I know that the business of your life prevents you from doing this in each moment that arises. But as often as you can each day, stop and look.

Questions and last week's homework: (Aaron: 'Did you draw? Were you able to see things just as they are, and to notice the old mind bias in the way that you saw that cup or flower or vase?' We share drawings.)

Question: (About today's lecture.) Once you move to negative, do you necessarily move to aversion? What is the difference between aversion and negative sensation?

Aaron: Negative sensation does not necessarily create aversion. And aversion is just aversion! Clearly noted, it self-releases, in the words of one teaching system, 'self-liberates,' bringing you back to pure awareness. Next class we will talk about the move to aversion becoming the next mind consciousness, versus the move to aversion and mindfulness about that move creating the next mind consciousness. This is like the story of B'rer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. We keep getting more stuck, the more we fight.