May 13, 1993

Aaron: Good morning and my love to you all. I want to begin today by clarifying some questions that arose from last week's class. We have moved through the first two steps: contact and perception, which may be bare perception or old mind based perception, usually some mixture of both. I have talked about the fact that the arising of old mind in itself, need not jar you into the delusion of solid self. You see there is a filter here: old mind. Seeing that filter of self, you are not pulled to identify with or own it. The shift to old mind is clearly seen-that it is habit, partially resultant from fear, and has grown out of myriad conditions.

Without identification with old mind consciousness, it merely drifts in and drifts out. You are then acting, speaking, thinking from a place of clarity or pure awareness that knows that separate self is delusion. Awareness may regard 'self' as a useful tool to deal with worldly concerns. If you wish to tighten a screw, you pick up a screw driver, use it until the work is done, and then lie it down. There is no illusion that you are the screw driver. If you see a situation, perhaps, where there is injustice, and it seems useful to speak forcefully about it from a place of personal experience, you pick up the tools of memory, of speech, even of speech with deep emotion in it, but it is clear that these are tools. Your most powerful work comes from this space where you can bridge the gap, being a deeply involved and caring human, but with the space of equanimity, of seeing even your passionate concern without identification of, 'This is who I am.' The actions and words that grow out of this space plant only non-adhering karma.

What I have just said was review. I believe it is clear to you. Let us now explore several pathways in which experience may move.

The clearest, but one that rarely occurs, contact, followed by bare perception, fully in the moment of this experience. In the sensation stage, one stays in neutral, neither aversion or attachment arise. The opposite extreme: contact, with perception very little in the moment, strongly filtered by old mind conditioning, pulled to strong liking or disliking. A solid self is doing that liking or disliking. Strong aversion or attachment leads to reactivity, planting seeds of unwholesome adhering karma.

As I am sure is clear to you all, most of your experience does not touch either extreme. We could not possibly describe every path, nor is it necessary. The key is simple. Where there is the delusion of a solid, permanent self, and movement from that delusion, there is adhering karma. We have explored this idea in our study of karma last semester and through much of this one. I'm sure you have heard enough about it!

You see that there need be no shift into identifying with self when old mind consciousness arises. It is NOT old mind in itself that leads into the solidification of self but one's relationship with that arising old mind. When there is ownership of any arising emotion, thought or sensation, illusion of self becomes solid. The open hearted awareness of its arising keeps you centered in Pure Mind. Whatever has arisen is clearly seen as just a cloud passing through. You skillfully note the arising thought, ask where it comes from, and see it is old mind. In the words of one teaching system, it then self-liberates. There is no adhering karma.

Furthermore, you begin to know that arising, not as something different than pure mind that needs to be gotten rid of, but that each arising is nothing other than manifestation of pure awareness. Each time thought, emotion or sensation arises and is worked with in this way, pure awareness stabilizes!

Enough repetition! Let us look at the next step here, the step we call sensation, which involves staying in neutral or the shift to positive or negative. Even if there has been bare perception, staying fully in the experience, the experience may be pleasant or unpleasant. A warmth of a fire is pleasant on a cold day. It brings relief to physical discomfort. There does not have to be a self identified, only 'Warmth is happening.' Cold was uncomfortable. The awareness of pleasantness, that the mind perceives of the warmth and the comfort to the physical body, is not quite the same as liking the warmth, nor is liking the warmth the same as attachment to the warmth. Can you see them as steps? Each moves a bit deeper into self.

Awareness of pleasant, unpleasant, may be firmly anchored in no-self. There is no adhering karma when one is shivering and moves to sit by the fire. There is no adhering karma when one touches a hot coal, registers pain, just pain, not, 'I hate this pain,' and withdraws one's hand. If one moves to sit by the warm fire, notices enjoyment of that warmth, and notices liking, that liking is not a necessary condition for adhering karma. One must be aware, however, of the question: 'Who is liking?' 'I.' 'Am I drifting into solidified self?' You cannot constantly live from a space of total emptiness of self. There must be an 'I' that chooses to sit by the fire rather than freeze. If you watch very carefully, you can see where self solidifies with identification with that 'I.' Can you see the shift from liking to attachment or greed? From disliking to aversion? You can pinpoint where self has solidified without awareness, drawing in ownership, and karma shifts from non-adhering to adhering.

This is your homework, to watch that shift as closely as possible. Yes, I know you have already done it. Now go deeper! When you observe that shift from the space of pure awareness, what happens to the liking or disliking? Can you see this moment where thought self-liberates and you return to pure awareness? If you learn only one thing in this semester, this is the most important, to learn to see that return to pure mind, to experience all arising as manifestation of that pure mind.

I almost need not go into mental formation, into aversion and attachment. Once you are there, you are back in adhering karma, back with a solid self, back into the moha aspect of delusion. The seed has been planted and taken root. The chain moves into the necessary causal stages, all the way around again through death and rebirth, whether incarnative or death of this moment and into the next moment.

Each moment of sense contact becomes a new place to return to center. Each arising sensation, emotion or thought is a gateway to liberation! This is why I so deeply stress the importance of moment to moment mindfulness. Let each breath, each touch or scent or sound or thought bring you back to your true self. A fresh start, over and over. Moment by moment. However, if the next sense consciousness is met deeply emerged in that space of self experiencing attachment or aversion, there will be no clarity. The self will experience that next arising, rather than pure awareness experiencing that which arises, creating a spiral deeper into delusion.

This is all part of your training, the emphasis on mindfulness. It is not mindfulness as an end in itself, but mindfulness that allows you to rest in that space of ultimate reality, empty of separate self, until you come to know that reality. Then phenomena will come and go, rise and fall, but nothing will pull you out of center.

Barbara had an interesting experience on her way to Georgia. The plane was landing in Atlanta. It came in, a normal approach. The wheels just barely touched, when suddenly there was an upward thrust, followed by a far, far steeper ascent than a plane usually makes. Fear gripped the plane. Purses, books, cups tumbled. Barbara also felt a moment of terror. Perhaps it helped that she could not hear, as many people screamed. It was practice, and only practice that enabled her to note first the consciousness, 'Plane rising, something is wrong.' Then a jump to, 'Seeing discomfort, fear.' She could see the whole thing, step by step. The movement into fear of a crash, fear of being out of control. Then she knew, 'What I can control is how I die-peacefully or with terror and aversion,' so she just sat and breathed and waited for the next moment-inferno or open space-with preference, yes, but without attachment. Just seeing how old mind grasped at safety brought release from solidified, attached self. Discomfort, but no adhering karma.

Please enjoy your break and tea. Do you see the habitual response in yourselves that has you sniffing hopefully for fresh bread when I mention 'break' and 'tea'? That is all.


Aaron: Last week I was asked, what is enlightenment? It is nothing special, just being balanced in this moment as clearly as is possible. Yes, one will have so called enlightenment experience-profound experience of one's true nature and the nature of all things. That experience opens the door and gives you a glimpse but it is your constant work with mindfulness, your constant awareness balancing your energies, opening your heart, and allowing that true nature to manifest itself, which allows you to live as an enlightened being-a far different thing than just having, or 'owning' an enlightenment experience. Some people collect enlightenment experiences!! What growth in that? No matter how often you experience clarity in meditation or daily life, moha will re-arise with no awareness of its re-arising, lead to ownership of the self, and keep you from true liberation-unless you live that experience and integrate it into daily life.

Enlightenment experience is just a start. Once you know who you are you must live your life true to that understanding or it is just another experience. I ask Barbara to read here from something I told her several years ago,

Barbara: (Reading from the manuscript of her book, With Love as my Guide.)

Aaron: What is enlightenment experience? Let us use the Buddha's river. You cross and find yourself on a new shore. But immediately you realize that you've just set foot on land. There is a whole world beyond. You are nowhere but at the beginning.

In a sense it is the rite of passage into adulthood. When you finally are an adult, what do you do with that? If all you do is to sit and tell people, 'I'm finally an adult,' to brag or let that state be an excuse from your work, then you are still a child wearing adult garb. The true adult has no time to mention this nor even think about it. Rather, he is busy being an adult-being responsible, serving others, doing whatever needs to be done.

When you first become an adult, know that you are a very young adult. There is much you do NOT know. Keep your humility about you. You are truly just on the threshold and you must work tirelessly and ceaselessly if you are not to simply stagnate with a prideful, 'I made it.' Enjoy the bliss of the deep peace you will experience and let it be a balance to the heightened pain. Stay aware and trust. It is really no different than any place else on the path; simply, your clearer vision gives added responsibility …

There must be tireless devotion to practice and to continued work on yourself.

And further on:

What does enlightenment experience mean? NOTHING! It is NOT the experience but what you do with the experience that matters … To be enlightened is merely to understand that you are nothing, empty of self, just energy and light, and that is all you need ever be, that this is the substance of God and the universe. 'I AM THAT!' It is truly 'lightening,' rather than 'enlightening,' a divestment of the illusion of self so that you need no longer carry that burden.

That knowledge is the threshold but you walk the same world, only with new perspective that asks constant mindfulness, constant responsibility, constant love. Enlightenment drops the burdens of ignorance and fear and picks up many new parcels in their places. Yet in carrying that new parcel-of unconditional love, of service, of oneness-is perfect freedom! … It is the space where you can finally hand the reins to God, let go of control, simply be and do what is required and serve with love and an open heart. It is the most joyful space I know …

Aaron: I want to leave time for questions. We will speak about this more next class if you wish. I would like to conclude this segment of the work on dependent origination in the next class, leaving us the classes in June to meet outdoors without the computer and to share more as a group. That is all.


C: Please talk more about the transition between appreciation and liking.

Aaron: There are tiny steps of transition, each bringing in a bit more self. It is easiest to see with discomfort to touch. Contact-hot. The mind does not think 'This is hot, I had better move my hand' the hand moves. What steps have occurred? There is contact and consciousness, of course, then perception of hot, and sensation of discomfort or pain. But at another level, the process moves so quickly that it seems that the hand itself is conscious, and withdraws. If there is awareness that there is discomfort, no self need arise from that discomfort. Dislike brings in a self, and conversely, a self heightens dislike. If I dislike that, we're separate, subject and object.

Discomfort does not yet relate to the source of discomfort as separate object. There is no registering THAT is burning me, only discomfort. With no 'other,' I do not feel attacked and move to defend, I only feel pain and may soften around that pain, moving deeper into connection with the source of pain. This connection does not prevent my skillful withdrawal from the heat. There is no self, no aversion to the hot object, no karma. There may be aversion to the burn, if such occurred. That is a new consciousness. Hot object is no longer the catalyst, but painful burn. The process starts afresh.

Go back to the image of sunset. There's a difference between noting pleasure which comes from seeing a sunset when you are fully engrossed in that sunset, and the response when the sunset is object related to the see-er. When there is no self seeing a sunset, merely sunset happening, there is really not liking. We get deep into semantics here. To like implies to me someone who does the liking and something to be liked. To rest in harmony with does not necessitate self/other. Can you see the difference?

J: It's the difference between being in the moment and stepping outside the moment.

Barbara: In part. We can make old mind connections and still stay centered. As long as we know there's liking and disliking we're not stuck. Adhering karma comes from identifying with the old mind, disliking or liking with ownership of it.

Aaron: Appreciation moves into liking when there is unmindful shift to old mind and a self starts to solidify out of that old mind. The solidification may be conditioned by unaware identification with the memory, in which there was someone to hold onto something pleasant. Remember that liking is not yet clinging. If the liking is seen and fear noted, there is just the bare perception of an old memory, and present liking. It need not move into clinging. In response to J, the memory is in this moment when it is bare perception of memory. Self arises and we move out of the moment when there is shift to old mind perception without awareness of that shift.

C: I'm working with one issue, jealousy, through many lifetimes; now it's falling away. It no longer catches me much. I realize there are other issues connected to it, like digging out a big weed. When one root is cut there are still others that need work. It seems endless. I keep getting caught in the network of roots!

Barbara: We start to make space around these issues and find freedom. We balance more between ultimate reality and relative reality. If jealousy arises we stop being so hard on ourselves and owning that jealousy, judging. We start to know, 'It's just stuff I had to do; it's not important any more. It's not who I am.'

There's a story in book by a meditation teacher-I don't remember who it was-who was at a retreat with a well known teacher. He was asking questions and not getting answers, not getting the attention he wanted. He started to feel frustrated and angry. Days went by. Finally he decided to tell the teacher how angry he was. The teacher listened respectfully, then got up and acted out what he'd just heard, kicked a bench, then acted like he'd hurt his foot, held it and hopped around. Then, as suddenly as he started, he stopped and sat down. He was showing that we just have to go through this stuff. Sometimes we act it out.

Yes, if we hurt someone doing that acting out, we're responsible. There is adhering karma. We do have to pay attention. But we don't have to hate ourselves, just to smile and acknowledge, 'Caught me!' We keep learning to pay closer attention. We also learn to relax and see the humor in it. So get the perspective on past lives; see the new offshoots. But relax. Every time the war starts again, self solidifies and there's a new root sent out! Relax! Breathe! If you see more jealousy, it's just stuff. What happens to it when you see it as offshoot of old mind, nobody being jealous? Does it dissolve?

C: Yes.

Barbara: Just rest in that space; you're back to Big Mind, into the ultimate reality of it. See the jealousy in another perspective as manifestation of pure mind.

C: What when another issue brings you around to that old set of issues again and again?

Barbara: Do the same thing again. Where did jealousy arise from? Where is it going? See it again and again as manifestation of a distortion of pure mind, not as anything different from pure mind, just a contraction in that pure mind. Seeing that distortion into old mind and self, let it go. Let it dissolve again. The more often it arises, the more you can practice with it!!!

D: Does it help to look each time at how it arose?

Barbara: We can look at the places where we are still reactive but once we've done that we don't need to look at the details and/or the side issues. Just know what's arising, 'Here's reactivity,' smile to it and let it go 'poof!' Come back to rest in pure mind, in ultimate reality. Remember this isn't getting rid of the uncomfortable feeling like jealousy. But when we see how it's just the pattern of old mind and don't come up, grab it, say, 'That's MY jealousy,' we give it space. It does dissolve. As Aaron says, 'poof!' Then we can rest in that space of who we really are, not caught in old concepts of who we thought we were.

Aaron has cautioned against letting that ultimate reality become a place of escape. If we're doing that, it's just something else to watch-here I am being jealous, 'jealousy arising.' Noting how it arises from old mind, we see that there never was anything to be afraid of; it was just an old pattern. Watch it dissolve. If there's attachment to the comfort of that dissolution, wanting to escape from the burning of jealousy into the space of Big Mind, just note that. It's the next arising. Eventually it all gets so clear there's just awareness resting in awareness. Nothing else there!

M: Fear about anger-increases the solidified self. Afraid to look at the old anger …

Barbara: Who's experiencing it? There's nobody there to experience it. What owns it?

M: Fear is owning it.

Barbara: Whose fear? What happens when you see it's nobody's fear. You thought it was yours. Now you know it's not. What happens to the fear?

M: It dissolves.

Barbara: What's there when the fear dissolves?

M: Just anger.

Barbara: No self owning it?

M: No.

Barbara: What happens to the anger when you touch it with awareness?

M: It dissolves.

Barbara: Then what's left?

M: Nothing, just awareness.

Barbara: Okay; just rest there.

M: What about when fear arises again?

Barbara: Do it again!

M: What makes it solidify? Judgment?

Barbara: That's another one. Do the same thing with it. Where did it arise? Whose judgment? Just allow the fear, make enough space. Don't get into a fight with it. Fear doesn't necessitate judgment. The fight with it-your relationship to it-opens judgment.

M: So powerful!

Barbara: Your primary consciousness is no longer the anger but the fear of reactivity. Notice when it shifts. Be with the anger in this moment. See that the fear, anger and judgment are all different. Give them each space. No ownership of any of it.

Aaron: Homework. Walk outside barefoot. Slow walking meditation. Feel the softness and sharpness. Note what arises, as contact, consciousness, perception, sensation, mental formation. Look for the nuances of comfort tuning into liking, discomfort moving into disliking. Look for the degrees of self. What moves it to clinging or aversion?