May 19, 1993

Aaron: I am Aaron. You have been questioning the distinctions between comfort/discomfort and like/dislike. In bare perception there is no self or other, and thus, no like or dislike. There is no self in comfort/discomfort, just awareness of these sensations as arising. There is no subject or object. Like/dislike implies a self to do that liking/disliking, and a separate object to be liked/disliked. Thus, in like/dislike there is notion of self. But there is no identification with that self; it is not yet solid, only the useful fringe of self which lets you know of imminent danger or pleasure.

When you walked outdoors in bare feet just now, you were watching the arising of consciousness, perception and sensation. Each time there was contact, there was awareness of the perception of soft, comfortable or sharp, uncomfortable. When there was a step onto something very sharp that might damage the foot, there was a shifting into self.

Essentially, old mind came into play as dislike/danger registered. We must distinguish here between two levels of old mind. There is that which draws on past aversion and attachment, all the old stories about 'This happened to me and I got hurt.' Here there is fear.

The other level of old mind touches only bare perception in old mind. You do not have to run a thorn through your foot a thousand times to learn that if you continue to step down and apply pressure when there is hard sharpness underfoot, you will have that sharpness pierce your foot. Old mind is brought in as memory of past bare perception, not as memory of old stories. This is not to be considered old mind but present bare perception based on past bare perception. We distinguish, choose skillfully to exclude the past aversion and attachment, and focus only on that aspect of past experience based on bare perception. This is NOT old mind, only useful memory used as tool.

Yet when you do bring in even that level of old mind, a self must enter to remember. The mental body is employed as tool, which requires a doer. With that self, like/dislike usually enter. When there is knowing that this process is happening, then there is no need to move to craving or aversion. One employs the tool and puts it down when it has served its purpose. Then one returns to emptiness of a self and to non-duality.

Are there questions?

Q: Is this the only time like/dislike arises?

Aaron: No. Like/dislike arises preceding any move to aversion or craving. When there is no mindfulness, you move on into these forms. Like/dislike also arises with the beginnings of the stories of old mind. If there is mindfulness, like/dislike is a yellow warning flashing '… self entering …' Then the one who is mindful will observe the movement to old mind and what has pulled one into that state, the fear or whatever may be present and will allow it to fall away. Then you return to bare perception.

When one moves from bare perception to old mind, then it is vital to notice that shift. There is already self for old mind to be present. It is also important to notice any judgment appearing as aversion. The aversion to old mind entering is not old mind entering. The more precise you are, the less you'll get stuck, the faster self dissolves and you re-enter bare perception.

Q: Last week we talked about fear and reactivity. I see myself continually getting caught, getting into a fight with 'being caught,' feeling like a fish caught on a hook. I don't know what to do about it. I'm sure I'm creating more unwholesome karma. I'm stuck.

Barbara: Can you allow yourself to be stuck and just watch it? What's the great fear or discomfort about being stuck? Aaron said to me some weeks ago (reads from private April/May transcript):

The important thing for our work is that all of this can be noted without self arising. There need be no move to aversion or craving. There may be skillful moving back from the threat. There's no self, and thus, no adhering karma.

Often we don't catch it at that stage though. No matter how scrupulously mindful you are, there will be moments when the catalyst is so strong that bare perception and neutral mind shift into old mind, into the solidified self which accompanies old mind, to like and dislike, leading into aversion or craving.

When there is a move into old mind, you may not catch that as it happens. The first indication that you've moved from bare perception to old mind may be the noticing of like or dislike. K asked if this move and the action of liking or disliking brings adhering karma? Yes, there's a self sending out liking or disliking energy that may touch another with discomfort. It could even be argued that there is some intention to harm, that there is a separate self and one is preferring to insure the comfort and safety of that self.

This is subtle. There is adhering karma, but without verbal or action response, that brief moment of fear, anger, jealousy, greed doesn't create severe adhering karma. There are degrees. There will always be emotions. With practice, the defilements arise far less frequently and remain strong for a far shorter period. You see their presence almost immediately. We're not just pursuing this as an intellectual game. How do we live our lives more lovingly, more skillfully? How do we allow the manifestation of that Buddha nature which is our true being? We attend to what blocks it, by choiceless awareness. Can we see, for example, the rise of defendedness when we feel threatened, and the ensuing desire to attack that which seems to threaten, to protect this solidifying self? If in that seeing, we return to a sense of compassion rather than judgment for the humans that we are, self dissolves, sense of separation dissolves, and we shift back to bare perception. The reverberations of the emotion may echo through the physical body for some time and are simply noted as discomfort … (added to this book from private transcript, April-May)

Aaron recently gave me this example (again reads from transcript, from Aaron):

You hold some rocks over a pond. If something jars your hand severely, just as some external catalyst might jar your emotions, almost involuntarily the hand opens and a rock drops. If there is careful noting of the process of being jarred, immediately after the rock has dropped, the hand softens. Rocks don't continue to drop. The ripples continue to spread long after the hand has softened. The ripples are just ripples. The rocks are no longer dropping. The reverberations of emotion are hollow echoes after there has been skillful noting and return to bare perception and neutral sensation.

You can't prevent emotions from arising. You can't prevent the occasional shift to old mind. Your immediate mindfulness prevents reactivity to that old mind. It prevents the planting of new seeds of adhering karma. It draws you back home! That bit of adhering karma created by the arising of negative energy is dissolved by the compassion that you feel and by your self-forgiveness.

Barbara: The important thing is that we cease to identify with this old mind as who we are. We've talked of that threshold we stand on. One foot is in relative reality which keeps getting stuck in emotions, old mind, fear, self. The other foot is in ultimate reality and begins to feel a tender compassion for this human who gets caught. Thus, we begin to manifest that Buddha nature, to more fully allow ourselves to be what we are, to dare to offer love rather than anger to the painful catalyst of our lives.

(Meditation and much more discussion, not transcribed.)