May 27, 1993

Aaron: I am Aaron. My love to you all. Today I want to tie together some loose ends and to address the question: What do you do with all of this? This semester has given you what I hope will be valuable tools to observe the solidification of self when that solidification is in process. The more solid self becomes, the harder it is to move back into clear perspective of who you are. The more solid self becomes, the more firmly entrenched you become in the habit of self. What we are doing here essentially, is taking off layers of armor, learning to feel what you are feeling including your most profound grief, anger and greed; and to keep the heart open through all of that pain.

You can really experience this process in yourself: you hear somebody saying something that feels threatening, feel the closing up of the heart, the aversion to hearing and the fear. What happens when you take a deep breath and ask yourself, 'Can I reopen, can I just listen without judgment?'

Using a hypothetical example, let us say that some one has just told you that you have unpleasant body odor. This is a common concern in your society. You can see that part of you would not want to hear about it. You would feel attacked. There would be a sense of pain. You might withdraw into yourself. It would touch on old issues of rejection or unworthiness. Anger might arise. Desire to find something to blame might arise.

All of these reactions are planting new karmic seeds, or passing on inherited karmic seeds. Self comes in. Anger arises. Fear of unworthiness arises. If you do not see the process happening and move back into bare perception, these very specific seeds of reactivity are the same seeds that will take root the next day, and the next-the next incarnation and the next! The same reaction may grow from any catalyst which threatens your sense of safety. Perhaps your employer says to you, 'This report is inadequate.' Again pain, anger, defendedness. The constant catalyst is here met with unawareness which pushes you deeper and deeper into these issues of anger, fear, feeling unworthy. Then you find you need to explore these issues so you very literally manifest more situations in which you are threatened. If there is never clear seeing, the seed falls, takes root, grows a new tree, which drops its new seeds which take root and so on.

I want to offer a different perspective of this karma. Visualize your own energy as a spinning ball, an energy ball. Light. When you feel full, joyful and whole there is no concave part of that ball. Feel it now.

Big breath …

Ahhh …

The surface is solid when you experience your energy that way.

Then feel something painful. Feel the contraction and pain …

Feel the cavity that forms.

When a seed from this karmic tree falls on a convex plane, there is no contractedness, no delusion. The seed simply blows off. No place for it to settle. When there is a contraction, a fear, a self experiencing that fear, there are depressions. I see them like the dimples in a golf ball! The karmic seed falls into a depression. It catches in there and takes root.

It is far easier to attend to and heal those depressions in the first place. There is no aversion nor grasping here, just skillful attending to whatever moves into the experience. Then you deal with the occasional adhering karma that comes along just as new seed. You do not have to deal with the firmly rooted tree.

You will be working with both seeds and rooted trees. In effect, each time you are deeply mindful, feel the contractions of fear, know it as old mind, see the arising of delusion of a self that cries for protection, and come back to center, you push out the concavity and the roots of that tree lose their grip.

We have been talking a lot about resting in Pure Mind, Pure Awareness. When you do that, there is nothing to which the seeds can adhere. When you greet each arising with the question, 'From where did it arise? Who is experiencing it? Where will it go?' you will see that which has arisen change its texture. It no longer appears solid and unworkable, but is ephemeral, as a cloud passing through. Touched with the sunshine of awareness, it dissolves, 'poof!' You are back to that pure mind in which you may rest. Even the contraction of fear or pain is seen differently, not as something which must be gotten rid of, but just as further manifestation of the All. When you end the struggle with arising, and start to greet arising and stillness as the same, just watching the flow of it all, then the energy ball is expanded, no concavity in which karmic seeds may root.

If you do it often enough, and with deep awareness, the tree falls-the tree of delusion! In effect that is the enlightenment experience. As there is pushing up of all the depressions, so that the forest falls, you must still attend to the occasional roots that remain leftover after the trees fell. They may be gripping at almost nothing-no soil there, no depressions to collect soil-but are still able to send up new shoots.

What we have talked about, especially in perhaps the last eight weeks, to me is the keystone to finding freedom. It is a precious toolbox of awareness. You might think of it as a locksmith's set of tools with which to attend to the many locks that have been jammed closed and have entrapped you. Remember that mindfulness is also just a tool. Mindfulness is not liberation. It is a way of life which opens the doorway to liberation.

The content of this semester has fallen into two basic areas. We have pointed out the places of necessary conditionality. Those places are dead ends that sometimes entice those on a spiritual path. An example: A friend speaks of a monastery where he stayed for some time. There were rules. Rule #1, 'No anger will be allowed here.' Yes, it would be lovely to live without anger, but how? The spiritual path is not to dictate impossible behavior patterns and create judgment about them when they arise, and competition to see who can be the least angry! This is a dead end.

Once you are at that stage where anger has arisen, and then judgment against that anger, there will be becoming, rebirth consciousness. How do you eliminate anger? What I hope you have learned this semester is that once anger is already present, and a solid self closed around that anger, you can't backtrack and say 'No, no anger.'

Adhering karma follows that sense of self. There is just as much adhering karma created in the aversion to anger, the self getting rid of anger, as there is in the experience of anger. First there are seeds growing out of the anger. Then, there are new seeds grown out of the adverse relationship to anger. Does it stop with 'get rid of'? If you can stop there, seeing anger, seeing aversion or judgment if that is present, and just ask yourself to notice the old mind that is present, to come back to bare perception, with that move, self begins to dissolve. Need to protect begins to dissolve. And the planting of unwholesome seeds ceases. You must do it again and again and again. You are changing the habits of so many lifetimes.

Yes, enlightenment experience is essential, the clear seeing of how delusion arose, the seeing through eyes empty of separate self. Then there is continuous work with what has been seen. A light flashes on in a dark room and you see the walls, the furnishings, the layout. Then the light goes off. You must continue to work in the room, but you no longer work blindly, even though darkness has returned. There is much greater clarity.

Sometimes when you drive across the country there will be endless flat prairie. You come to a rise in the road, and in the distance you have just a flashing glimpse of mountains. What if you had never known mountains, only prairies. Someone had told you there were mountains but you had never seen them. That first glimpse would not be the experience of hiking in the mountains, becoming intimate with them. But, it would provide you with a new reality. Mountains really do exist!

The road winds closer. You continually have clearer and longer views, until you arrive in the mountains, and dwell there. You do not have to dwell continuously in mountains to live with the reality that there are mountains. You do not have to dwell continuously in ultimate reality to know that perspective. As your experiences deepen, you move closer to dwelling in that reality at all times. You know that relative reality itself resides in ultimate reality. The planes and the mountains are not different. The mountains are simply a more vertical piece of plain. Sometimes flat, sometimes rolling, sometimes steep.

You can use relative reality as an essential tool that connects you to the suffering of the earth. It is the tool that lets you perceive the sharp thorn and not step down. It is the tool that allows you to see greed in the world and in yourself, and the results of greed-starvation, disease, want-and work in the world to alleviate such suffering. Ultimate reality must include relative reality or it is empty of one essential aspect of experience. Then it becomes mere hiding place from the turmoil of the world. Pure Awareness does not mistake relative reality for ultimate reality.

It does not matter where you are on this path. Use the tools of mindfulness: distinguish bare perception from old mind; see like or dislike arise, and movement to attachment or aversion. Know there is nothing to be attained, nor gotten rid of. It is ALL manifestation of your perfection. Keep returning to that center with as much love as you can. Allow this place of Pure Mind to become stabilized in your experience, to know it as 'Home.' It is your constant awareness and commitment that will give you freedom. It is the reference point of 'home' that clarifies perspective, yet no need to cling to that home for you can never truly leave it.

This is as far as we will go for this semester. It is essential that you practice with all we have done. Especially deepen mindfulness, and learn to rest in this space of Pure Awareness. We will use all of that as foundation for our continued work together.

There are several practices I want to introduce here, and hope you will work with them through the summer. You have done variations of them with me before. Barbara will lead them. That is all.

Barbara: There are three exercises from Aaron. I'm going to lead them as guided meditations, in the way he taught them to me. The first is done with eyes open.

Visualize, or use a picture in the room on which to focus, or a plant, a crystal or other object. For this first time, a picture of Jesus, or the Buddha statue, or one of the teachers whose pictures are here would be ideal. It needs to be someone who personifies truth for you in a deep way. Ultimately, the flower, or piece of dirt, or anything has the same nature, so it doesn't matter what you use. But the first time there may be more clarity with a beloved being.

Eyes open, soft, unfocused … (pause after each line)

Breathe out, focusing on the exhale … Breathing yourself into this beloved teacher or guru …

Breathe in, breathing all of that being into yourself …

Allow boundaries to dissolve …

As much as is possible, rest in the energy of that being … No separation …

In that being's perfection, his/her Christ or Buddha nature, see your own perfection …

No boundaries … All as one … Continue it at your own pace …


Barbara: Do this with a picture or visualization, do it with the sky, moving out awareness into that infinite space. Come to know your unlimitedness. No boundaries. When it's a bit stabilized, begin to do it with anything, especially that in which you've previously found it hard to see the Christ or Buddha nature. Do it with someone who's arguing with you; do it with the toilet as you clean it!

It can be a short practice that you do at the beginning of sitting, and also something you do for five minute breaks during the day.

The second practice is done with the aperture in the breath we've worked with before. This isn't new.

Breathe in … pause … breathe out …

Extend that pause just a bit, bringing awareness to it as NOW.

Just that. We've done it occasionally to bring us back to now. In that NOW there is pure awareness. In that moment we rest in Pure Mind, in ultimate reality.

The emphasis now is to stabilize that Pure Mind, stabilize our ability to rest in it. So instead of doing this just while sitting, we do it during times of tension, coming back from the arising thought or emotion to Pure Mind. But it can't be escape. If you're using it as escape, to avoid discomfort or an emotion or thought, know you are doing that. It's okay. With awareness, we notice the desire for escape is just another arising. Breathe again; return to Pure Mind.

Try it.

(We do it for awhile.)


Barbara: Try this as part of your meditation, to stabilize that resting in pure mind. Try it also during the day, when there's agitation. Does it bring you back to center?

The third practice is also one we've done before, but is expanded here. This is the practice Aaron has been teaching this spring, greeting what arises with that question, 'From where did it arise?' seeing how it dissolves with the recognition that it's old mind, resting in that space of Pure Mind that we find ourselves in as thought dissolves.

I want to give you an example. Sitting, I see myself planning; note, 'planning, planning.' Back to my breath. Planning arises again. Here I note it and ask, 'From where did it arise?' or 'Who is planning?' With that question, I open a door to see very clearly a place of fear, wanting to be safe, not hurt, affirmed for doing good-some or all of that holds true for me. I may allow in a sense of pain born of that desire to be safe, pain that I've kept at bay before. It's so clear that in this moment, no planning is needed. I am safe. There has never been safe/unsafe. There's never been worthy/unworthy. It's all old mind conditioning. I don't need to do that dance anymore! At this point, for me, the fear and grasping at safety or affirmation dissolves. It just vanishes. I'm left with a very pure awareness, just resting there. There's a deep peace that has nothing to do with arising or dissolving-deep peace of resting in Pure Mind, in my true nature.

Practice this as frequently as you can, both during formal practice and when noting arising during the day.