Volume 5, Number 3, September 1997

Deep Spring Center Newsletter
Volume 5, Number 3, September 1997

When there is less fear of heavy mind states the whole attention is gentler and more spacious. Then the unwholesome mind states arise with far less frequency and ferocity because the one in whom they arise is less caught in the illusion of separation which is primary condition out of which such states arise. One makes space for these states, knowing that that opening in itself is primary to shattering the illusion. The old teaching which has troubled you is "abandon unwholesome mind states," with suggestion of getting rid of something evil. Do you see that you still abandon them? The difference is not in the abandonment itself but the nature of that abandonment. Nothing is abandoned because it is "bad" or judged as "other than," and no one abandons. It abandons itself! It simply dissolves into the spaciousness of pure awareness.



Barbara's Letter

Aaron's Pages

From Seven Days: A Journey Into Awareness, Mexico City, November, 1996. On reactivity and resistance.

November 2, 1996. Emrich Retreat.

November, 1996. Private session. On fear.

Barbara's Letter

Dear Friends,

When I was a child my guru gave me the name, "servant of peace," in Sanskrit, "Shantih Das." The words were foreign and I had no real idea of the meaning. I have it scrawled in a childhood journal. It was given at a time when I was old enough to begin to ponder the meaning of life, and of death, and to be both appalled and frightened by the violence in the world. Word War Two was recently ended, and my family, along with Jewish families everywhere, had experienced personal loss. The suffering in Europe was dinner table conversation as was talk about what ought to happen to those who had perpetrated these atrocities. "Why would one person kill another," I asked, "and if killing is wrong, why should we then kill the murderer?" No one could answer. I asked our Rabbi and he replied that sometimes one needed to kill to protect oneself and one's truth. Everything inside me screamed, "No, there must be a better way," but I had no idea what that way might be.

One cool summer evening when I was eleven, I was on a camp out in a tree house by a lake. Up there in the hay that was to be our bed we found a litter of baby mice. A counselor came and killed them, and took them away. We laid out our sleeping bags and the other girls walked to town for ice cream. I declined and sat there in the tree house, in the hay by their nest, in meditation, filled with despair and confusion, seeking an answer to the cruelty of the world.

"Spirit" answered me. It told me simply that to learn love was the work of each human, that we are always given a choice, and that true love and peace come only from within. They cannot be attained from outside, but we open to that quality of peace within ourselves as we observe fear and the illusion of separation and cease to be reactive to those ancient forces. It was then that my guru, whose energy I knew so well, (no, not Aaron) gave me my name and told me the beginning of my work was to understand that name.

Over forty years have passed and I am only now beginning to understand "Shantih Das." For years I struggled with it in confused ways. I became a "peaceworker," stood on picket lines and did civil disobedience, blocking with my body the launching of nuclear submarines. I rode freedom buses. I became a "pacifist," sworn to nonviolence. What a lot of "somebodyness" in all of those acts! Yes, they were well intentioned, but at that time I had no idea of what it meant to be peace. Instead I was filled with fear at the anger around and within me and determined to destroy that anger, as if it could be smothered with determination.

Two happenings helped to alert me that I must choose a different path. The first was related to a man who attacked me while I stood on a picket line. He didn't hit me hard, but as I lay on the ground, I was afraid and hated him. Saturday after Saturday the same man pushed me down, kicked and hit me. Finally, after many weeks of this repeated "dance" between us, as I lay on the ground I allowed myself some space. I noted that I wasn't so bad. After all, I had not hit back, despite my own anger and fear. In that space I first realized that my hatred was an expression of my fear, of my own desire to protect myself. For the first time I looked up at my attacker and realized the intensity of his fear. In that moment, it stopped being his fear/my fear and became the fear of us all, the pain of us all. It was then that I first learned compassion and saw that anger did not need to be a catalyst for hatred but could be a catalyst for compassion. I need not fear anger.

The second situation was one in which a nonviolent demonstration provoked violence in those who felt threatened by our demonstration. People were hurt, bleeding. I sat there, unhurt but aware of the pain around me, and asked myself in what way I was responsible for this mayhem. I could no longer plead innocence. If I judge, you defend, and certainly there was self-righteous judgment in my acts. If I provoke, you still have a choice, to enact your own fear grown from my provocation or not to do so. You create your own karma through that choice. But I am responsible for my own judgments, my own fears. I realized then that if growing harmony and understanding were the desired result, action and speech must only come from a clear space and I most certainly was not in that space. Where was it to be found?

It is found, I discover, in presence. That is, in being present with everything with a genuine kindness that is willing to inquire and understand. That means not only to be present with the simple sensations and emotions but also present with one's fear, even with one's terror and terrible pain. It is the willingness to be present with that terror which wishes to flee, present with that ancient judgment which feels it cannot possibly witness the depth of fear based greed or hatred within. The shadow of the human cannot be denied, but it must be, as Aaron puts it, drawn into the loving heart. That shadow is none other than the divine presence.

It is right there in the darkest places that presence is most needed, always a gentle presence, never forced. Real kindness is inherent in us and yet it must be freed from the bonds of fear. In the spaciousness of the open heart, we observe the old patterns. It is hard work. It takes much patience, perseverance and love.

Some call this process meditation. I need to differentiate between meditation as action, as verb, and meditation as non-action, as noun. Meditation as doing, as formal practice, is essential for it leads me to meditation as being, and that is the pure heart of it. In meditation as being, finally, lies peace.

My plan was to spend this entire summer in retreat in a tree house in the woods. Here there is much opportunity to practice that clarity. Life proceeds at a pace slow enough to nurture extended formal meditation and mindfulness practice. Most days I am much alone. Occasional visitors seek me out but they come to enter with me into this solitude and not to invite me out into their busyness. I find that I practice my Practice, that the Core Practice of resting within the Awakened Heart is supported by the many types of practices, formal and informal, which compose my life.

I observe the ever-present move from openness to contraction and back again. This move is natural to us, and in no way harmful when it's balanced. Sometimes there's identification with a contraction, movement to "fix" it, but more often it's just observed with awareness and there is no secondary contraction, no move into a "self" that is at war with an arising contraction. I'm at peace with myself and with the many movements of this mind and body.

My primary investigation this summer is about what nurtures the resting in this spacious mind, free of all boundaries and distinctions free of "separation." Recently Aaron asked me to work with a very specific visualization. He asked me to feel myself as a tree, first to be the trunk and roots, drawing energy up from the soil and through the branches. Then, "Create leaves," he suggested, "and be the leaves, which are not separate from the tree itself." Next he asked me to draw myself into one leaf, to rest there, with a notion of "self" but also a clear awareness that there was no separation from the tree. I am the tree; it is me. We are inseparable. The leaf is merely an extension of the tree.

After some time of resting there, as tree, and expressed leaf, he said, "feel the wind touch the leaf and blow it loose. Feel it flutter down to the ground." He asked me to observe any moment of grasping as I experienced that free-fall, any moment of thinking I was not the tree and had lost the tree.

I think this is a primary issue for all of us. Perhaps it first occurred when we found ourselves in some material form and offered that first thought, "I am." With "I am" came "and I am no longer You." But the leaf lands and decays into the soil, returns to the tree. It is our nature to fall free and we can never lose the tree. Is that illusion just habit borne of fear?

I've practiced this a thousand times, and more, learning to be the leaf, to experience that first sense of falling, fear of separation, illusion of "self" and to come back to the truth. I allow the fall and any fear which arises without needing to fix the fear, without moving into the solidity of the illusion, but retain the clarity that while on the relative plane I seem to have a separate existence, on the ultimate plane I am still the Tree. We can never be separated. The thought that I am separate is just a thought and need not be acted upon in any way.

After two weeks in the utter peace of my cabin and woods, working intensively with this practice and more traditional meditation, I went into the city to be with a dear friend during his surgery and, to meet my two younger sons at the airport, returning from their travels. The surgery was unsuccessful; the cancer proved inoperable. The boys came home with amebic dysentery, feeling terribly sick. The temperature outdoors was a humid 95. And my beloved neighbor of eighteen years had a heart attack and died. I spent nine days in and out of doctor offices, labs and hospital, watching "self" arise, again and again. Opinions, aversion, impatience, grasping, fear … you name it and it was there!

The wonderful thing is that it was okay that it was there. I was really able to watch all these thoughts and emotions without self-condemnation. A child may have a temper tantrum and stamp her feet. The wise and loving parent knows the child doesn't really need this toy or that cookie but needs love. She can comfort the child without getting involved in the stories the small self incessantly spins out, borne of its fear, confusion and pain. The connection with the tree is solid! The true Self, Pure Heart/Mind, is ever present and cannot be lost.

Now I'm back at the cabin, wondering if the universe is going to give me the rest of the summer off as vacation. Probably not. Aaron points out that this also is my choice, and that my highest priority is not "vacation" but learning and growth. "A vacation from learning! Why would you wish a vacation?" he utters. "Stagnation is death." Well, maybe a deep breath and a few dawn swims will suffice!

I wish you all an autumn of brilliant colors, and a heart that knows its own truth. I look forward to seeing many of you in my fall travels.

with love,

Aaron's Pages

From the new book Seven Days: A Journey Into Awareness, Mexico City, November, 1996. On reactivity and resistance, pp. 40-45.

Aaron: I am Aaron. You are beings of habit. That is not a problem, but it is well to understand the roots of your habits and to investigate them regularly to see if they are still useful to you. If you grew up in a situation where you had many older brothers and sisters who were always tossing things at you, it might have been very skillful to walk around with your hands in front of your face to protect yourself. Thirty years later, in a situation where nobody is throwing anything at you, do you still walk around defended?

Often when we look at old habits we see they came from that place where we once were, where they were necessary or at least seemed necessary at that time. That little child had a choice between defending herself or firmly telling her brothers and sisters, "You may not do that to me." Perhaps defending herself felt safer, even if it would have been more skillful to just say, "No!" However the habit evolved, the real question is, "What do I do with it now?"

Many of you spend much of your life reacting, which I define as moving from a place of habit, rather than responding, which I define as moving from the present situation. In your meditation practice you may begin to note certain habits, You may begin to see that in certain situations certain mind states are triggered. such as self judgment or unworthiness.

Each of you would need to look independently at this. What triggers anger in you? What triggers desire? What triggers unworthiness? From where do these mind states arise? There are two fruits to looking in this way. First, you begin to cut the identification with the mind state, to really understand, "I am not my anger, or my jealousy, or my pride, but these have arisen because of conditions." And second, you begin to understand, "I have a choice here." This choice is what you have often not seen. You may become so embedded in habit that you forget you have a choice.

Once you understand that you do have a choice, how do you choose?

Those of you who aspire to loving kindness want to choose a loving route, but often precisely what loving means is confusing. If somebody is acting rude to you, is it more loving to simply accept that rudeness? Or, is it more loving to say, "No! You cannot speak so to me"?

To answer what loving means, you must become increasingly aware of the old patterns. Sometimes the patterns are very deeply rooted. Every being wants to be valued. Every being wants to be loved. Since your parents are also human beings with their own fears, their own perceived sense of limitation, your parents asked you to be who they needed you to be. They may have asked you to be the polite and good child. On the surface, there's nothing wrong with that request, but what happened to that child when it felt anger? If the parents said, "No! No! You must not be angry. You must be polite and good," then the child was not able to validate its feelings and it began to think, "I am bad when I'm angry." This didn't mean the parent didn't love you. The parent was simply teaching what it had been taught.

Some of you may have grown up in the difficult situations where the parent was actively verbally or physically abusive. Again, the child needed to be valued, so if the parent said that the child needed to be the victim, the bad one, rather than our first example of the good one, the child also learned to comply. Again, there must have been rage, but it wasn't safe to express it. So often that anger was turned against the self and fed this concept of unworthiness.

I'm going to use unworthiness here as example, simply because so many of you nodded with recognition when Barbara spoke of it. If it doesn't fit you, substitute any concept of the way you are, which is uncomfortable to you.

Sometimes people have difficulty with meditation, because in meditation practice they give themselves permission to allow to rise to the surface many thoughts and feelings which they have suppressed, and it doesn't feel quite safe to let those out. You've spent an entire lifetime developing the habit of burying that which was discomforting and unpleasant, and sometimes that burying seemed skillful because it was your way of coping with an alien, uncomfortable environment. The child is, after all, a child. It does what it needs to survive and we must acknowledge and credit it for that, not condemn it because the choices were not the most skillful, but embrace it for doing what it needed to do.

These old, habitual mind states are now brought into the present. When we see them in meditation, we sometimes have the feeling that our practice asks us to get rid of those old habits. As soon as you start thinking that way, you're in danger. You're bossing yourself about and not hearing yourself. Meditation is not to do anything, but simply to be present with what is, to understand how things really are. With that understanding, the loving heart which is your essence-by that I mean it's not something you have to learn or develop in yourself. It's there, but it's been covered with clouds-that loving heart begins to be able to express itself, and the mind to hear and understand.

You order yourself about when you say, "Here is anger. I must not judge my anger." But if judgment arises, judgment arises, If you feel unworthiness and see that it's a result of anger and then you say, "I must not feel unworthy," that is also ordering yourself about. If unworthiness has arisen, myth or no myth, that's what the human is experiencing.

You are not to get rid of the unworthy feeling, not to get rid of the judgment or anything else, but simply deeply to see how such mind states arise. What is their real nature? And so we open our hands, as we demonstrated yesterday, (Holding a bird, we release it; open the hands and let it choose to fly when it is ready) with a willingness to release that which is no longer needed and let it leave when it's ready, not an intensity which says, "Throw it away."

There is a metaphor which many people find helpful. I ask you to imagine this scene. You have come to a beautiful lake on a hot summer day and your friends are all in the water swimming. You walk out on the dock, but you do not know how to swim. The sun is hot and your friends are all talking to one another as they float twenty yards out. Then, I come along and hand you a life jacket and say, "Put it on." I show you how to fasten it.

With some timidity, you climb into the water and realize, "Ah yes, this really keeps me afloat. You begin to paddle your hands and feet, reach where your friends are visiting with one another, enjoy the coolness. With the life jacket you feel safe. Each day you come down to the water and put on your life jacket, week after week, year after year. It becomes old, waterlogged, rotten. Still, you put it on. You think, "Without it I will drown."

Now, suppose ten years have passed and I come back. I say to you, "Are you still wearing that? Take it off." Shame may arise, but also a strong voice of fear that says, "No! I need it."

What if, instead of shaming you, I asked, "Do you really need that anymore?" You might say, "Yes!" I might say in reply, "Why don't you try it and see. Get into the water. Stop moving your hands and feet and see if this life jacket still supports you." Of course, when you do that, you're going to sink because the thing is rotten. "Ah," you realize. "I know how to swim. I do not need this anymore."

As soon as you know that you know how to swim, but have honored that which wants to be safe instead of belittling that which wants to be safe, and you understand that the old pattern in fact was no longer supporting you, then nobody needs to tell you to take off the life jacket. No voice within you needs to say, "You should take this off." Of course, you just take it off and let it go. There's no need for it anymore.

Your mind states, such as unworthiness and some of your fears, are just such life jackets. The behavior prompted by fear, such as the mind state of unworthiness or an attitude of aggressiveness or a tendency to be controlling, at some time supported you. We will not argue whether they were the most skillful choice at the time that they were beginning tendencies and not yet habits. Simply, they were the choice that was made and we honor the child for making the choice to survive whether or not it was the most skillful choice.

So, you understand this tendency to believe in your unworthiness or limitation, or tendency to be a controlling, domineering person, supported you once. What perpetuates it now has nothing to do with the present moment. It is old conditioning. Figuratively speaking, you know how to swim.

When you touch on these mind states with an attitude of, "I must change that," then there is strong resistance. For many people, at that point the meditation practice begins to fall apart, because they have some subconscious sense of where it's leading, and it's as if somebody on the dock was saying, "Get rid of that life jacket. Shame on you." This is the voice of the fear-self. It's a very ancient voice. There's little choice, then, but to escape, to stop meditating. It's too scary.

But, when you look deeply and with kindness, without any sense, "I must change," but just a willingness to see what is here. Then, when resistance arises, it's simply seen as the voice of fear, no different than anything else. It's just another mind state. Resistance becomes yielding and workable, instead of a solid block of resistance.

Resistance takes many forms. It has two basic forms. The first could be called restlessness, an agitation of body and mind, where mind won't settle at all and where the mere act of sitting in meditation feels almost impossible. The other is the opposite, sleepiness, lethargy, boredom-drowsy, sluggish mind states, where it's very hard to pay attention.

If you remember that both of these mind states are simply the voices of resistance and that fear is the basis of it, this often becomes workable. There are very specific techniques for working with these mind states of sluggishness and agitation. I am going to put them aside and ask Barbara to explain the techniques involved in more depth this afternoon.

In working with resistance you must then be gentle, as I've just described. There's another force within you which can also help you work with resistance. It's really a meditation practice, one that gives you the inspiration you may need to find courage, to be present with your fear. This practice is called "clear comprehension of purpose." It's very simple. One must connect with one's deepest purpose and learn to move from that purpose.

There are several parts to this practice. First, there must be the acknowledgment of resistance, the acknowledgement of fear. Then, you ask yourself, "What is really my highest purpose here?" Barbara sometimes talks about this, relating a story of when she began teaching. I do not often tell Barbara's stories, but it fits well here and I do not want to ask her to come out of the channeling state to tell it herself.

Her teaching partner, a man with many, years of experience in meditation and teaching had invited her to teach with him. She felt new to this, not certain she was ready to teach meditation. She was afraid of making a fool of herself. So, she thought, "I don't want to risk this. I don't know if I can do it well." Part of her reluctance was not wanting to confuse others through her ignorance, but a larger part of herself understood that she was ready to teach it, that John said she was ready, that I said she was ready, that others whom she trusted said she was ready, and that the reluctance was sign of her own personal fear. "I want to be safe. I want to be comfortable. I don't want to make a fool of myself."

So, she had to ask herself, "What is my highest purpose here? Is it to keep myself safe? Is it to be comfortable? If so, then no way am I going to teach. But, if my highest purpose really is to share the beauty of these teachings with others, to help others find joy and peace in their lives, then I have to look at my own fear, make space for it, and go ahead and follow my highest purpose."

This can be very inspiring. It's not a voice of judgment that says, "You should not be afraid." That won't work. Then, you just suppress the fear and still carry the fear with you into the teaching or whatever you are doing. But, if you can acknowledge the fear and work in your meditation to make space for the fear, then you may connect with your highest purpose and let yourself act and speak from your heart center, following your deepest truth.

You might find this works in a very simple situation, such as one where somebody has approached you in anger. You see the impulse rising in you to protect yourself. You also see the fear and pain in that person out of which his anger has sprung. In that moment you can ask yourself, "What is my highest purpose? Is it to defend myself or is it to hear and allow communication and resolution?"

It doesn't mean that fear ceases. it means that you resolve a willingness to make space for your fear. Working in this way is very much a part of working with resistance, because you begin to understand that just because there is resistance doesn't mean you have to stop, that when you acknowledge your discomfort and touch on that deeper area of love, it becomes a very strong moving force. The more you practice it, the more fear becomes a shadow. It still arises, but it's no longer solid. It doesn't push you anymore. You learn to bow to your fear, to smile to it, and just to invite it to come along and sit here with you.

There is a wonderful story about a Tibetan saint, Milarepa was his name. He was sitting at the mouth of his cave meditating when the demons of anger, greed and pride appeared. They were gruesome. Their skin hung in shreds over their bones, bones sticking out. They exuded a foul odor. Their faces were fierce, ugly. They had bloody knives and swords.

Milaripa took one look at them, so the story goes, and said, "Oh, I've been expecting you. Come and have tea." "Aren't you afraid of us?" they asked. "No. Your horrible appearance only reminds me to be aware, to have mercy. Come! Have tea." Throughout your life these figurative demons are going to appear. You can learn to invite them in for tea. In that way you can be with them and cease to need to react to them.

I would ask you to sit for five minutes and reflect on what I have shared and then we will open the floor to questions and answers. I pause.

November 2, 1996. Emrich Retreat.

Aaron: Good evening and my love to you all. The last time I gave a talk here at Emrich we sat out on the grass watching the sunset, enjoying the cool of the June evening after a hot day. Today there were snow flurries and winter's first real chill in the air. Through you I have the opportunity to enjoy this change of season for I live in a place that is somewhat seasonless, you could say. That is, I live in the ultimate self and have little direct experience of the relative self. You, on the other hand, live mostly in the relative self and here on retreat especially, you have the opportunity to more fully and deeply experience the ultimate self.

John raised the question last night, "Who am I?" You cannot say, "I am only the ultimate self," any more than you can say, "I am only the relative self." First of all, the relative self is an expression of the ultimate. Right there within the relative self is the ultimate. You can't be in the relative self without being in the ultimate. You can be in the ultimate self without being directly in the relative, but you cannot sustain that indefinitely so long as you're in a body, nor would you want to.

Your work here is not to have sustained ultimate experience that separates you from the body. Your work here is to bring that ultimate experience back to the relative, for it is through the strength of that ultimate experience that you begin to bring more skill, more love, more wisdom, more compassion, to the relative, and it is that bringing of love into the relative which ultimately is what frees you. It's very easy to bring love to the ultimate, there's nothing to challenge you there. Easy to manifest that love in heaven, but can you manifest it in hell? This is the true learning of love.

I call you angels in earthsuits. The angel is the one which experiences the ultimate aspect of your being. The earthsuit is what the angel wears in incarnation. Many of you have heard me talk of this idea of angels in earthsuits before. I would like to take this concept quite a bit deeper tonight, relating it directly to the meditation practices you're doing.

First, the incarnation experience seems to disguise the ultimate experience. You become so identified with the physical, mental and emotional experiences that you really start to believe that this form and mind consciousness are who you are. All of you have experienced a much deeper truth of your being, every single one of you. Some of you have learned through meditation to stabilize that experience of your deepest truth. Some of you have just had glimpses of it and it's not yet very stable. Regardless, when I talk about ultimate experience, there is not one of you who does not know what I mean.

The ultimate can be a hiding place, a very blissful state in which you may lie back and rest with the attitude, "I'm never going back to the relative world. It's too hard, it's too painful, too unpleasant." So there's just as much danger in losing oneself in the ultimate as losing oneself in the relative. In fact, perhaps more danger, because the bliss of that state is so enticing that you really can disassociate from the world and there's very little that can pull you out. But when you get lost in the relative state, the pain of it tosses you back out very quickly, sends you scurrying to look for something else.

In the fullest ultimate state you experience not only the ultimate but all the expressions of the ultimate. If you are not experiencing these expressions, then you're lost in the ultimate. Barbara used the terminology earlier today, three kayas. "Kaya" means "body." The dharmakaya is the highest, truth body. Nirmanakaya is the form body in whatever shape that form takes. The physical body is a form, a flower is a form, a thought is a form. Even an energy thrust is a form. The link between these two bodies is given the name sambhogakaya, or wealth body. This wealth body is all of the levels of intention, of energy, karmic streams and so forth. It is the bridge between the Ever-Perfect, or dharmakaya, and the manifest form expression of that Ever-Perfect.

These are not three separate levels. This is true because it is the nature of this that we call dharmakaya to express itself. It expresses itself in infinite ways. If it did not express itself, there would be no conditioned universe. Therefore, everything in the conditioned universe which is nirmanakaya, or form expression, is also dharmakaya, or truth body. It cannot be otherwise. This is the essence of nonduality. Please hold this point in your hearts as I speak.

So many of you experience sharp confusion, pain and dissatisfaction in your lives. You experience various heavy emotions. Things come into your life which you don't want, and you recoil and feel strong aversion. Things might pass you that you do want and your energy charges up to grasp them and cling. Sometimes things happen to you which give rise to fear, and then to anger, pride, jealousy or a sense of blame. And then perhaps you judge yourself and think, "I shouldn't be feeling that. I'm bad."

The physical being, the relative being, has tended throughout its history to divide its experience into good and bad. Sometimes good and bad are linked to pleasant /unpleasant. Not always. More directly, the link of good and bad seems to come from a way that you are feeling. If you are feeling anger and a desire to hurt another, desire for revenge, there's a certain contraction that accompanies that desire. It's a very tight contracted experience. If you're feeling jealousy or strong sense of desire, again there's a contraction of your energy which has a burning, uncomfortable quality. I do not find it's the primary unpleasantness of experience that leads you to label it as bad so much as this follow-up contraction around the experience and the great sense of discomfort in that contraction. When you feel that contraction mind says, "something's wrong, something's bad."

When something is pleasant and there is no grasping or craving for it, as may happen of course, then your energy field opens. There's no fear. This which is moving past you is pleasant. When I say "no grasping or craving" I think of the example of a sunset. All of you enjoy sunsets. All of you know there will be another one tomorrow. Very few of you want to hold on to a sunset and make it last indefinitely. You've come to trust the experience and know it will repeat itself. There's a spaciousness then in seeing the sunset. It's pleasant without craving. When there is no contraction in the energy field, then you seem to label it good.

When seeing the same sunset, pleasant, followed by clinging and craving, you don't differentiate the seeing of the sunset and the follow-up experience. And so if craving and clinging were to arise, and you experienced that contraction or burning, then the little warning light comes on, something's wrong! Discomfort.

If something uncomfortable does happen-perhaps you're out walking and it starts to pour, cold, damp, no raincoat, water pouring down your shirt, unpleasant-your energy does not have to contract there, it can stay very open. There can be a sense of compassion for the human that's feeling such discomfort, a real sense that the rain and coldness of it are unpleasant, and still no contraction. Then it does not get put into the category of bad experience. So what I am trying to help you look for here is what creates this fragmentation into good and bad. It's not just pleasantness or unpleasantness but your relationship to that pleasant or unpleasant.

In non-duality practice, dzogchen practice, we observe arising experience, deeply see into the conditioned nature of that experience, understand that it truly is just one self-display after another of this which we have called dharmakaya, the Unconditioned or God. That's all it is.

Once you catch on to that you develop a relationship with experience that is almost like riding waves. Each one comes along and as it crests you soar a bit on the top of it. Then it sets you down in a trough and then another wave comes along and picks you up again. There's a flow to it. The more you do it, the more deeply and stably you rest in this pure awareness mind where contractions do not arise in relationship to these conditioned arisings.

To rest in that space in formal dzogchen practice is not so difficult as to continue to rest in it when catalyst is painful in daily life. For the moment as you rest in that pure awareness mind, you're totally outside good and bad. You're not outside pleasant and unpleasant. You'll note that certain things that arise have a pleasant quality and others have an unpleasant quality, but there's nothing within that judges. There's such clarity about how it's arising, such total non-identification with the arising, that the aspect of you that thinks it has to fix or do something with what arises is not present. And then there's no judging mind that says, "This is good, keep it, this is bad, throw it away." There's such utter peace in that place where you neither have to keep nor throw away. It's all just conditioned movement floating past, like clouds drifting across an empty sky.

In formal practice, most of the clouds that come through seem to be more manageable clouds because your focus is strong in the practice. Then you get up, you drive your car home. Mind wanders. You get a flat tire on the highway. Or when you get home you find that someone dear is very sick. Or that your boss has been calling you all weekend about a vital project and is furious that he couldn't reach you. And the whole process of other-than begins again. Mind goes back into its categorizing-keep this one, get rid of that one.

In vipassana practice, we work from the opposite direction. While dzogchen emphasizes that you are always in ultimate reality and gives you direct experience of that ultimate space, vipassana asks you to be present every moment with relative reality. This does not mean that the relative reality is not expression of the ultimate. Of course it's always expression. But in vipassana practice you are not starting with that spaciousness which knows that everything that arises is expression of the Ultimate You're simply being present with these waves. Instead of feeling lifted and then settled, lifted and then settled by the waves, sometimes they feel like they're washing over you. You flail your arms trying to stay afloat.

A very important lesson of a lifetime perhaps a thousand years ago when I was a fisherman's son, was never turn your back to the waves. If you're going to swim in the ocean, you must face the waves with your eyes open and know what's coming. You must watch it arise and then it will not overwhelm you.

I do not need to translate the analogy here. In your vipassana practice you cannot hide in ultimate reality and say these waves aren't real, or you're disassociating from your experience. You may find a blissful place to hide but you are not going to learn to live your life with more love, wisdom and skill. And you're not going to find freedom. You're simply substituting one karmic chain for another. That is, reactivity to experience is being substituted for hiding from experience and denial of it. In either case you're going to be suffering.

So you have got to keep your face to the waves and see each one as it approaches. This is the basis of our vipassana practice, simply labeling each wave, the wave of sensation, the wave of thought. Whatever comes, you simply label it, breathe and be with it. If it's a big wave, you know it's a big wave. If it's a small wave, you know it's a small wave. If it's a frightening wave, you know that! If it's a series of crosscurrents, you know that. Whatever it is, you label it.

In that fisherman lifetime, when I was a small boy, the waves looked enormous and I was scared. My father and I stood together in the surf. I didn't want to admit to him that I was scared so I put on a show of bravado. He asked, "Are you scared?" and I said, "No." He said, "Fine, then I'll let go of your hand." I said "No" again!

He said, "If you are scared, you have got to know you are scared. There is nothing bad about being scared. Being scared doesn't get you into trouble. Denial of your fear leads to reactivity to your fear. If you deny you're afraid of the wave, then you're going to dive under it too soon, not be able to hold your breath and start to come up too soon, and get sucked into it. But if you can know you're afraid and make space for your fear, then you can stand there, watch it come, and at the right time simply dive under it and come out on the far side."

So I told him yes, I was scared, and he held my hand that day. And as we went deeper, when these immense waves seemed to tower over me, he stopped me from diving until he was ready and said, "Now!" and then together we dove under. In that way I learned that a great wave cannot overwhelm me if I face it and acknowledge my fear.

Some of you may wonder, don't I have to go through the wave. Isn't it avoiding the wave to dive under it? Wisdom and compassion would both dictate that if the wave is so big that it will sweep you away if you go through it, the kindest approach is to go under it. Eventually you will get bigger and the waves will seem smaller and you'll be able to go through them. There is nothing wrong with going under them as long as you know you're going under them.

As example, if somebody approaches you with a very abusive manner, treating you contemptuously, perhaps even spitting on you, and it arouses great pain and anger in you and a sense of fear, not even fear of the other so much as fear of yourself and the intensity of your own rage, here is your wave. You need to know it's there, you need to know how big it is. You need to know that you are afraid of it.

To dive under it in this metaphor is simply to say to yourself, I need more space. To say to the other person, "I cannot talk about this now," and to walk out. If that person's anger is too big and yours is too big, it's perfectly fine to walk out, knowing that you are walking out. If it feels manageable then it's perfectly fine to stay there and be with it. You can jump over waves as well as dive under them. There are many different ways to handle waves.

The subject of my talk tonight is not how we handle the waves in terms of the detailed steps that we may take, but that within the relative reality mode of your being you must acknowledge the waves, you must be present with the waves. If they are unpleasant you must know they are unpleasant. If aversion arises from the unpleasantness, you must know there is aversion. And so forth.

Sometimes when the waves seem immense, mind begins to obsess about them. It wants to find a safe path. Of course it does. Is there anyone here who does not want to feel safe? Is there anything wrong with wanting to feel safe? Would you ask your best friend not to feel safe, or not to want to?

But you have got to understand how mind works. Because it wants to feel safe it has become habituated to all kinds of games. If you're not immediately present it's going to get away with many of those games. Training your mind really is like that proverbial training the puppy. You tell it to sit, push down its rump, a few moments later it's up with its tail wagging, scampering about the room. You bring it back and say Sit! Stay! You do it again and again. When it stays, you praise it. When it gets up and runs around, you don't tell it it's bad. It's the nature of the puppy to run around, it's the nature of mind at that relative reality level, to scamper around. You simply are persistent and say no, sit. Stay, stay.

Eventually mind gets the idea. When I use "mind" here I mean relative mind rather than pure awareness mind. Eventually this dualistic mind gets the idea that it's not going to run the show. Then there's nothing left but just to stay there with that particular discomfort.

There are many methods you can use to ask yourself to be present with that which is unpleasant. Some of those methods approach it from a place of judgment and anger, a place that says, "You should be present." That "should" tends to push fear and any uncomfortable feelings aside. If I should be present with this huge wave, and I'm terrified, I've got to bury my terror.

That day, my father did not tell me, "You should stay or I will judge you or shame you." He simply asked me, "do you want to be able to go out in the boat with me?" "Yes." "Do you know that in order to go out in the boat you must feel safe in the water? I must feel that you are safe in the water." "Yes." "Do you want to go in the boat with me enough to walk in the water with me and experience the waves?" "Yes." "Are you afraid?" "No." And then as I told you, he said, "Fine, I'll let go of your hand. " And that invited me to say, "Yes, I am afraid, please keep holding my hand."

I entered the water from a place of love, a place of aspiration because I admired and respected my father, and the greatest delight to me was the thought that I would no longer be left ashore with the babies but would be allowed to accompany him out to sea. So I didn't tell myself, I should do this, I shouldn't be afraid, I let my loving heart guide me. This loving heart, this desire to express yourself lovingly to all beings, is your greatest ally. When fear arises, if you say "I shouldn't be afraid," you trap yourself. When you say, "I am afraid but I deeply resolve, in service to myself and all beings, not to be reactive to my fear but to make space for that fear because I have so much love in me," then all of this power of love is your ally. Then you start to open into the ultimate truth of your being.

You find within this relative human that is quaking in its shoes, the ultimate being that is unlimited and whole, and it really is fearless. That's fine. The ultimate knows fearlessness and the relative is terrified. It is not one or the other, both are true. This is where a combination of practices become so powerful. When you have stably rested in that ultimate, you've gotten to know how it feels to be fearless, how it feels to be whole. You do not shame that human into believing what it holds is a myth of fearlessness and wholeness, you invite the human lovingly to face the fear, to face the discomfort. From its prior experience of its fearlessness and wholeness comes the foundation for facing such unpleasantness gracefully,

Here you are complete. Here is where the need to be reactive dies away. You don't have to jump under the wave too soon You don't have to escape your fear. You don't have to hate those who are catalysts for your fear. Because your heart is open to yourself and your own discomfort, your heart is open to them and their discomfort. This is where you begin to live from this heart that is balanced perfectly in both relative and ultimate reality.

When others come to you in some way to abuse you, saying or doing hurtful things, if anger arises, anger arises. You don't have to be afraid of the anger, you don't have to deny the anger, and you do not have to act out the anger. This is where you stand your ground and simply let the waves sweep past you. The ultimate self is much bigger than the wave. No wave can knock over the ultimate self. It doesn't have to dive under the wave. It doesn't fixate on the anger or on the situation. It lets the wave sweep past and then, from a place of great clarity it responds with appropriate word and action.

Then you are bringing the ultimate into manifestation in the relative world. In so doing you are literally changing the karmic stream. Instead of the old patterns of fear and reactivity to fear, you're expressing your wholeness and fearlessness but not doing it from a judgmental, "I should," place but from a place of love.

This is your highest work as a human, this marriage of ultimate and relative. You are angels. You can learn to express that divinity in the world. When you do this, my dear ones, you are going to change the world around you starting with those closest to you. And as they change, they will change those closest to them. The potential on this earth is for all of you truly to live from that place of utmost divinity.

Somebody asked me once about the story of the garden of Eden. Can this planet ever again be a garden of Eden? When you become the divine being that you are and bring that divinity into the relative plane, you will find that this Earth already is Eden.

Now, you're probably never going to get it perfect and that's fine. Perhaps even Eden had an occasional storm cloud floating through. After all, the garden did need rain. You don't have to get it perfect. You do have to be present.

When you are present with the waves, have been diving under them for awhile, you might feel prompted to investigate more clearly the real nature of these waves, especially those that cause the sense of drowning. The tools are available. In your meditation practice you have developed this ability to be present. Whatever arises, just simply know it's arising and to stay with it until it dissolves. We could call this "holding the object." The Pali word is vitakka.

When you hold the object, that's the first step in getting to know it. There is more. If you're in the water and there are a number of spiked floating orbs going past on the waves and as they hit you they scratch you, you might wonder, What are they? To answer, you've got to pick one up, hold it and then look deeply at it. Just to hold it will not answer your question!

The second step is to investigate it, to penetrate into that particular object, until you've really come to know what it is. The Pali word is vicara. An example that is given in the classic literature: if you hold a brass vase and want to polish it because it's tarnished, you've got to hold it in one hand and apply pressure with polish in the other. You can hold it forever, but if you don't polish it, if you don't penetrate through the tarnish, it's never going to become shiny. You can polish it and polish it and polish it, but if you don't hold it it will just keep moving away from you. Both of these factors must be present, then, attention that is able to stay focused, and that sense of combined fearlessness and inquisitiveness which allows you to penetrate into whatever is there and come to know its nature.

When you work in this way with your vipassana practice you will find it a very strong antidote to the, what I call "bulldog mind," that wants to grab hold of everything and worry it to death. The Pali word for this obsessive mind is papańca. This obsessive mind grabs hold with some kind of fixed identity: "This is me, I've got to resolve it; that's me and I've got to resolve it." and clamps down. It's a Velcro mind, it's sticky. The mind that holds and investigates is Teflon mind, no-stick.

This seems contradictory to some of you. I've just said you've got to hold it and polish it and now I'm talking about no-stick. The no-stick I intend is in terms of identification with what has arisen. The bull-dog bites into everything because it identifies with it. It's going to get caught up in it. It's Velcro, with all those sticky fingers; everything grabs hold. As long as the Velcro mind is at work, you're so deeply enmeshed in it that you can't hold it and polish it. There's too much solidification in it.

Do you remember the story of B'rer Rabbit and the Tar Baby? With each arising of anger, he punched again and was further enmeshed. B'rer Rabbit illustrates papańca, Velcro mind.

The Teflon mind simply notes it coming through, takes hold of it as thought or sensation or whatever it may be. It doesn't identify with the content of the thought or the content of the sensation, but simply observes what has arisen and the nature of arising itself. It holds that nature of arising and polishes it until it understands how it flows, understands its nature, which is the conditioned nature of all in the phenomenal world. It knows, "Here is a thought. Regardless of its content, it has arisen because conditions were present for it to arise, and when conditions cease it will cease. Here is a sensation and the same is true."

So there's no self-identification. The content is not superfluous, because there is presence, compassion. But the content is not owned. There is balance and space.

If it's a pleasant content, liking may arise. If it's an unpleasant content, disliking may arise. You simply get to know the way it flows, and from that place of deep understanding, you begin to come back to this pure awareness mind that you discovered in your dzogchen practice, to that which experiences true equanimity with that which arises, and understands the conditioned nature of it,

Equanimity with arising does not mean that there's no preference. If I asked you, holding out a bottle of lemon juice or bottle of orange juice, which you would prefer to drink, preference would arise. Equanimity means that if I hand out a bottle of lemon juice and say, "Please take a sip of this," you might look at it, smell it, observe, "This may be unpleasant," observe any reaction, and say, "It's okay, I can sip." That's equanimity.

In your vipassana practice you return thus to pure awareness mind which experiences equanimity and you know, "here is my true being." Here, then, is the balance. In dzogchen you rest in the space of pure awareness, noting the movement of relative reality, while you rest more and more stably in pure awareness. In vipassana you begin in relative reality and let it lead you into pure awareness.

In either case what you are doing is learning to live the balance of the two. And it is in that balance and only in that balance that the truth lies.

I would ask you to sit for a few minutes and reflect upon my words and then I should be glad to answer your questions if there are any. I thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.

John: Aaron talks about ultimate reality. I realize there is only one ultimate reality. In Theravada Pali scriptures, it talks about the movement or progression of insight that leads to the fully realized state. Moving through that progression of insight and cessation of ego, one experiences ultimate reality. When Aaron says that everyone in this room is experiencing or has experienced ultimate reality, is he talking about the same experience or is it a different experience of ultimate reality?

Aaron: I am Aaron. I hear your question. I have two parts to my answer. First, I did not say that everybody in this room had experienced the fully-realized state but that everybody had experienced this, what we call pure awareness non-dual mind.

There is a difference here. This pure awareness mind rests in the fully realized state. It is not completely synonymous with it. This pure awareness mind is unconditioned in itself, so it is not expression of the fully realized state, which is also the unconditioned. But it bears the relationship to the fully-realized state that a drop of water bears to the sea. If you put that drop in the sea, there's nothing there that's not the sea. But it's not the whole sea.

That pure heart mind, pure spirit body resting in rigpa is pure awareness resting in the potential fully-realized state. I do not mean by this that it is "unfinished" or it would be conditioned. It is the ever-perfect but has only glimpsed its perfection.

So, yes, there are not degrees of realization. Full realization is full realization. There are degrees in the way in which you experience that full realization.

I would use the sun as a metaphor here one more time. If you're in a diving suit ten feet under water and you look up through the water, you have some notion of that which we call the sun. You experience some light from the sun, even a bit of its heat 10 feet underwater. While it's not hot, the water is warmer 10 feet below the surface than 100 feet below. So you're experiencing some of the conditioned expressions of the sun. You have some understanding of the sun. It's an indirect experience of the sun

You come to the surface and you see the sun again and you say, "Ah, now I know the sun. I really experience its light vividly and feel its heat." Again, you're receiving conditioned expressions of the sun, its light and its heat. Still, you do have a clearer experience of the sun. Then you go out of Earth's atmosphere and there's no longer anything filtering the sun. It's a very direct expression but you're still not in the sun. Finally you dive right into this flaming gas that they call sun. That's the ultimate realization experience. You're completely in the sun. This is the fully-realized being's experience.

The levels of realization that lead up to that full experience help stabilize pure awareness so that you know when there are filters.

If you had always been so far down in the water that you had no hint of the sun, and you never looked up to see where it was light rather than dark, that first move of looking up would be the first realization experience. Sun exists. The unconditioned exists. That could be compared in this progression of insight to the first moment of breaking through the ego reality and into a deeper level of being, You then have a hint that this deeper truth exists, but there are still many progressive layers of filters which must be penetrated until you arrive directly into the heart of the unconditioned.

I want to add this, which is important in terms of the play between vipassana and dzogchen. For most of you, most of the time, dzogchen practice will lead you to a very ongoing stable experience, using my previous metaphor, of the sun beyond the Earth's atmosphere. You're absolutely certain of the existence of the sun and experience it fully, but not from within the sun. It's a somewhat filtered experience. Whereas vipassana cessation experience, as related to John's question, leads you directly into the heart of the sun. So they are different experiences.

However, with the vipassana experience, because there has been cessation of the experience of the physical body, cessation of emotion, it's very hard to integrate that experience back into your daily life. In dzogchen experience the physical body is very present, so you're only getting that filtered glimpse of the sun yet you're absolutely certain it exists and it's very easy to bring that experience back into daily life because you're experiencing it in the realm of daily life, within the physical body, within the senses. Again, this is where the balance is very helpful. Each deepens the other.

I have just said that within that moment at the sun's heart is total realization. That doesn't mean you're finished. That realization experience still must be brought back to the physical plane and enacted. Actually there are various repetitions of this realization experience. Each time that you have it you become increasingly able to enact it on the physical plane. As those changes in your energy field and your karmic stream occur and you move back into this ultimate realization again, you are again further able to enact that experience on the physical plane. So this is part of the progression. It's an ongoing experience. What do you do with that experience? If you just walk around and say, "I had an enlightenment experience," you're nowhere. I pause.

Question: I have a question that also deals with the homework assignment with the dzogchen meditation practice. Does everybody have different experiences toward the ultimate or are we perceiving the same thing? In dzogchen class I asked a question about "Flight of the Garuda," song 6, "your own awareness." It says, "it is not somewhere else, it is your own awareness itself." I have been thinking that. Everybody's perceptions are different based on how we are each different in our experience, but awareness is beyond perception. During the retreat Barbara used the metaphor of a clear piece of glass with smudges on it, that as we come to equanimity with the smudges, we perceive the glass. and also perceive the smudges as incidental to the glass. But to me it's, each pane has different smudges, or the ocean that they look up through is different for each person, and that would explain to me how this makes sense in song 6, where it says, "It is your own awareness itself." You use the tool of your own experience to turn back to no-experience. Will you please comment?

Aaron: I am Aaron. This is a very clear question and I thank you for it, Celeste. What's happening is this. You're regarding the nature of the smudges. At first you mistake them as having some separate self, and they seem solid and you think you have to do something about them. Then it's hard to relate to and tend to the glass. In the same way, looking at the sun from under water or even from the Earth plane, there seem to be clouds which block the experience, the direct experience of the sun and you think you have to do something with the clouds.

Each person has different smudges and clouds. If you're standing there and I'm standing here we're going to see a slightly different sky, clouds in different places. So we have a different view of the sun. This is where it seems to be one's own awareness. But, when you deeply understand the nature of the smudges, begin to truly experience that there's nothing other-than, that they have no separate identity, no solidity, then regardless of whether the smudges still exist on the physical plane or not, they're shadowed. Then pure awareness, not my awareness, not your awareness, sees the pure glass. It's this old story: the perfect sheet of paper is always still there, the wrinkles are an illusion. And yet, on the physical plane when we wrinkled that sheet of paper and stretched it out again, certainly the wrinkles existed. Where do you focus your attention? On the wrinkles, giving them a self? Or on the perfect sheet of paper?

As soon as you see the perfect sheet of paper, the clear glass, the sun, in that moment you have the ultimate realization experience. All sense of duality is utterly shattered and the awareness that has this experience is no longer my awareness, it's just pure awareness because within that ultimate experience there is no longer mine or yours.

November, 1996. Private session. On fear.

Question: I have been aware of fear for many years. In the last few months it has become more intense, especially when I wake up every morning. When I notice it in the morning I concentrate on love, because I think this will make it go away. The fear is always there. Aaron says you hold it in your hand and let it go whenever it's ready to go. What if it never goes?

Aaron: I am Aaron. I hear your question. My answer has stages directed at two different levels of experience of fear. Relevant to both, as long as there is the desire to be rid of it, you're caught in a relationship with it. Yet, very naturally, it's so uncomfortable that you do want to be rid of it. The first phase is to make space around that discomfort. Then the later work with the fear itself can be done with more open-heartedness and less with the tendency to attack and destroy.

A first, useful place to work, then, is simply to work with how uncomfortable the fear is, how much you want to be rid of it, offering love to the being who finds itself living with this heavy cloud and seeks the way to be free of it. Let the poignancy of it touch your deepest heart as if it were your child who were living under some kind of heavy cloud and how much love you would have for that child in his or her situation.

In this way you begin to make more space for your discomfort with the fear. It is the discomfort that is predominant. If it were not uncomfortable, then you would have no aversion to the fear. There is much discomfort. So first, you acknowledge the degree of discomfort with great kindness.

As you are better able to just be there with the fear, then you are going to find that you can move into another level, which is to move deeper into the fear instead away from the fear. The natural tendency is to withdraw from something which is discomforting or painful. Acknowledging that natural tendency and using the sources of inspiration which are available, such as the practice of clear comprehension of purpose, one can find extraordinary courage to go deeper into the fear and really come to understand it. By going into it in that way, it begins to break up.

You are not going into it to get rid of it. You are going into it simply to understand it. The fear arose from conditions, as did the desire to be rid of the fear. The discomfort arose from conditions. To attend to the fear and discomfort, you must tend to the conditions. this is what I call moving deeply into the fear. here is where you begin to understand the conditions.

So, the first step is finding equanimity with the fear through embracing the human who is finding herself so discomforted by it, acknowledging the degree of discomfort. Once there is a little equanimity with the fear, then the second level is to go deeper into the fear.

As you go deeper and begin to understand its roots, and I don't necessarily mean in a psychological way, although that may be part of it. In a general human way you really understand the forces within the human self that want to be safe, that want to be loved, that want their needs to be met. Specific memories of how you did not feel safe or loved may arise, but they may not. It's okay either way.

As you begin to go into the fear, you begin to understand its elements better. The fear doesn't go away because you want it to go away. Fear goes away because there's nothing left to nurture it. As you begin to see how fear arose, for example, how fear arose because you felt unsafe, felt threatened, then you can really look and see, "This is old. Right now I am no longer threatened." You may begin to see that fear protected you from something.

We often speak of anger protecting you from fear, that if you weren't feeling anger, you would feel how afraid you are. It can work the other way. Sometimes, if you are not feeling fear, you would feel how angry you are, or sad, or how out of control you are feeling. There is no consistent pattern. Each person must look for themselves. The question is simply, "If I were not feeling fear right now, what might I be feeling?" and "Can I give myself permission to feel it?"

As you permit yourself to feel what is there, not drowning in maudlin self pity, not clinging to emotion, just seeing clearly, space will open. And you will soon reach a point, Jocelyn, where there's enough space between you and your fear that if it wants to stay, simply let it stay. Invite it in for tea. We begin to come to some of these mind states with a "Oh, you again. I've been expecting you. Come in and have tea."

Copyright © 2000 by Barbara Brodsky