Volume 10, Number 1, January 2002




Living Life Fully

What is Meditation

Putting Down the Sword

Christmas Stories
This talk is already represented in the Library.
See Christmas Stories, December 20, 2000.

From the President

From the Treasurer

September 8, 2001 -; Sunnyside Retreat

Barbara: At Aaron';s request, I'm reading from the Dhammapada.

"We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. Speak or act with an impure mind and the world will follow you as the ox draws the cart. We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you as your shadow, unshakable. 'Look how he abused me and beat me, how he threw me down and robbed me.' Live with such thoughts and you live in hate. 'Look how he abused me and beat me, how he threw me down and robbed me.' Abandon such thoughts and love. In this world, hate never dispelled hate; only love dispels hate. This is the law, ancient and inexhaustible."

Aaron: Good evening. My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. It is indeed a joy to watch you deepening your dharma practice, and your intention of lovingkindness and clarity.

The ground of your being is this lovingkindness and clarity. You think you've lost it. How could you ever lose what you most purely are? I asked Barbara to tear off this clean smooth piece of paper. Some of you have seen this demonstration before. I appreciate your patience with me while I repeat it.

Unblemished sheet of paper, smooth. [Crinkles it up.] Where is our unwrinkled sheet of paper? Can you see that it's still here and merely has wrinkles on it? How could we lose that unwrinkled sheet of paper? It's still here. Where would it go? Take a look. Open it out. It's perfect and on the surface it has wrinkles. The difficulty you get into is that you start to believe those wrinkles are self. You identify with them. And then you begin to wage a war with them. There is no way I would suggest you enact your negativity in the world. The opposite of this enactment is not war, but is just to be present and make space for what arises.

Here we come to a basic distortion that has occurred through many centuries, even millennia, in these teachings. The scripture Barbara just read gives us an example. "Abandon such thoughts." There's a beautiful sutra (Anguttara Nikaya, Book of the Twos, #10), words of the Buddha, that says:

Abandon what is unskillful. One can abandon the unskillful. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. If this abandoning of the unskillful would bring harm and suffering, I would not ask you to abandon it. But as it brings benefit and happiness, therefore I say, abandon what is unskillful.

Cultivate the good. One can cultivate the good. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. If this cultivation were to bring harm and suffering, I would not ask you to do it. But as this cultivation brings joy and happiness, I say cultivate the good.

The difficulty people get into is they make a duality out of this. They think that to abandon means to pick up a knife and stab it, and to cultivate means grasping. So this instruction is partially about right effort. To abandon simply means that opening of the hand, letting it be, offering the intention not to be in a relationship with it.

You are beings of strong, ancient conditioning. But one moment's clarity breaks through so much conditioning. The difficulty is not that these mind states arise; they simply arise out of conditions. The difficulty is that you twist an identity around them, condemn yourself for them out of your great desire to purify the self. Then you give the negative thought more energy. You hate the negative thought and as the Dhammapada says, "Hate never dispelled hate." To abandon doesn't mean to hate, simply to bring awareness to it, to understand this arose out of conditions. It is a result. I don't have to be afraid of it nor do I have to enact it in the world.

This is how we cultivate the good. By cultivating the good, what you're doing is looking at the wrinkles on the piece of paper and instead of going and getting your eraser to erase them, your iron to iron them out, you are simply saying, "Let them be. Here is the perfect piece of paper and it is here where I will rest. The wrinkles will go when they are ready. I cease to offer them energy through enactment or aversion."

I wish you could see yourselves as I see you, see the deep and loving intention to clarify and purify your energy. Then you would trust more deeply that you can abandon the unskillful in this way.

Barbara once asked a group of students to do a simple assignment. Take a piece of paper and make a list. On the one side, qualities I admire or like about myself. On the other, qualities I dislike about myself. She said, try to make the list at least somewhat equal. As people began to write down these qualities, they discovered something interesting. They would write patient and then think, "Yes, but sometimes I'm impatient. If I'm impatient, I can't be patient. Cross out patient. I'm impatient."

The trouble was that if they saw they were impatient 5% of the time, the other 95% didn't count. There is so much struggle with these negative qualities, but my dear ones, once more, they are results. You do not change results by attacking them but by bringing awareness to the conditions. To purify impatience we bring attention to fear, sadness, vulnerability, and also to all the habitual tendencies [the Pali word is anusaya] and to the outflow of these tendencies [asava].

When you get to know how habitual tendencies arise and fall away, and that they're like something floating on the water, ready to blow off at the first gust of breeze, there's no more war with them. Let them be and deepen the intention, #1, not to enact them in the world, and #2, to notice that right there in impatience is patience. Right there with anger is kindness. Right there with greed is generosity. Stop giving the negative qualities so much weight.

The big question is, how to let them be? If it were so easy, you all would have mastered it. Yesterday Barbara spoke of Joseph Campbell's work about the path of the hero. Take my word for it: you are heroes. I don't ask you to take my word for very much. My usual statement is, "Doubt me. Don't take my word for it. Find out for yourself." But I'd like you to take my word for this one. You're heroes. You're going to discover it eventually, but I hope my faith in you and recognition of who you are will help you along the path.

In the path Campbell delineates, first there is this first awakening. This is the awakening to who you are and your interrelationship with all that is. It's the moment when you suddenly begin to see that what you do has results that come back to you, that you cannot harm others without doing harm to the self. At first you refrain from harm to protect yourself, but as you mature, you refrain from harm simply because you must, because each other being is yourself.

Each of you will have certain memories of when you first began to perceive how deeply you're connected to all that is. Barbara was led last month to remember the stream across the road from her house when she was a little girl. There were crayfish under the rocks. The neighborhood children liked to lift the rocks and catch the crayfish, put them in jars. She brought home a jar of crayfish one day. She was six years old. Showed them off to everybody. Of course they died overnight. The next morning her nine-year-old brother said to her, "You can't do that any more. You're killing them." She was a bit defiant. "Well so what, they're only crayfish." "Yes, but they're living creatures." So he talked to all the children that afternoon. "Let's not collect the crayfish any more." "What will we do?" they asked. "How will we know how many we caught?" He said, "Find a pebble and put it in your pocket each time you find a crayfish. And then wish it well and put the rock back on top of it and it will be there tomorrow for you to find again."

What was important for Barbara at that moment was for the first time she recognized that this small-shelled creature was a sentient being that also suffered, that wanted to be happy. She was blessed to have such a teacher in her brother, but each of you have had such teachers in your life. And sometimes your own wisdom has been the teacher.

This moment of first awakening to the true nature of your being and your ability to choose between doing harm or refraining from harm is the beginning of the hero';s path. The next phase Campbell mentions is the great renunciation. What does renunciation mean? Who is renouncing what? Does there have to be a somebody in order for there to be renunciation?

Perhaps at first there does. I think that the self is the last thing we renounce. But you've got to understand what renunciation means. In the purest sense, to me it simply means entertaining the possibility of letting go of those places where there is attachment. Note that I start with "entertaining the possibility." This is where it starts. You're not expected to do it yet, just reflect that it's possible. The old impulses arise in you, "But I want that!" and the thought, "Yes, but it's not wholesome. It will do harm to others. Maybe I don't need it."

We start with watching impulse and the deep realization, "I do not have to enact each impulse." As you mature, it may become more difficult because what's asked of you is more difficult. Renouncing an extra dessert is not so hard. Renouncing vengeance or greed is challenging. But your great heart and aspiration to be loving to all beings supports the process. Finally we come around to this renunciation of the whole centeredness in a separate self. This is a tough one. For many of you it feels like jumping off a cliff.

Here you have got to understand the relationship between the conditioned and the unconditioned. To renounce the notion of a separate self doesn't mean you cease to exist. The relative being is here; the body is here; the mind is here. Rather, what you are renouncing is the identification with it as all that you are.

Next, the great struggle comes in, on all levels. It's not a great struggle for most people to renounce punching somebody in the nose. But it becomes a great struggle when you are caught in deep, old, conditioned patterns that you see are unwholesome, and see the aspiration to release those patterns and the enormous fear around such release. To do this work, then, you need all the support that's possible. Your vipassana practice, indeed, all of your spiritual practice, supports this growth. Within vipassana there must be the opening of the heart. There must be metta and karuna, compassion. You develop mudita, sympathetic joy. You develop upekkha, equanimity. You develop all of the perfections. Wisdom deepens. And yet there is still this sense of struggle. A number of you spoke of this struggle today.

What your stories come back to repeatedly, in different unique details is, "There is this fear in myself that gets in the way. How do I get rid of it?" Enough! Enough! We're back to hatred! Who's got the perfect piece of paper? Hold it up. Show us. The wrinkles are there; the perfect piece of paper is there. Your practice is not to get rid of anything, it's to pay attention and develop the wisdom that sees that the negative thoughts, the movements of the mind, are results. You have the choice to stop giving them energy. Here is where you need to be heroes.

What would it mean to be standing in a field, have a bully come up and start pushing you? You've met this bully before. Each time he's pushed you, you've pushed back. What does he do, then? He pushes back harder. You know this. Your fear, your desire, your confusion; these are all bullies that surround you. Don't give them energy. Don't push back. The real hero is not the one who whips out his sword to slay the bully, while knowing that a new replica is going to appear in a moment. It's the one who leaves his sword sheathed.

A story. William Penn became a Quaker. He was used to wearing a sword. He asked, "Now that I have made the commitment to be a Quaker, when do I have to stop wearing my sword?" The answer, very simple, "Wear it until you can't wear it any more."

If you're going to attack your negativity, my friends, do it mindfully so that you see the results, so you see you're simply compounding the situation. Then you are called to be a hero. At that moment, within this great struggle, picture an alternative that had been unthinkable, to take off the sword, to stop perpetuating the ego self, to stop perpetuating the negative thoughts, to come back to that innate perfection with the commitment, "I can manifest this perfection in the world. Not only can, but I do, already. … Cultivate the wholesome. One can cultivate the wholesome." Give yourself credit—the wholesome is already there.

Campbell calls the final stage of his hero's path Great Awakening; I find this a bit of a misstatement. Of course, there can be a [clap] great awakening, a moment of immense clarity. But that happens because you have laid the ground for it. It';s like a fruit tree in your garden, planted as a small seed, barely visible. You cultivated the soil. You made sure it had adequate water. You watched over it. Suddenly one day there's an apple! But it didn't happen suddenly. It happened because all the conditions were right for that apple to appear, conditions applied over a long period of time. So this great awakening isn't something that comes smack out of the blue; it comes because you have invited and nurtured all of the conditions and are ripe for this awakening.

Awakening to what? It all depends. Certainly there are levels of insight to which one opens. You saw the sunset tonight. It was very beautiful. You did not actually see the sun itself set because it was behind the clouds. Yet no one here would deny that you saw the sunset. You saw the expression of the setting sun playing on the clouds in the sky.

This process of awakening is just the same. You see the expressions of wisdom and compassion maturing. Each step toward more freedom is an immense gift and yet each step leads you to one more step, one more understanding. Fear falls away; doubt falls away. You begin to understand the whole relationship between conditioned and unconditioned and cease to create dualities of good and evil. At the same time there is deep intention to do no harm. You begin to understand karma and how each act, word and thought is a seed that gives rise to the future. With this deeper insight into karma you become more aware, "I can't carry the sword anymore."

You gain insight into dependent origination, which is a very deep teaching. You begin literally to understand vinnana, rebirth consciousness, not through moving into a transition state and taking rebirth but by seeing what it is precisely that comes together and creates the next moment. At that point you begin to understand the importance of the contracted state vs. the uncontracted state. They're non-dual of course. Like the perfect sheet of paper, the uncontracted state is always there. You learn to enact it more often.

Releasing this whole identify of self, the whole sense of possession, "I have anger, I have kindness," there is just anger or kindness, no self to it. Sensations, feelings and thoughts arise. There is no contraction. This is the fruit of Great Awakening, which in itself is the fruit of your years, and lifetimes, of practice.

Finally you are led back into the great renunciation and struggle. Repeatedly you face the desire to perpetuate this contracted state that seeks to control and fix. This self that has thought through eons that it needed to defend, to control, is abandoned in the purest sense. The concept still arises but you let it be and it no longer spurs action. Wisdom has seen deeper, to the Ground. If the self arises and desires to fix and control, it is seen for what it is and you let it be. But this doesn';t happen without struggle. The ego struggles to maintain itself.

After the struggle, appropriate loving action is still possible but it doesn't come from a place of self. You become far more powerful in the world because the ego-self is no longer the master. When you rest in this ground of being, this pure awareness, that which remains is unlimited. The full expression of the Unconditioned comes through you, and your innate radiance and goodness shine out into the world. You know what's appropriate then with the bully who pushes you. You know what's appropriate when there is pain or terror. This hero is not afraid to speak up but there's nobody speaking, just kindness and clarity speaking. You must speak up because to withhold that which must be offered is another way of doing harm. But you don't speak up from a righteous stance; you speak up because it's what's needed. It comes directly from the heart and you have got to learn to trust this clarity and innate goodness of your hearts.

So we come through this path, through the various phases of full awakening. You need to be aware that each stage leads you to more freedom. No grasping for the end of the path; there's no place to go. One moment of clarity and light, of clear understanding, breaks through eons of karma. Don't be afraid to be who you are and to express this innate radiance into the world. I know that's what each of you is doing here on retreat, hoping to learn how to bring this radiance into the world. Please, my dear ones, do it with kindness and not with fear and hatred.

Thank you for listening to my thoughts tonight. Let us sit in silence now.

October 3, 2001 -; Wednesday Night Group

Aaron: Good evening and my love to you all. I am Aaron. It has been many months since we have gathered to speak in this way. It is a delight to feel your energy and presence.

You in this group are attempting to walk through your lives with love. Do not be reactive to your fear. Notice I did not say not to fear, because as humans you will fear, but not to be reactive to your fear. This is truly the path of your growing maturity, to learn how to let any emotion arise and pass away without getting overly caught in the story of it.

We've talked a good deal about emergence into fourth density and what that means, how the fourth density human will be, first, telepathic, able to communicate without use of words just by sharing thoughts, and, second, within that telepathic communication, to have equanimity with emotions that are received and transmitted.

You are not developing telepathic abilities nor equanimity as ends in themselves. Telepathic ability is a catalyst for deeper wisdom and compassion, or the ability becomes an enormous burden. Wisdom and compassion are the conditions out of which equanimity may develop. With equanimity, judgment and fear are seen just as they are, the results of conditions. You cease to give them energy, cease to be reactive to them. When they are no longer fed, gradually judgment, hatred and fear diminish and fall away.

When judgment does arise there is clear seeing of how it arose triggered by old consciousness and so you don't buy into the story of it. Without judgment, without buying into the story of fear, hatred falls away. Then, as though a dark storm cloud dissipated, allowing the sun to shine through it, the light of your lovingkindness, your goodness and compassion, shine out into the world, into the universe.

Combined with this direct expression of your innate goodness is your free will. And with that free will, the ability to co-create, I would not say your world but your universe, because you are infinite. But in the beginning, at least, to co-create your world.

Now, of course you co-create your world now, or believe that you do, and to some degree you do that. But the work is on a very different level when you attempt to co-create through the ego-self. The Ground of Being from which Self expresses is a bit like the force that would create a tidal wave, and the ego-self is on the very top scooping out teaspoons full of water.

You are unlimited. That which would co-create with the divine is not the ego-self but is the Creator within you. It works for the good of all beings, grounded in deep wisdom and infinite compassion. When you co-create in that way, tuning in to the needs of beings, tuning in to all the available resources and with the ability truly to envision and manifest that vision, then you are expressing your true being.

All of you inherently have this unlimited power. But with some wisdom, you choose not to use that power to its fullest extent because you are aware there is still distortion. As positively polarized beings, at some level you have made the decision not to enact your power fully until you are more capable of resting deeply in this space of love. As you deepen in your spiritual practice you find increasing ability to act without distortion and increasing trust of that ability. Then you begin to act more from that unlimited aspect of being.

You know that there are negatively polarized beings in the world, in the universe. Such beings thrive on fear; the fear vibration feeds them. They may be very much consumed by hatred and greed. They may delude themselves that their choices are made for the good of beings, but positive choices cannot be made for the good of some beings and still cause great harm to others. There is always a path free of such harm, if one is willing to seek it. Beings of intense negative polarity usually do not make the statement that they are trying to avoid harm. But occasionally they have become blinded to their own inner activity and so they make the statement, "I must do this to protect people," and if this causes great harm to other people, that is their doing. Thus, they justify such actions. They may deny that they get any nourishment from creating fear, but my experience is that such beings always like the experience of power, and power and fear are always interwoven.

So, you live in a world in which there are positively polarized beings, neutral beings, and negatively polarized beings. The negatively polarized beings are not evil. There is no such thing as absolute evil. Rather, they are suffering from an enormous distortion.

There is sometimes misunderstanding in thinking that beings are either positively or negatively polarized, to the extreme, that is, that they can only practice fear or love. Positively polarized beings have begun to learn an equanimity with fear and have made the deep free-will decision not to enact that fear in the world. But there is still fear. Negatively polarized beings also have a core of goodness but their "sun" is hidden behind a dense cloud. Their light has become so screened by fear that it cannot break through the clouds. The actions of fear become predominant. But such beings are not evil; they are simply locked into old-mind conditioning and the habitual ego desire for power for self, or those perceived as connected to the self. In this defending, they may truly believe in the righteousness of their cause. But they don';t yet understand that the cause can only be advanced with non-harm to all. I'm not defending such beings, only trying to explain them a bit to you.

There is and has been for many decades, centuries, a (certainly the word is not war, even struggle is not quite accurate: contest might do)—an opposition, a very intense contest, sometimes with dire results, between positive and negative polarity in the universe. Those who wish to express the most positive polarity, these beings on all planes, support positive polarity on the Earth plane. Those who would support negative polarity on all planes support the negative polarity enacted on the Earth plane.

On the Earth plane, the being enacting negative polarity may try to justify it and truly in his heart think he is doing right. When he searches for justification, my experience is that he may become a pawn of some greater negative polarity, something there behind him whispering in his ear, "Yes, kill them! Kill them! Yes, you were right. You have to protect your people that way." urging him on. Occasionally there is one of intense negative polarity in incarnation who does not use such justification for hate. But for the most part, those of negative polarity on the Earth plane truly believe in what they are doing and that it is for the good of at least certain beings.

Regarding this contest between positive and negative polarity, in the long run it is my firm conviction that positive polarity will win out because negative polarity can only go so far. Negative polarity can only go to sixth density. It can be a very powerful sixth density but it cannot move into seventh and eighth density. It holds itself at that level, reverts instantly, or must move all the way back and run through the densities again as positive. Of course, because of the pain involved in that process, it holds all the more firmly to its fifth or sixth density negative polarity. Such beings on a material or non-material plane can do great harm.

I don't think I need to explain why you are working to enhance positive polarity in yourselves and the world. The goal here is the end of suffering for beings, peace, happiness, deep lovingkindness, so that each being may fully express its full divine potential.

And so we come to September 11. Many of you have asked me, "Aaron, what happened? How did this happen?"

Let us talk first about what I see about that question, how it happened and then about what it means, what you can do from here.

The more that positive polarity opposes negative polarity with negative reaction, the more it feeds negative polarity, which wants to be empowered, wants to control, and does thrive on fear. The events of September 11 were created, designed, and enacted by humans. Yet, to my understanding, those humans were prodded on by non-material negative beings, by negative energy. I do want to avoid being esoteric here. Wherever the negative energy derives, the question is, how to respond skillfully. But you need to understand that this issue is larger than one of this or that political system, larger even than one of worldwide terrorism and putting a stop to it. It touches the essential issue, how does loving energy, grounded in wisdom and compassion, relate to fear?

I think the attack fell where it did for very specific reasons. When I say, "where" I don't mean the precise location; it could have been a different building. But on this country, for specific reasons. In no particular order, there is a national karma. All of you here in this country were drawn to take birth in this country with a fair degree of well-being compared to people in very poor and unstable countries. Many of you are old souls. And yet there has been an isolationist policy in this country, even for those whose meditation has taught them the interdependence of all beings. There has been a withdrawal behind a curtain of sorts, the ostrich hiding its head in the sand.

How many of you received very disturbing e-mails about the conditions of women in Afghanistan a year or two ago? Women starving, not allowed to work, their children starving, women shot and even literally buried alive by a very oppressive government? Other than signing a petition in your e-mail, how many of you did anything about it? How many of you said, "These are my sisters. This may not continue." If your birth sister was in Afghanistan, would you have acted differently? Would you have become more involved?

So many of you, especially in this country, have tended to look away from the suffering in the rest of the world, and for this reason you are hated in parts of the world. It's not a matter of "fault" and you did not create the situation single-handedly. Please do not misunderstand me. A good part of this hatred comes from lies and propaganda and misunderstanding. But those lies and propaganda could not get a foothold if there was not some degree of truth in it.

It has been easier for you in America to separate yourselves because of the oceans that protect you and separate you from the world. You have created a basically loving and stable system of government. Your government was sorely tested last November by the indecisiveness of the election results. And yet, unlike what would have happened in many countries, there was no war. There was no violence. Discontent took a form of letters to editors, friends speaking to friends. But nobody tried to kill anybody. Do you have any idea how wondrous this is?

And yet, even here, others in other nations look at you and they can't understand because in their countries there would have been death in that situation. Sometimes there is great jealousy of this stability. Often they misunderstand and see not stability but apathy, and I don't think there was apathy in the November election. But in countries where there is constant political foment they see this peacefulness as apathy.

I cannot begin to go into the variety of reasons why in some places there is hatred for this country, only to repeat that it entails a good deal of jealousy, misunderstanding, propaganda, and that you have helped to create that misunderstanding through your own withdrawal from the world beyond your boundaries.

So, here's one reason the terrorism was directed towards the United States. There's a second and equally important reason. We come back to the conflict between negative and positive. Negative energy is always seeking to create havoc in the world. Positive polarity counters that seeking to whatever degree it can without infringing on free will and without resorting to the hatred employed by the enemy.

What I am about to say some of you are going to find difficult, as you have found difficulty with my statements about the Holocaust. I have said about the Holocaust that those who died at some level offered the sacrifice, both related to their own personal karma and as a way of resolving and balancing that karma, but more importantly, as a way of teaching a certain lesson to the world, which is, that one must always say no to hatred and abuse. They died to wake you up, and indeed they did wake up the world, at least partially awakened it. If more of you were more fully awake, this present event would not have happened.

Again, we came to that place where the world needs a wake-up call. There are those who would abuse, murder, and do such in the name of God to justify it. There have always been those in the world. From time to time they gather strength and the way the world responds to them is extremely important. If the world turns its head and chooses not to see acts of hatred, they will gain more power.

What does it mean to say no to hatred, to say it with love, and to say it with an absolute authority, "No!" How do you learn to do that in your personal lives and as nations?

So I think those who died at some level agreed to participate, offering their life as part of this great lesson. And the response is quite extraordinary. Yes, we see letters to the editor talking about keeping touch with one's hatred. Well, of course, there's always going to be some negativity. But far more people than I would have dreamed have come forth with statements of clarity. The situation really is perfect because there's no nation that you can attack to seek revenge. There is no one religious group that you can attack. And people are seeing this. People are asking the important question, the urgent question, "How do we say no to terrorism, to murder, to violence, in any form anywhere in the world, and say it without getting caught up in hatred ourselves?" This is what these people died to teach.

Of course, there was not a conscious decision, somebody looking at his watch at 6 A.M. and thinking, "Well, in two hours there is that situation and I'm going to die." But at a deeper level there was some understanding and agreement. It's a big sacrifice and yet—forgive me, I do not take human life lightly, but it is just a lifetime. So what? Ten years, 50 years, 100 years; just a snap of the fingers. They will be back. Hopefully they will come back to a world that is more awake to its interdependence and more awake to the need to deal with pain with presence and compassion, a need to deal with hatred with a dynamic compassion which says no to abuse, and yet listens and hears the pain in another's heart rather than confronting angry beings with hatred.

This is really the only hope for the world, that you learn this. And these beings gave of themselves that you might have the situation to learn it, all of you throughout the world. Do not let their deaths be in vain. I know I don't need to tell this group that, but go out and teach it to others. Teach lovingkindness. Model lovingkindness in your lives. Teach compassion. And teach that compassion is strong.

There was a very difficult letter on the final page of a special Time magazine issue about September 11. He said (I do not quote him exactly but something to the gist of), "We must be strong. We must hold on to our hatred. Those who speak of forgiveness, they are the weaklings." I'm sure there are people who read this and agreed. But because his statement was so strong, I hope it also woke some people up, seeing how that voice could be in them and that this is the voice that must be attended to, the voice of fear. Because, of course, it is far easier to hold onto hatred and use that hatred as a lever for revenge than it is to find understanding and compassion and to say no to further abuse from that place of compassion. It's harder because it forces you to look deeply into your own anger and the way you may tend to hold onto that anger and use it for power and safety.

This act of hatred also came to the United States through another karmic stream, which is the deep intention for the good of beings. You are perhaps the one country, let me rephrase, there are other countries who could create a container for such violence and hatred but they are not big countries and do not speak with a loud voice. You are the only major country who had the ability to sustain those blows without immediately striking back in ways that would have created great harm.

Your whole country together, in some ways, drew this energy here both to balance your national karma and also because you did have the strength and compassion, the wisdom, to handle it and to be models to the whole world of this strong compassion. There is some determination that you will not be used or misused by terrorists, nor will you hate terrorists. You will not hate nations. You will not hate religious groups. This is part of the ground of which this country grew, and while it is not perfected, there is a deep resonance to this direction. You attempt to say no to violence while deeply understanding the pain of those beings who gave off such violence.

I see this event as a potential turning point. What your country does in response in the next six months will set the course of the world for centuries, I think; either pulling the world more deeply into negative polarity where beings will continue a cycle of killing and more killing or into a turn toward true sanity and maturity.

You have heard me speak about the idea that there are guardian angels around the Earth, that your free will may not be violated, and also that there is a non-intervention policy. Negative polarity does not obey that policy. Positive polarity cannot break it or we become what we guard against, and violate free will. All we can do is teach love. It is up to you to use that love to change the way the whole world reacts and relates to negativity. You are ripe for this work.

You know that there are many places where material and non-material sentient beings exist. There are many planets that have life. Perhaps not life as you would recognize it, not humanoid-looking beings, but life and intelligence. There is a brotherhood of positively polarized beings who communicate throughout the galaxy, throughout the universe. Part of the reason there is a non-intervention policy around Earth is that you must do this for yourselves, and part of it is that you had not yet reached the power that would come with communication with such beings from other planes.

If somebody makes you angry and you decide, "We're just going to have to wipe them off the planet," then how could you be trusted to have the power to knock out entire planetary systems? So in some ways your knowledge and power have been limited, limited by your own ignorance which was partially maintained because some of what would be available to learn from others was not offered to you, because you still needed to prove yourselves mature enough to enter into this intergalactic council, if I may put it that way. So beings are watching to see what you will do. I don't usually speak of such things but I think it's important that you understand the whole situation here.

Beings, many of them very loving beings, are watching you carefully. You are indeed very beautiful beings. You have the unique ability to be with the physical, mental and emotional bodies together with the spirit body, and are gifted with this veil of forgetting so that you must relate skillfully to the heavier three bodies with faith and love. That situation is unique in the whole universe. Earth was originally created with the idea of bringing all four of these bodies together in a basically positively polarized environment; many have watched to see the extraordinary development of compassion in this plane. So you are being watched.

I could liken it to a child who comes to an age where he may get a license to drive a vehicle. The parents allow him to start to train for that driving but they watch him carefully to see, does he have the maturity to handle that much power? You already have awesome power in your nuclear weapons. What if you had the power to destroy without weapons, without biological, nuclear or chemical weapons? What if you could focus your hatred on something and destroy it with thought? Are you ready for that kind of power? Is your compassion developed enough to ground in compassion and create a container for that degree of power, because it is with that kind of power that you also become the co-creators you were intended to be.

The primary work for all humans as I see it, and especially for those of you who understand this situation, is the practice of compassion. Since you are not the ones making the political decisions, your arena of work is to nourish compassion for all the beings who died on September 11—the passengers, building residents, pilots and the planners. An equal arena for the practice of compassion is in your everyday life. How did you relate today to the driver who cut you off while you were driving? How about the person who cut in front of you in the supermarket, the co-worker who played his radio too loud or who said unpleasant things to you during the workday, or the family member who took you for granted or hurt you in some way? How did you respond? How can you respond?

What do I mean by dynamic compassion? This is not a wimpy compassion that says, "Whatever you like, whatever you like." It takes extraordinary courage to say no from a place that is connected to the deep power of the soul rather than from a place of ego power, to say no from a place of love.

Gandhi was a master at this, perhaps more than any human in the past hundreds of years. It would be very helpful to humans today to study exactly what Gandhi did and said in difficult situations. In his teachings of satyagraha, soul-force, he truly understood harm and non-harm. He did not ask others to be where they were not ready to be and hold them accountable for not being ready, or judge them. But he did ask them to grow by presenting the choice, making it clear that their choosing negativity was a choice, and that they did have an option, even when fear told them there was no option. He understood that voice of fear, did not judge them, really forgave them for their fear and the acts committed in fear';s name, yet held them accountable for such acts.

If your toddler is sucking on a lollipop and you realize that she will spoil her dinner, you take it away. You expect that she's going to cry and be angry. You don't say, "Well, all right, if you need it that badly you can have it." And you don't slap her on the face when she cries. You hold her and wait out her storm. You understand that you provoked that storm because she is only two years old and she doesn't understand why she needs to give up the lollipop.

True compassionate non-violent action is willing to absorb fear and hatred, to hold it in an embrace, to help to prevent it from doing more harm by creating a container for it and yet, to be persistent in lovingly saying no. I challenge each of you: How can you do this more fully in your lives? How can you teach others also to do this? Because if each of you teaches two and they each teach two, it will spread around the world.

I do want to acknowledge on the human level the enormous suffering caused by these events three weeks ago. It is important to offer your prayers and especially to offer your loving wishes to those who died, whether victim or perpetrator, because in a sense they're all victims. They all died a violent death, planned or unplanned. Your gratitude to these beings, your statement to them in prayer, "I've caught the lesson. I'm working on it. I promise to continue to work on it and I thank you. I open my heart to you with tremendous gratitude and I wish you well."—will indeed be heard by them. Please offer this prayer daily to all of those who died.

 Hold deeply in your hearts the intention of co-creating a universe and world where beings truly are happy and at peace with well-being, are heard and loved. Only you can do this with your world. No beings "out there" can do it for you. And you can do it.

I thank you for hearing me tonight. I will be happy to answer your questions. That is all.

Living Life Fully
September 24, 1994

Aaron: You ask, "How do I do the work I came to do?" Each of you has come with different work, but related. There is one area of work that is true for all beings: you are here to learn to love more fully; you are here to move beyond judgment, beyond the illusion of limits and that of separation into self and other.

When you move into fourth density, all beings will be fully telepathic. Are you ready for that? A question I often ask is this: if everyone in this room were fully telepathic, not just during the session but all day, would that be okay with you? Or have you had thoughts about which there might be some sense of shame? Have others had thoughts about which you might feel some judgment or some threat?

You are not incarnate to get rid of the emotional body but to learn equanimity with the emotional body. When there is a sense of spaciousness that sees how emotions arise when certain conditions are present for their arising and how those emotions pass away, you no longer need to dwell on those emotions. You no longer fear them, so there is no need to deny them or to be reactive to them. When you have learned that degree of nonjudgment, you may move deeper into the learnings of compassion because the open and nonjudgmental heart can truly hear your own and another';s pain.

What does compassion mean when there has been no judgment? [In past times] … supposedly you learned compassion. Now you come into the earth plane and find heavy emotions arising, which lead to judgment of one sort and another—to fear, to the desire to protect. My dear ones, can you see that this arising of judgment is not something to be met with disdain and hatred, but to be embraced and used as catalyst for learning?

* Wanderers. Beings who have moved into third-density human experience after some time of evolution on other-material or on non-material planes; such persons may have been a higher density before entering the third-density earth plane. At this point, of course, they are fully human.

The wise gardener does not cut away the dead growth from his garden and throw it in the garbage, but turns it into the soil and uses it as nutrient for new growth. You do not want to throw away your emotions but to make space for them, so that you may move deeper into love and into compassion. … The question is, "How do I work with judgment and the various emotions carried by fear?" Here is where there is a distinction, not only for the wanderer* but for any old soul.

Many of you suffer from what I call old-soul syndrome. When you';re a young soul, you excuse yourself for treading on others'; toes. You shrug and say, "Well, everybody does it." As an older soul, you so deeply aspire to oneness with God, are so deeply motivated by the desire to come home. You have the erroneous idea that to do so means you must be perfect. Every arising that does not manifest itself as lovingkindness must be demolished; and so you become more and more judgmental to yourselves, more perfectionistic, more judgmental to others.

As with every catalyst on the earth plane, this increasing judgment and push toward self-perfectionism is both painful and useful. When there';s minor discomfort, you squirm a little. When you begin to feel yourself bashed by that proverbial 4 x 4, you finally need to pay attention. The very pain of your self-and-other judgment pushes you to pay attention. It is only then that you become truly ready to see that what you have viewed as imperfection is another side of the perfection of your being. This does not mean that you practice greed, reactivity, or anger toward others; but when these arise within you, you begin to treat them differently—not with that hard-heartedness which would drive them out so that you can be perfect, but with a kind acknowledgment, "Here is human fear manifesting itself again. I offer it my love." It is this constant practice of offering love to that which you have judged negative which frees you.

I said that this old-soul syndrome creates more discomfort for wanderers. This is because many of you have memories of being largely free of the emotional body. It wasn';t there so you couldn';t use it as a tool for learning, but you also didn';t have to worry about it. Some part of you wants to deny this emotional body of yours: "Let';s throw it in the garbage and go back where we came from!" The beauty of the incarnative experience is that you cannot do that. You must attend to it, and you must learn to attend to it with love. The being who has moved solely through the earth plane may have memories of being on the astral plane between lifetimes, but still with an attendant emotional body. It may suffer this old-soul syndrome, heeding its judgments, striving ever for more and more perfection, and finding itself feeling deeply unworthy because it cannot express that perfection that it wishes to express. But it';s not haunted by memories of being free of the emotional body.

This is not a problem for you as wanderers. There are no problems, only situations that ask your loving attention. For those who have aversion to the emotional body and to the arisings of the emotional body, and have attachment to being free of that so you can feel more "perfect," I ask you simply this: can you begin to offer some mercy to this spirit-essence that you are, which has so courageously entered into an illusion of form and emotion so as to learn? Instead of saying, "It';s too hard. When I saw the ground I didn';t realize it was going to get muddy when it rained. Now I';m knee deep in mud. I want to go home where there is no mud." Instead, can you just know, "Yes, here there is mud. That means I';m going to be muddy. Can I allow that to be okay? My deepest truth is not expressed by being clean of mud, but by the deeply loving and courageous ways that I work with the mud I am given."

Later in this session I would like to hear your specific questions: "How do I work with the mud I am given? How do I open myself to my emotions? How do I learn non-judgment?"

Aaron: There are two aspects to your incarnative work. First is the work with that which you perceive as shadow arising in yourself: the anger; the desires; fear and all of its manifestations, and the judgments about those manifestations. The greatest gift of the physical plane is that you must learn to work skillfully with this arising. No matter how much you may wish to deny anger or greed, you cannot do so. To deny it is to bury it and torment yourself to prevent its re-arising someplace else. To act it out is not a viable option past a certain place in your spiritual path. You forget that you have a third choice, which is to find a spacious presence with this difficult energy, neither denying it nor manifesting it further. You see it as a result and bring attention to the causes, to fear itself, and to the delusion of separation, but with compassion for the human who knows fear, who is caught in the illusion.

There are many ways of working with this discomforting arising. They all have one thing in common: opening the heart. Eventually you may become quite skilled at making space for that which arises in the emotions, at making space for physical sensations and thoughts as well, without reactivity or fear of any of these.

You are still caught in the illusion. You are busy being somebody who possesses sensations, emotions, and thoughts … being somebody who works skillfully with them. "I have … " is predominant, rather than "this arises and moves through this awareness." Eventually you must let go of this sense of ownership without denying the illusion its place as learning catalyst. You must come to know who you truly are when you are not somebody who is busy learning to be skillful. This opening to your true being is the second aspect of your work.

I want to show you something here, something that your eyes can take in. Would somebody please hand Barbara an unwrinkled sheet of paper, and may I have your visual attention for a moment?

We have here a perfect, unwrinkled sheet of paper. Look at it. This is symbolic of the perfection of your natural state. I ask Barbara to crumple it, then uncrumple it. Wrinkled, yes?

Respondent: Yes.

Aaron: Wrinkled. Let us call them wrinkles of anger, of greed, of jealousy, of impatience—all the familiar wrinkles of your lives. Can you see that the perfect, unwrinkled sheet still exists? It';s right here. Where would it go? Your perfection is not something that you find when all the wrinkles are gone. Your perfection is something that is constantly within you—your divinity. Look once more before you settle back down and be sure that you can see the perfect, unwrinkled sheet that lies within the wrinkled sheet.

There is a balance in your work: working to learn to deal skillfully with the wrinkles and learning to rest in that divine perfection which is what you truly are. Those who are not wanderers tend to work hard at dealing with the wrinkles, but it is harder for them to recognize their innate perfection. Those who are wanderers find it easier at times to rest in the innate perfection, and want to take an iron and eradicate all of the wrinkles and pretend that they didn';t exist. Both exist. Relative reality exists within ultimate reality. You are perfect; you have always been perfect; and there are wrinkles.

A very helpful practice for many, then, is to use whatever practices are useful in learning to work with the wrinkles without reactivity, and simultaneously to find that safe place where one may rest in one';s own deepest truth, where one may know one';s intimate connection with the Divine. From this space you have a different perspective. You relax and open to those wrinkles as the compost of the incarnation. What is compost, but composed literally of shit, of garbage, and yet containing the needed elements to support new growth? When you are certain of this, you no longer have need to get rid of it. You no longer fear it or push it aside because you think it will stink, but become more able to embrace it with a merciful presence.

You must not hide in ultimate reality and fear the physical, emotional, and mental wrinkles of the incarnation. Another way of phrasing this would be to say that you must work with the lower chakras and not just the upper. You have a clear sense, many of you, of yourselves as spirit even if you cannot fully acknowledge your own divinity because you see the flaws in the human manifestation. Come down to earth; ground yourselves; play in the mud. Forget that your mother told you, "You are bad," because your hands were muddy and you must scrub them clean. You are not bad or unworthy. You are gardeners, and a gardener does get muddy. But the gardener also remembers that its purpose is not simply to turn the soil or make mud pies but to grow the greatest blossoms of creation.

I do not wish to repeat here what would take weeks to teach and has already been taught. Past transcripts are available that talk of these teachings of balance—relative and ultimate reality—and the energy and meditation practices you may do to help you move more fully into both relative and ultimate reality.

Questioner: I would like to ask Aaron if he could speak on the practice of dissolving that he mentioned, using the emotional judgment as an example.

Aaron: I am Aaron. I hear your question.

Emotional judgments will arise. It is a necessary element of the incarnation. These will be judgments of good and bad, right and wrong, wanting and aversion. These judgments do not arise by chance. Consciousness moves into contact with an object or with a thought. It may find that thought or object pleasant or unpleasant. The quality of pleasantness or unpleasantness usually is not inherent in the object or thought, but is contained in the relative relationship with that which has arisen. For a simple example, to plunge into a cold lake on a hot summer day is quite pleasant. To plunge into the same water in midwinter is quite unpleasant. It is not the object that changes but your relationship with that object. When attention is brought to each stage of this process, you will find that while the emotional judgment may still arise, all identification with it begins to dissolve. Then you no longer become caught in the stories of these judgments but see them simply as passing, conditioned objects.

The move from pleasant/unpleasant to like/dislike is common. If you watch carefully you can begin to observe how your energy reaches out to grasp and hold on to that which is pleasant and to push away that which is unpleasant. There';s nothing wrong with this. It';s very natural to you. When you see the whole process, you don';t take these arisings so personally. Like is just like; dislike is just dislike; all are passing thoughts, nothing more. But if there is no attention, like may become grasping and dislike may become hatred.

If, in that grasping and aversion, you are pulled out of the present moment and into old-mind conditioning, then you are no longer free to respond directly to the object, thought, or emotion with which you have been presented. For example, if as a child you often experienced rejection by your peers, if you were in a situation where you came into a coffee shop and saw friends sitting at a table together, you walked to the table and they said hello but did not invite you to sit down, old-mind conditioning might move you into a sense of being rejected. Anger might arise, judgment at that anger might arise, and you';d become ensnared in all of these heavy emotions.

With vipassana or mindfulness practice, one can begin to see how those emotions arose without need to deny the emotion, nor need to be reactive to it. Nevertheless, the emotion still has arisen and it contracts your energy field. The first work is to be able to recognize the arising and to know, "This is old baggage: I don';t have to carry it around anymore. I don';t have to be reactive to it or discomforted by it." Seeing clearly that this is old baggage, one can do practices such as the in-pause-out breath—something to bring you back into a space of Pure Awareness, a space of resting in your divinity. From this space you see the contractions of your energy field as the illusion that they are.

Each of you has a light body / pure awareness body that is perfect. We spoke earlier of a child';s drawing of the sun and the projecting sunbeams. The light-body template is, and always has been, perfect and undistorted. The distortions in your energy field are these wrinkles in the sheet of paper. They exist in relative reality. They have never existed in ultimate reality; therefore, you are given the combined work of handling those distortions skillfully on the relative plane by acknowledging aversion, seeing any desire to be rid of them because they';re discomforting and knowing this is all illusion. You must come back, not hide in ultimate reality, nor to deny the pain of the relative experience but simply to recognize, "This is old-mind condition. In this moment I am not being rejected, and even if I am I need not fear it." You do not get rid of the illusion of contraction of the energy field. You simply release that which is clearly no longer needed. On the relative plane you recognize old baggage and then you make the skillful decision to come back to that truth of who you are, to reconnect with the perfect light body, to release that contraction from the energy field so it may no longer create the illusion of distortion.

You have been practicing the distortions over and over and over. Releasing the illusion of distortion is not the work of an instant, but a continued practice. As a continued practice, it must be done cautiously; there is no getting rid of the distortion. If there is aversion to the distortion, then one must move back into their relative practice, finding mercy for that being that';s feeling the pain of rejection, for example. But when there is clear seeing—"This is old-mind, just old-habit, and I don';t need to carry it around"—then you release it. There are many practices that are useful here. They all center on releasing of boundaries, expanding energy outward, coming back into that place of your own divinity and perfection.

I would offer one more image to help clarify some confusion in the group. I';d like you to visualize a perfect, brilliant light shining on a piece of paper. Let us call the light the perfect light-body template for your being. Let us call the piece of paper the physical body. If you take a sheet of cellophane similar to the sheet of paper we crumpled, clear cellophane, and hold it in front of that light, the perfect light will still fall on the sheet of paper. It will not appear distorted. If you wrinkle the cellophane and hold it in front of the light, the wrinkles will manifest on the sheet of paper. Then you think, "Oh, I';ve got to get rid of the wrinkles," and you begin to try to unwrinkle the sheet of paper; but the sheet of paper never had wrinkles. The wrinkles are an illusion of the incarnative process. Finally, you turn your attention to the cellophane, try to iron the wrinkles out of the cellophane. Eventually you come to the truth: "The perfect, unwrinkled sheet of paper is still there. What I am seeing on the white paper of the physical body is simply the illusion of wrinkle. Attending to it skillfully on the relative plane, I must look at the light of the incarnation and find the perfect, unwrinkled sheet of paper and allow my identity to rest there." Then the distortions that are no longer practiced will go, just as the wrinkles will fall out of a piece of cloth when it is left alone. But if you keep picking up that cloth and giving energy to the wrinkles, they will become more solid.

What is Meditation
by Ann Barden

Most people have some idea of meditation as sitting quietly, perhaps thinking or reflecting deeply, perhaps praying or feeling Divine presence. These are ways many people enrich their lives.

The kind of meditation we teach is called Vipassana or mindfulness meditation. It does not involve praying or thinking or believing any particular set of beliefs. The purpose of mindfulness meditation is to learn to be mindful, to be fully present in each moment of our lives.

Since most of us live pretty complicated lives, to be mindful in the midst of the complications would be a very difficult place to start. It would be a bit like learning to play baseball by playing outfield for the All-Stars game. We ultimately want to be able to be mindful in our complicated lives, though, and so we start simply. We start by sitting quietly with our eyes closed and try to learn to be really present with what is happening—with the weight of our bodies as we sit, with the tickle on our nose or the gurgle in our gut and, in this practice particularly, with our breath as it moves in and out. The practice is very simple, which does not mean that it is easy. What makes it hard? Distraction, discomforts, excitements, fatigue, longing, anger …. The list of hindrances can be a long one.

Why is it worth doing? Because it can bring you to a place of peace.

Vipassana Meditation is a Buddhist practice. The particular way we teach comes from the Theravadan tradition of Buddhism. As a practice, it does not require you to be Buddhist. What you learn here can enhance any spiritual tradition or set of beliefs. The Buddha taught this practice as an essential tool in becoming a Buddha—or becoming "one who is awake." Buddha means one who is awake and becoming awake is possible for all of us.

How does that happen? Here it helps to understand some foundation of Buddhist thought. The most basic is the Four Noble Truths. The first Noble Truth is that suffering exists. Now suffering is a pretty dramatic word. The Pali word, dukkha, probably has a meaning closer to unsatisfactory. In that category are all the things that bring us discomfort and unhappiness and discontent, large things and small things all can fit in this basket!

The second Noble Truth is that there are causes of this unsatisfactoriness. Implicit in this truth is that those causes can be identified.

The third Noble Truth is that there is an end to the unsatisfactoriness.

Ahh … isn';t that why we';re here? Because we want it to end? Because we want more peace and health and happiness?

The fourth Noble Truth is that there is a way or a path out of the unsatisfactoriness or suffering and there are steps in that path. Those steps are meant to help us become more skillful so that our lives reflect our wisdom as it grows. Mindfulness is only one of those steps but I think it is a foundation at the heart of the teaching, just as it is at the heart of the practice.

Mindfulness is to come back to the present moment. To be present and able to touch deeply whatever is there in our bodies, our feelings, our minds. When we are mindful, the result is always more understanding, more acceptance, more love and the desire to relieve suffering and bring joy.

Forgetfulness is the opposite. We eat and are unaware of what we have eaten. We sit with a friend and think of the work we have to do. We work and think of the friend we are longing to see. How would our lives be different if we tasted each morsel as we ate, sat lovingly with our friend, worked with careful attention?

So we practice … sitting quietly, focusing on our breath moving in and out, noting when thoughts or feelings or sensations distract us from our breath, then coming back, softly and kindly to the breath. This is the practice.

Yes, practice. Reading about meditation is not it, hearing about meditation is not it, thinking about meditation is not it. Only practicing meditation is meditation.

Barbara';s Letter
on Putting Down The Sword

I';m sitting here on the cabin deck in September, thinking of you who will be reading this in January. Beyond my screens a steady rain falls. It';s easy to imagine the sky mourns with us this day, a week past the terrorist actions. This attack on our entire world by those who are bound up in anger brings forth an important reminder. We often have little choice about what we experience but we do have a choice about how we will respond to it, with an open heart or the by enactment of fear.

In frequent meditation this past week, I';ve asked myself how I contribute to the open heart in the world. And how do I contribute to fear and its voices? I';m sure many of you have heard the phrase, "don';t just do something; sit there." The day of these attacks I was here in the woods, no TV, no newspapers, just word of mouth through phone calls and e-mail. I saw the mind that wanted to know, not for deeper understanding, but wanted information in order to control. There was a sense of "if only I had the details maybe I could fix this in some way." Not logical, just a habitual tendency of this mind. Control is one of our ways of protecting ourselves. Mind clamps down with something to do, rather than being willing to sit still in deep connection with suffering.

I';m not suggesting that every "doing" comes from a motivation of escape or self-protection. Sometimes our actions are very appropriate, even urgently necessary. But those actions and words tend to come from a clear space, not from fear that seeks avoidance of what is. What I saw that day was avoidance, wanting to get away from an unthinkable agony, unthinkable hatred.

I was able to not run to a TV but to sit in meditation, and sit again, to touch that place of unutterable sorrow and pain and offer it loving space in my heart. I owe much of my ability to do so to vipassana meditation, and to a small aspect of vipassana practice I call "putting down the sword." I';d like to share it with you.

I came to this bit of practice at a time when life was especially busy and I was feeling a little overwhelmed and tense. I noticed how the events that were happening were just that—a request for a meeting from a student, a leaking roof, a child needing to be driven somewhere, dinner to prepare … Nothing there to inspire tension. I saw that there was a progression—hearing (the request), or seeing (the leak) or some other situation. Then came the habitual way of dealing with the experience, separating, creating a somebody to "do" whatever was needed. I gave this movement of separating the name "picking up the sword" because it felt much like the experience of being pushed and tensing against that push. It is an armoring most of us wear at times. Can you see it in yourself?

The push was not an issue. Roof leaking? Climb a ladder and take a look; get out some caulking and apply it. Someone wants to meet: just choose a time and be present. But there was an old idea that these pushes were hazardous in some way and needed a "somebody" to be on guard with them. It was just habit. Push—tense and protect.

I asked myself to watch this progression, to see the contact—hearing, seeing, touching—and then the tension around that contact. We';re taught to stay with an object as long as it';s primary, and when it changes or dissolves, to return to the breath. I';ve done this so often with body pain, staying with it, open to it, watching it change. And yet there may be a subtle distortion stemming from that which wants to control, so attention stays with the experience from a stance of grasping and fear. Then there is a refusal to notice other objects that appear. With pain, the way it';s worked for me is that I felt the burning or tightness of pain, noted it, and then stayed fixed on being present with it as a kind of blackmail, "if only I do this right the pain will go away or will be manageable." Or I stayed with it because, uncomfortable as the pain was, the alternative of feeling helpless was more difficult. So I wasn';t really practicing choiceless awareness (to be present with whatever is predominant) but was sticking to one object, avoiding another, trying to control.

When I note the predominant object of burning, prickling, tightness, and then allow myself to touch on the aversion to it, I often note that aversion as tension. Why tension? It';s clean, simple. Controlling mind may want to get specific, saying fear, helplessness, etc. Sometimes that';s useful. But usually I don';t need to know more, just tension. The direct experience of it is felt in the contraction of belly, jaw or shoulders. Tension. There may be awareness of the relationship to the tension, as aversion, and a secondary tension. In that moment it doesn';t matter; just tension.

I look at attitude here. Is presence offered in a soft, open way, or is there contraction around the aversion to the experience of pain? Tension is a familiar response to discomfort. If there';s armoring around that experience of tension, can it be just that and go no further. Tension, still nothing to fix, nothing to defend against or hold.

Here';s where I come to "putting down the sword." There is a decision, made long ago, to offer kindness to any experience. Hardening of mind and body is a reminder that fear is taking charge, and acknowledgment that it doesn';t have to be so. No force, just letting the whole thing be. With the clarity that trying to control tension creates more tension, there is a very clear directive, "let it be."

Notice I said "let it be" not "let it go." To let it go may carry a push , to get away from it. To let it be means it stays as long as it wants. Hard belly; fear; dislike. I rest in a space that notes the presence of such discomfort, notes the aversion, and responds with a soft and spacious awareness. That which is aware of tension is not tense. Rest there. So there are two parts: letting it be and coming back to spacious awareness which can watch any desire to fix, to control, and not be caught in grasping.

For years this was a core of my practice, "putting down the sword." Before it can be put down, one must acknowledge that it';s there. First, the bare experience, noted through the senses, then any tension around the experience. Then a subtle (or not so subtle) move to control or defend. Finally the reminder, "put down the sword," not an order but a gentle invitation.

Back to September 11. Holding the sword very tight, aware that it pretended to protect from the unthinkable, yet also aware that it created just the same kind of separation that helped provoke these acts. Put down the sword. Tension remains, restlessness, agitation. That which is aware of these states is not agitated. I let the agitation be, don';t try to fix it, but also, I rest in the spaciousness of that which is not agitated. Both are there together. Can you see them? Then my heart opened and I wept for us all, for all the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children dying in agony throughout the world, and all who hate enough to kill them. The loving heart is not helpless, but immense and strong enough to embrace everything. And resting in this loving heart, one finds the wisdom that knows how to speak, knows what to do.

My invitation to all of us, as we move through the aftermath of those actions, can we put down the sword, again, and yet again. Can the enormity of our hearts be known to be sufficient to hold all our fear, all our pain, and set it free?

Some of the talks from Aaron relate to this practice. Please take what is of use to you. My wishes to you for a new year of happiness and peace for our entire world.

With love,


From the President
by Kris Kernit

Feedback from our March Fundraising/Membership Invitational

Hello Friends,

Last March, we held a membership and fundraising event. After the event, you may recall, we contacted those who attended and asked how they felt about an ongoing commitment in the form of time and money, and how they felt about becoming a membership organization. The feedback was very interesting. Two major themes emerged.

  • Many in the community expressed great difficulty with the membership concept.
  • More people than ever before expressed a desire to support Deep Spring Center.

Regarding membership, it became clear that we did not have community-wide consensus about taking a more formal approach to it. Many in our community did not feel comfortable with the proposed membership concept. Based on this feedback and further consideration, the Board decided to lay the membership issue aside, leaving the existing informal system as is. In the words of our esteemed friend, Dottie Coyne, " Each individual comes to define what membership in Deep Spring means to them personally, in their own way and at their own time. The process is organic".

As far as support for Deep Spring, the feedback was equally impressive. Many signed up for committees, for the Board, and many people expressed interest in volunteering their time, and have done so. Many made ongoing financial commitments. With these commitments, we are in the process of creating a budget for the first time. We went from a bank balance of $4,026.29 at the end of February 2001, to $20,000.00 as of October 2001. This amount includes the general as well as the building fund. It does not include the gift of 130 shares of Microsoft stock that was given.

In summary, we lacked the consensus to establish a more formal approach to membership, but many members came forth to volunteer their time, energy, and resources for supporting and sustaining Deep Spring Center and its programs.

The Board would like to thank everyone in our sangha for their honesty and for their support.

With Lovingkindness,

Kris Kurnit, President
Deep Spring Center Board of Directors

From the Treasurer
by Pat Shalis

Greetings, everyone.

For those who don';t know, I am the new Treasurer for Deep Spring Center. I am becoming familiar with our financial situation, and I am excited about being able to help provide the financial reporting that is needed as we move closer to our dream of renting or owning our own building. My immediate goal is to develop several reports that will make it easier to review our monthly income and expenses and to determine our ability to support monthly building expenses. I see the need for a monthly budget that we can report against. I am also interested in making some changes in recording that will aggregate all related expenses with a particular fundraising activity and provide the net result in the final report so that it is easier to see what is happening at a glance.

Susan Weir and Kris Kurnit recently prepared a rough projection of income and expenses to determine our readiness for a building. On a monthly basis, projected expenses would be: $750 operating expenses, $750 for a part time office manager, $2500 for building rental or mortgage, for a total of approximately $4000 per month.

Current income is about $2400 in operating and building fund donations. To address the shortfall, we project income from meditation classes, which would now be held in our own building; possible rental of space to therapists, body workers, yoga classes, etc.; plus income from meditation days and other new activities at the center.

While this report is preliminary, it clearly indicates that we are within range of reaching our goal. The Board, Fundraising Committee and Site Search Committee are directing much energy now to the search for an appropriate building. We expect to provide more detailed information in the next newsletter.

Pat Shalis, Treasurer
Deep Spring Board of Directors

Copyright © 2002 by Barbara Brodsky