Newsletter, Volume 17, Number 1, Winter 2008/2009


Letter from Barbara
Barbara Brodsky

Conditioned and Unconditioned: Present, with Love

Vissudi Maggha: The Path of Purification - Part Two
Susan Weir

Initiations for Spiritual Development

Know with His Knowing: A Christmas Story

Letter from the Editor: Request for Submissions and More...
Rori Stienstra, Newsletter Manager

Letter from the Board
Curt Fish, Board President

DSC Committees' News

DSC Teachers On … What Inspires Practice
Dorothy Ann Coyne and David Lawson

A Monthly Retreat: Days of Meditation at Michigan Friends Center
Carol Blotter and Retreatants

Mindfulness in Mexico: Reflections on a Life and a Retreat
Ann Barden

Aaron's Closing Quote

Letter from Barbara
Barbara Brodsky

Dear friends,

Life moves us through great changes and in unexpected ways. This summer as I worked on a new book, I spent a lot of time looking back at my own journey. All my life, as far as I can remember, I’ve been on a conscious spiritual path, though sometimes with no clarity about what that path meant or where it was taking me. I prayed for that clarity, to understand what I had come into this life to do, and for help to do it, but in the early years there was often confusion. Then, in 1972 I lost my hearing and balance, and for 15 additional years I asked, “What is this about? Why me?” and felt despair and anger that I could not get past, even with the help of my meditation practice. And I had not yet formally met dharma teachings. There was much richness in my life, loving family and friends, work I loved, but also isolation and fear. So there was a conscious reaching out for answers, but I also felt lost.

Twenty years ago this month of January 2009, as I sat in my living room, still struggling with deafness and the separation it seemed to impose, I prayed for help, and had my first conscious connection with Aaron. These excerpts come from my new book, just approaching completion.

In January of 1989, I prayed for help. Several weeks earlier, I had started to use a question and answer format in my journal as a way of deeper communication with myself. As the weeks passed following that prayer, I began to notice that the dialogue was beginning to present a new perspective, inviting me to open myself to unfamiliar ideas and ways of thinking. One snowy evening I sat in the living room with my family, lying on the floor with my journal, writing in front of a blazing fire.

Jan. 19, 1989

Question: What do I need to talk about?
Answer: I don’t know.
Q: Stop and meditate for a few minutes or just write what comes.
A: Let’s try that. Intuitive writing. … anger, pain, hope, peace, … can, can’t, hate, love, resent, forgive. … ..… I see myself at a balance point. I have hate and love, anger and peace within me. I’m aware enough to know that anger and hate are poisonous, but I don’t yet know what to do about them. I don’t want to suppress them. I have to be open with myself and accept that these feelings are a part of me, too. Yet dwelling on them or trying to stop them only enhances them.

And then the writing changed from “I” and “me” to “you.” At first I didn’t notice the shift. It was not made consciously.

Q: How do you feel about all this anger in you?
A: Surprised that it’s there.
Q: But your anger is not you.
A: No, it’s one part of me.
Q: Your meditation this morning was that love and forgiveness are within you. Your spirit is a vehicle for the love of the universe. This love cannot come through when it’s blocked by anger. Accept your anger as a natural part of you, too. It is not bad. It just IS. But it’s not productive to dwell in it. It blocks the light. Recognize it, admit it, allow it, and then release it. Try it. …

This is about anger itself, and the intensity of your response to it that frightens you so much. External anger mirrors your own; you fear the power in anger and the lack of control when it is expressed. As a child, you were uncomfortable with anger in a room, and learned to close yourself off from the outer emotions and from yourself. Now you have a potent tool. When you are aware, without judgment, you have in that awareness a tool to recognize fear as fear, and anger as anger, and not to get caught up in the stories that come with them, stories that someone will be hurt, that someone is bad. Noting the experience, you are no longer caught. …

Startled, I realized that was true. Why had I never seen that before? I sat still for some moments, absorbing this insight.

Now I became aware that the answering and questioning had begun to switch places. It confused me momentarily. I let that insight go and came back to the thoughts offered. As I considered these ideas, the way seemed so clear. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? After all, I was talking to myself. This must have been inside me all this time. And suddenly, with a pounding heart, I realized that it wasn’t coming from myself, that there was some external guidance at work.

There was nothing in my adult life experience to suggest that thoughts in my mind could come from any place but myself. That first realization brought a sharpening of focus, as if I had held my breath and the entire universe had stood still for that moment. It felt like a door had been opened and a previously darkened corridor was brilliantly illuminated.

I experienced some wonder about the idea of another entity, a non-physical being, communicating with me in a telepathic manner, but felt no fear or doubt. I didn’t know what was speaking, but as I opened to its reality, I felt a powerful presence, an intelligence beyond my own mind. As I accepted this, I felt a great sense of love, both extending out from my own heart, and flowing back into me. It was as if a gentle hand reached out and wrapped my chilled body in a warm cloak. I felt tremendous comfort, reassurance and connection.

Barbara: Who are you?
Guide: My identity is unimportant at the moment. I come as a friend.
Barbara: What am I supposed to be learning from this? Why am I deaf and faced with my own rage about that?
Guide: You’ve just understood that you are afraid of anger. Anger becomes the whole world for you. It isn’t the world, and you need to learn that. You fear your negativity, and your present work of this lifetime is to move beyond that fear. When the conditions are present, negative emotions will arise. It is just an expression of conditions, just as waves rise in the sea when the wind blows. Until you can accept such heavy emotions in yourself, without fear or hatred, you cannot accept them in others.

True change comes only from love, never from hatred. You cannot change what you do not accept. Thus, your own fear is a gift to teach you compassion. You are a vehicle for love and forgiveness. But judgment of your experiences of fear and anger block the free expression of loving-kindness. You fixate on that judgment with more and yet more anger. The situation can be likened to a window of pure glass that has some dirt. You will wish to wash the window, not to attack it! That loving action will again reveal its natural purity and clarity.

You must learn to open the unlimited vessel of kindness by ceasing to fixate on the judgment. Then you will always be open to love and will feel love, regardless of the external conditions. This is not to say you will not also feel anger at times, but you will no longer judge the anger and fear it. It will just be anger, not a condemned part of yourself…

Eight days later, I met this spirit guide, Aaron, more directly.

January 27, 1989: I saw a figure across the room. He radiated a white light so brilliant that at first I had to look away. It was hard to tell if he shined out of that light or if it radiated from him. His features were clearly visible, piercing blue eyes, high cheekbones and forehead and white hair and a flowing beard that came to his chest. I felt myself trembling in his presence, yet I felt a deep love pouring from him; a love so familiar, but unlike any I have known in this life. There was a comfort and joy in his presence that washed away all fear.

I sat in meditation with this presence for two days before I ventured to talk again. Then I asked him who he was. Very simply he told me he was my teacher.

B: Where do we start?
A: You are suffering. Let us start there, to investigate together the causes of this suffering and find the end to it.
B: Does it ever end?
A: It does; yes, it certainly does.
B: With death?
A: Do you imagine that walking through a doorway will change your experience? No; suffering ends when you know who you are, when you realize the totality of being. Not of ‘your’ being, but of being. Then you will cease to believe in this limited identity, this self, as the whole. I do not deny the existence of this self we call Barbara, but she is not what you think she is. Humans know the self as a collection of form, feelings, thoughts, perceptions and consciousness. All of these are only the surface. When you take them as your whole identity, then there is a grasping for things to be different in this body, with these thoughts, this consciousness. Then there is suffering. Let us not get ahead of ourselves. We have as long as is needed to do this work together. Let us better prepare the foundation before building on the upper floors.

And that was the beginning of it all. It seems impossible that 20 years have passed–wonderful years of healing, growth and the joy of sharing Aaron, dharma, and our meditation practice with so many people, and seeing the evolution of Deep Spring Center and our wonderful sangha. As I read Aaron’s words above, I’m startled by how often he has repeated these words to so many of you throughout the years: “When the conditions are present, negative emotions will arise. It is just an expression of conditions, just as waves rise in the sea when the wind blows. Until you can accept such heavy emotions in yourself, without fear or hatred, you cannot accept them in others. True change comes only from love, never from hatred. You cannot change what you do not accept.” It awes me to see how this beautiful dharma has been passed down through so many of you and out into the world.

This fall I have been asking myself, “What next?” Aaron has taught me so much through the years. Vipassana is at the heart of it, and that practice has been shared well and will continue, but there have been countless exercises and practices that have helped guide my path, and of which I was reminded through the book writing, going into old journals. His talk, “Trainings,” (see page ??) delineates much of the path on which he’s led me. Next summer Aaron and I will start a very small class, with a maximum of 15 students committed for two years, to more deeply explore the broader path I’ve followed with Aaron’s guidance. If you have a committed vipassana practice and feel moved to join us, please inquire. I fully trust that those who are to be part of this adventure will find their way to it. We are trying to find a way to allow those out of Ann Arbor to also participate.

Meanwhile, please hold me in your hearts as I celebrate this 20th anniversary of my meeting Aaron and moving into this more conscious path. It has brought enormous joy and freedom, and I’m filled with gratitude.

With love, Barbara

Conditioned and Unconditioned: Present, with Love
Excerpt of  talk to Spirit Rock Meditation Group (held at a church in Berkeley)
July 10, 2008

The full talk is on the DSC web site.

Aaron: Good evening. My blessings love to you. I am Aaron and I thank you for this opportunity to share the dhamma with you. 

Barbara has told you a bit about me. I have lived in many cultures, many colors of skin, female and male bodies, various religions. My final liberation was in a lifetime in which I was a vipassana practitioner, a follower of the Buddha dhamma. So I know it as a viable path to liberation. If I did not believe this was so, I would not be wasting my time here talking to you about it, nor wasting your time. But this beautiful dhamma, this will set you free. 

It has been suggested that I talk to you tonight about how I, as an ancient spirit, view this slice of practice we call dhamma, and how that fits with the bigger picture. Are you familiar with the Buddhist teaching of the handful of leaves? Somebody asked the Buddha: do you teach us everything you know? He pointed up high into a vast forest and he said, “What I know are as the leaves of the forest,” and he reached down and picked up just a handful of leaves. He said, “What I teach is just as this handful of leaves, but this is all you need to know.” 

This is true: it is all you need to know. In fact, perhaps more than you need to know. All you need to know is to be present in this moment with love. That’s really all you need to know, but it helps to learn how to be present with love. 

I do see a bigger picture. The way I understand your world is in terms of what I call densities. The density is based on the vibrational energy of the being. Rock, gas, mineral: these are 1st density. Plant is 2nd density, as is animal. Human is what we call 3rd density. Beyond human there are five more densities. 

People ask me, what about the Buddhist scheme of stream entry: the once-returner, the non-returner, and the arahat? These are not conflicting ways of understanding the universe. What is it you really need to know? Know is not the best word–what is it you really need to do or release or be in order to be free? What does freedom really mean? As long as you are creating karma, wholesome or unwholesome, that karma keeps drawing you back. We don’t have to talk about this in terms of past lives; understand it in terms of this life and each moment in this life. 

If somebody says something abusive to you and you say something abusive back, that response plants the seed for further angry words. When somebody says something abusive to you and you hear that person with compassion, that is able to say, “No, you may not speak to me like that but I understand how angry you are,” when you’re able to open your heart to another’s pain and still refuse to be abused by the other’s pain, it shifts things. You’re no longer drawing that angry energy to the self and re-creating it. 

As long as there is still the concept of a self, there is still going to be karma. But it’s easier to release wholesome than unwholesome karma, so we work with the negative habit energies, the kilesas, as part of the practice, and we work to understand the whole pattern of conditioning out of which negative habit energy arises. 

Barbara spoke a bit of this pattern in her introduction. You have five physical sense organs and the mind. When any of these sense organs touches an object, you have contact and consciousness. Contact arises, and with contact, consciousness. Then there will be perception and feelings of pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. 

This first object, let’s say a bad smell, “Ew! It stinks!” Nose organ touches the scent and smelling consciousness comes. The feeling is unpleasant. There is perception, “skunk smell.” And anger comes up–“Who let that skunk in?” Perhaps the aversion is followed quickly by self-judgment, “I should not mind this; I should have equanimity.” This aversive energy, “I don’t want this,” is a different object. In the smell, just the smell. In the aversion to the smell, just aversion. In the judgment, “I shouldn’t be feeling aversion,” just judgment. 

We see how these objects move one to another to another. You have to be careful in your practice not to get caught up in this chain of objects, the Pali word papancha. Do you know that word? It’s one of my favorite Pali words because it sounds like what it is. You start to see this proliferating mind jumping from one object to another and you have to bring yourself back to the moment. In this smell, just the smell. In angry words, just angry words. In body pain, just body pain. And then the stories that arise, just stories. 

The practitioner at this level is still experiencing the experiencer as a self. There’s still the idea, “This is me smelling this skunk; this is me feeling aversion,” but that’s okay at that point. The important thing is that there is an awareness, too, that objects are arising and passing away. The understanding that there’s no self in it comes later. First we focus on the whole process of how objects arise, are impermanent, and pass away. Then we start to gain insight into the reality that there’s no self behind this flow. 

Once you have reached a point where when anger, for example, arises, there’s no need to be reactive to that anger, there is more ease. One experiences the tension in the belly or the chest, the flush of heat, “Tension, tension, heat, heat, heat.” But there’s no story that comes up. At this point, one is able to be with any difficult emotion with more kindness and more spaciousness, and without building stories on it. One is able to hear another’s pain or anger without taking it personally and building stories. 

I said that the human is what I call 3rd density. This is the density of learning about the emptiness of self in what arises in body and mind. As long as there is a belief of a self, and reactivity to objects, there is karma that perpetuates the experiences and experiencer. Fourth density is the point where there’s no more karmic pull back into a new body, a new incarnation. Here there are still arising mind and body objects, but they are greeted with equanimity, with no contraction around the objects as they arise and pass away. 

The 4th density being is fully telepathic. Now let me ask you a question: if everyone in this room were fully telepathic now, would that be okay with you? Anybody who might find that a bit uncomfortable? I see nods of “yes,” because there are still thoughts about which there is shame or judgment, still thoughts that are seen as arising from a self. 

As I see it, the work of 3rd density is to reach this point of equanimity with thoughts, emotions and body sensations, equanimity with whatever arises, to the point that there’s no going out to it or backing away from it. This is what we call access concentration, the point where mind is able to see objects arise and pass away, just that: no stories about it, no fear of it, no grasping for it. Perhaps you cannot do that all the time, but you become more and more able to live this centered awareness in the world, with equanimity. 

The non-returner is not yet an arahat, there is not yet full liberation, but you are not caught up in the karmic field anymore. “No self; no problem,” to quote Ajahn Chah. From my perspective you are not practicing so as to not be caught up in the karmic field; you are practicing in order to learn to live your lives with more wisdom and kindness. As you learn that, the wonderful thing is that you become free. So keep the–how is it said–keep the horse in front of the cart. Your work is not just toward liberation for liberation’s sake but toward learning to live with lovingkindness and compassion. And as that ability deepens, the whole sense of the separate self falls away and there you are, open into those insights that free you so that there’s no karma drawing you back into a new incarnation. These are two aspects to liberation; the final liberation beyond all karma, and the more immediate liberation of non-reactivity to arising and passing away. 

Is there work for the non-returner still to do? By all means. At the end of 3rd density, the emotional body still exists; emotions still arise. Sutras go into great detail about which kilesas are purified with each level of liberation, but basically at that point of non-returner, the emotional body still exists and emotions may still arise. But there’s equanimity with those emotions: no more stories that pull you back into this cycle of becoming. 

Then the 4th density being works with his or her comrades in a group kind of experience, all telepathic, deepening in compassion., finally becoming exhausted of these emotions until there’s readiness to release them. The being then moves on to 5th and 6th density. These 5th and 6th density entities are some of the devas James talked about, these higher beings. You too will be that–are that already, really, you just haven’t realized it yet. 

Of all the practices I have done in all my lifetimes, vipassana practice is the one that I hold to as the one most able to lead you to liberation. As part of the vipassana practice, I include not only the arising and passing away of conditioned objects but the direct experience of the Unconditioned. That is not something you’re going to meet 20 years hence if you just do your practice in a committed way, but as something that’s right here, now. How could the Unconditioned be anywhere else but here and now?

I want to try an exercise with you. Hold your hand in front of your eyes, just here. Wiggle the fingers. Here we have the skandhas–form, feeling, thought, impulse, consciousness: they’re all wiggling around. All we can do is to focus on these, on the body, on the thoughts, on the emotions. Stare at the fingers. Now, look through the fingers right up here at me. If you can see me, Aaron, here in Barbara’s body, you’ve really got it! Just look through. One can see the fingers are still wiggling, but also see the space beyond. Now come back to the fingers. Let them become predominant. Now go through again, into the space. Can you see that spaciousness? Yet the fingers continue. 

As long as you’re holding your attention only on the conditioned objects, you lose the space. The space is always there. Do any of you … I don’t know how experienced you are in your vipassana practice, I would gather many different levels of experience. Do any of you use nada as a primary object, the sound of silence? Just a few. What I’m talking about here is a sound like cicadas singing. It’s the space beyond the fingers. Everyday sound is there but the cosmic OM is there too. Sometimes when you get quiet enough, you hear it. For many people, when I introduce this they say, “Oh, I’ve been hearing that for years. I thought it was ringing in my ears. I never knew what it was.” 

We begin to pay attention not only to the conditioned objects rising and passing away but also to that which remains. This is not yet a direct deep experience of the Unconditioned but an experience of the expressions of the Unconditioned, the signs or the nimitta as the suttas phrase it. There is a Nimitta Sutta, AN 3.100 (xi-xv) that talks clearly about this. It says, in small part:

If he wants, he hears–by means of the divine ear-element, purified and surpassing the human–both kinds of sounds: divine and human, whether near or far. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening. 

The signs are Nada; a visual sign called Ground Luminosity. Have any of you done any dzogchen practice? A few. We see this luminosity just rising out of everything. It’s not the aura, it’s not energy; it’s the Unconditioned expressing itself. 

There’s a scent like honeysuckle, a taste and an energy. Do we have any body energy workers in the group? A few. You’re familiar with how you center yourself in that place of energy, and that when you work with a client, you feel that energy moving through them. It is not your energy, not their energy, just energy. These are all expressions of the Unconditioned. 

It feels very important to me that you begin to recognize the simultaneity of conditioned and unconditioned so you don’t spend the next 20 years just watching conditioned objects arising and passing away and saying, “When is that breakthrough going to come?” It’s here, right now. Wake up to it. 

This, then, is my cosmology, as it were, seeing the universe, not just your world but the universe in terms of these eight densities, seeing where the human is in the experience, and how your practice gives you the tools to watch the object impersonal and impermanent, arising and passing away, and to rest in the space into which that object has dissolved. Just go there with it.

For example, as the bell goes out, just go with it, go out into that space. 

Can you feel it? Maybe only for a moment and then the everyday world comes back. But remember it’s there, that space is there. Begin to rest in the spaces between objects. Look at this room–beautiful lights, ceiling, people–but the biggest object in the room is space. Of course, this conditioned space is only a metaphor for that of which I speak. But begin to notice space, including the space between the object and the reaction to the object. Begin to see the possibilities that a sound is just a sound, a thought is just a thought, a twinge in the big toe is just a twinge in the big toe. Stop compounding it all. See that you can do that, and as you do that, how much more freedom there is. 

If you practice in this way and acquaint yourself with some of the dhamma teachings of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness and dependent arising and so forth, it will all come together, and your practice will set you free. 

So, yes, there’s a forest of leaves out there, but this practice is all you need because this is where you are, third density human, working toward equanimity with arising and dissolution. Simply that.

Vissudi Maggha: The Path of Purification
Part Two

Susan Weir

In the first article, we looked at the first two stages: (1) purification of virtue, where we understand that life and practice are inseparable, and that our daily life must be lived cleanly, so as to create a stable foundation for practice; and (2) purification of mind, where we cultivate stability, or concentration of mind to hold steady in the moment.

Stage 3: Purification of View
Seeing things “as they are”

Here we begin insight practice. Stage 2 development trains the attention to be held so that we can begin to see the flow of objects arising and passing in our life experience as they occur.

Here the five factors come into play, as they need to be in balance for our practice to penetrate to the direct level of experience:

  • Effort vs. Energy. Not too tight, not too loose. If we have too much effort, we begin to strain ourselves. If there is not enough energy, we space out and fail to keep our attention firmly on objects as they arise.
  • Faith vs. Wisdom. Balancing the head and heart, wisdom and emotion. We need enough intellectual understanding of the process to keep ourselves on track–not drifting off course. However, if we’re too much in our heads, we will not be able to move out of the mind and into a larger awareness. We need enough heart to have intention, kindness, and compassion for the process. However, we can become sentimental and lose clear seeing if we use our practice to search for good feeling experiences.
  • Mindfulness is the balance keeper of the above factors. Mindfulness needs to be strong enough that we can see and assess our practice accurately and make adjustments.

This stage is about seeing the way things are–directly, without illusion. Namely, we begin to see the three marks of existence. We see them progressively through the three levels of experience (intellectually, reflectively, then directly). What does it mean to “see” the three marks on these deepening levels? We’ll skip the intellectual, which is understanding what the terms mean, and address the other two.


  • Reflectively: We see everything arises, passes away in practice and in life. We notice that things have changed from a moment ago. My nose no longer itches, yet a minute ago it was driving me to distraction!
  • Directly: Objects don’t exist except as an ever-changing flow. There is only motion, nothing is ever static. We experience this when our concentration is strong enough that we begin to see experiences are not “solid,” but come as clusters of mind-moment impressions, in smaller and smaller pieces. For example, “knee hurts” becomes many smaller little neuronic impulses that vary from second to second and includes spaces of no sensation at all. A breath becomes dozens of breath sensations in every inhale and every exhale.

This initially feels very disorienting. It feels as if the rug has been pulled out from under us. My experience was of standing on the top sand of an hour glass, with things constantly draining away underfoot, a physical sense of motion sickness. One will come back to this at a further stage of integration with more equanimity.


  • Reflectively: There are no moments or experiences in life that “do it” for us, nothing can bring permanent fulfillment. Remember the guy you had such a crush on in high school, and if he liked you back, the world would be totally great? Or if you landed the job, things would be solved? This is seeing how, in the mind, we look to things to be “IT.” The right praise and appreciation, the right partner, the right house. We set goals for things to happen, yet nothing ever feels finalized when it actually has happened. We immediately have another goal, another “IT” we reach for. “IT” never works, never lasts, and you’d think we’d learn. Yet the mind continuously looks at the next thing on the horizon as “IT,” the answer to all our needs.
  • Directly: “IT” constantly fails because as we attach to sense experiences, it is always changing. There is nothing to “grab” hold of. Again, initially this direct experience brings deep loss and hopelessness of finding fulfillment. Again, later one will come back to the direct experience of this mark with equanimity. But at this stage, with both of these marks, it is very helpful to have the support of sangha friends or a teacher to encourage us, that this loss, too, is impermanent, and will open the door to a new place.

Emptiness of A Solid, Stable Sense of Self or “Me”

  • Reflectively: We experience powerlessness, our inability to “do,” as Gurdjieff would say. Why is the person who was determined to lose 5 pounds this morning, standing in front of the open freezer door at 11 pm eating ice cream directly out of the container with a spoon? Why do we make (and break) resolutions over and over? Why don’t we do what we set out to do?

    Practice begins to reveal to us that things just flow according to conditions, we actually do not control our life experience the way we thought. We begin to see the nature of interdependent arising, how one thing makes another arise, there is not the agency of a doer. We begin to let go of the expectations we have of ourselves, which we then suffer from not fulfilling. This is very liberating. As one great teacher once said, we see the truth, and the truth sets us free.
  • Directly: The same “me” doesn’t last on an ongoing basis. This sense of “I” is the ghost in the machine. Modern brain research is discovering that there is no central place in the brain that controls experience. We directly experience that the “I” that wants to eat ice cream at night is unrelated, not connected to the “I” that wanted to lose weight in the morning. There is not a stable “I” that is always on top of things. A different “I” comes up every moment that we take as “me,” and it’s only a mental concept that seems to make the illusion of continuity.

It’s around this stage we come to the direct experience of the first “insight knowledge.”

Insight Knowledge 1: Delimitation of Mind And Matter
Things have a physical and mental aspect to them. The breath breathes itself. The body continues the living process without the mind “doing” it. There is nobody behind the physical processes; they just roll along on their own interdependent causes. The mind creates intentions to move the body, but the mind does not create the physical. However, mental intention affects the physical aspect, so they are connected. You’ll see why this insight is important in the next stage of integration or purification.

Stage 4 Purification of Overcoming Doubt
What does it mean to live without “me”?

This is the next gear that begins turning, and actually follows somewhat concomitantly with the purification of view. As we feel the rug pulled out from underneath us when we see our old assumptions about “me-ness,” fulfillment and permanence fall apart, this question arises and needs to be integrated:

How can the mind and body function without a self in control? This stage involves more taking apart of the identification we have with the body and mind. We see how things continue to function, but that there is no self in control of the flow of experience.

How do we work with our identification with being our bodies? The body contemplations from the Four Foundations of Mindfulness reach peak usefulness here. They involve mindfulness of postures, seeing the 32 parts of the body, the four elements in the body, the death and decomposition practices. These practices did not seem very relevant when I first read them, and there are certainly many ways to experience them (not necessarily at the charnel grounds!). However, doing them moves us to directly experience the temporary and selfless nature of the body. Understanding the true nature of the body both heightens appreciation for this incredible vehicle and taking care of it, and the preciousness of everything in life, as well as some freedom in accepting the body as not “me” and temporary.

For many of us, taking apart the identification that we are our minds is much trickier. Here we begin to look at our habitual reactive patterns and how these create the identification with the mind. This purification is about losing the illusion of control–that we can create a life with only what we want in it.

It’s not the craving for the pleasant that is the point; it’s the belief that we have any control over whether things are pleasant or unpleasant. For example, people come to meditation to have nice experiences, and don’t want to continue when they no longer have nice experiences. Even when we see this preference, and the trap of it, we still tend to think that we are supposed to “get” to a “centered” (read: pleasant) place in our sitting.

In this stage we are developing an important focus of practice: seeing the feeling element of objects (pleasant, unpleasant, neutral). Seeing them requires a more precise concentration, as these are more subtle objects. They flash by so quickly that we normally don’t catch the feelings themselves, only the resulting push of the mind towards or away from the object (i.e., grasping, aversion). This dawning awareness reflects a deepening and maturing of practice.

The cycle of dependent origination goes like this: sense organs > sense contact (in body)> feelings (in mind)> grasping/aversion. You can see where the first insight knowledge, the delimitation of mind and body, must already be in place. Feelings are a concomitant result of sense contact. Every object stimulates a feeling associated with it.

As we become aware of the feeling with each physical and mental object, we see how the mind moves toward or away from every object that is pleasant or unpleasant–every one. When we are unaware of feelings, following this movement of the mind is automatic, as aversion or clinging. We are thus trapped in the cycle. When we are aware of feeling, and can see the three marks in the feelings, we experience them as they are–impersonal, impermanent, and without fulfillment. In this integration, we stabilize in experiencing the feelings without following the resulting movement of the mind that arises from the feeling impulses. We develop the stability to let feelings be just the way they are without being pushed by them. We become yet freer.

Why don’t we normally don’t get here? Because we are trying to be in control, to make life be only pleasant. The integration is complete when we see how the cycle from feeling into the reactive impulse of craving and aversion moves, and we no longer follow the cycle into craving and aversion. We lose the identification with the impulses of the mind as “me.” Around this point we encounter the second insight knowledge:

Insight Knowledge 2: Knowledge of Conditionality
Things become less solid, we begin to see the “body” and “mind” as not solid objects, but a cluster of sense impressions, a mass of vibrations, ever changing and flowing. We see the body as selfless and moved by the mind. We see the difference between sense contact and feelings. We see that unawareness of the feelings leads to thirst in the mind, unceasing movement. We see that feelings are constant, impersonal, and are not under our control.

Initiations for Spiritual Development
(From an individual's Inquiry)
January 24, 2004

Aaron: You have been reading the book Anna, Grandmother of Jesus. Within that book, she speaks of many initiations and you have asked me what these are, thinking them to be something quite esoteric. I want to begin with a clear delineation of the basic trainings and initiations taught through many traditions.

You will see the beginning trainings to be no different than what you have been learning from me for years. You have thought of these as “Buddhist” practices, learning to be present with the arisings in body, emotions, and thoughts. The Buddha, in his infinite compassion for beings, did not emphasize the later trainings. They were available for those who were ready for them, and many were, but they were not offered as basic dharma.

The core of what the Buddha taught was all that is necessary for freedom, that is, to end this karmic cycle of death and rebirth. Those who have thusly learned may choose to come back as bodhisattva, and many do, and are then able to learn and master the higher trainings. This does not mean that you must be a bodhisattva or even a fully enlightened being to move into these higher trainings, but it is more helpful to master the foundation first, so that is where we have started.

These trainings are present in every spiritual tradition, but they are given different names. The Buddhist tradition would call it training but does not speak of initiations. What is an initiation? It is an opportunity to practice the skills in which you have been receiving training to determine if you have mastered them; it is offered as a test. If you fail, it simply indicates the need for further practice. Thus, the initiation is a guideline for your readiness to move on to more advanced skills. Your modern-day fraternities and sororities sometimes have initiations, but with a severe misunderstanding of proper usage of the word. In their usage they are merely endurance contests. This has little to do with the true meaning of the phrase, initiation.

I will now delineate these trainings, giving some basic information about each. Trainings one and two may come in either order and usually are learned together. They are the trainings to observe the arisings within the physical and emotional bodies. One notes that sensations and emotions arise out of conditions, and that when the conditions cease, these sensations and emotions will cease. The intended result of the training at this level is development of a lessened self-identification with what has arisen, and the ability to allow more spaciousness with difficult body and emotional experiences. Training three does the same work with thought. The phrase, “Don’t believe everything you think,” distills the essence of training three.

As you can see, these first three trainings are the essence of basic dharma practice, but Jesus taught the same thing in a different way. He did not give us the precise steps with which to transform difficult body sensations, emotions and thoughts. He only reminded us that when one slaps us in the face, we can return love not hatred. In large part, he did not spell it out because it had already been expressed by the Buddha, and by all the practices within the various mystery schools such as those of the Druids and Essenes and in related traditions. Jesus was speaking to all the people, but I think he felt it was sufficient to remind them to “turn the other cheek,” and that those who already knew how to release the anger would do so with this reminder. Those who did not yet know how would seek training.

These first three were the trainings given to the youngest of children in the Essene tradition. They were taught never to despise even the most negative arisings in the self, but to recognize them as the result of conditions, to make space for them and to allow their release. Actually, even little children moved quickly into the sixth, seventh and eighth trainings which I will describe shortly.

The initiations for these first three trainings were freely given in life, through the stubbed toe, the rude remark that brought anger and the restless mind with its judgments, fears and complaints.

The fourth training was the first opening into the experience of selflessness and egolessness. It was the first seeing of the small self as a created mind object, and the first knowing of the greater Self. There was as yet no stability in the ability to rest in that place of greater Self, only the first glimpse of such resting as possible. This glimpse changes everything. If one has a deep commitment to non-harm because of the knowing of non-separation, one can no longer act out of one’s ego and fear, and still be honest with one’s self and true to one’s values. Included in this training, are the deepening of … I am hesitant to use the term Sila here because others may not know this term, but there is no other precise English equivalent term. For those unfamiliar with the word Sila, it is a Pali language word. It connotes moral awareness, not a “Thou shalt not …” morality but a morality deeply based on knowing the non-separation of self and other.

The fifth training is the opening into non-dual Awareness. It is the fruit of the first four trainings. In the fifth training, one more deeply recognizes relative reality and ultimate reality. Here is the first view that these realities are not dualistic, each to each, but that relative reality is an expression of ultimate reality. This means that when you are present with relative reality, the ground of the ultimate is still there. When you are resting on top of the ocean’s surface, rising and falling with the waves, the stillness of the depths is still there. When you sink to the depths, the waves continue to rise and fall far above you. Mastery at the fifth level of training involves a more conceptual understanding. One who has mastered the fifth level remembers it, but is rarely able to hold both places simultaneously. In Buddhist terms, this person is often at the stream-entry level.

The sixth, seventh and eighth trainings mirror the first, second and third but at a deeper level. Here one is asked to bring in what one understands about the conditioned arisings of physicality, emotion and mind, and to merge those insights with the experience of the dissolution of the ego, and with the–at this point–conceptual nondual understandings. One understands that difficult emotions will arise, for example, and one has learned non-reactivity to those emotions; that is, to not act them out or suppress them, but just to make space for them. But they will still arise. We understand that they are conditioned, and that this is the out-play of karma, or habit; but they still arise. When the training is internalized deeply enough to not react with negativity to their arising, but to instead bring kindness into play, then it is time to deepen the fifth training and to begin to use it as a tool for the transmutation of the heavier body and mind experiences. Several practices are useful here. In summarizing these practices, you turn to the Master of your heart’s choosing for support, with gratitude that these models of clarity and love exist for your use. You see the negative emotion that has arisen, for example. Without a contraction, without a negative feeling about the arising, you experience compassionate regret that it continues to arise. You know it as a result of conditions. You understand that for the result to cease to arise, the conditions must change. You understand that you are stuck in this place. Then, the two levels of resolution arise; you resolve to clarify this habit energy on the relative level, and on the ultimate level you understand the already existent resolution of the habit. You can see here why training five must precede six, seven and eight.

Within this ultimate level of resolution, you can clearly see the balance or antidote to the heavy energy that has arisen. For example, if there is jealousy, you do not try to feel joyful for the one who has received, so much as to find that already existent joy and the willingness to nurture it. When there is restlessness in mind and body, you both resolve to allow the release of restlessness and you see clearly the entire resolution of restlessness, which is peace, tranquility and stillness. And you find those already existent in the Self. There is the willingness to not perpetuate the contracted energy of the restlessness but to turn one’s focus to that which is more spacious.

If you see a being act in a brutal way toward another, and a strong judgment arises in the mind, right there with the judgment you note the possibility of compassion. You do not hold to the stories of judgment; you note that holding as old habit. Working with either the four empowerments¹ or seven-branch prayer, you resolve to allow the arising of compassion; you see the already existent compassion and realize that you have the choice to either hold on to the judgment, or to shift into compassion. You see the nondual nature of judgment and compassion, and that judgment is simply a distortion of compassion, a fear-based expression of the inherently compassionate mind. You do not have to get rid of judgment for compassion to be known; judgment will go when it is ready. The question is whether you will focus your attention on the judgment and become caught in its stories, caught in the negativity of judging judgment; or whether you will know judgment as a distorted expression, and joyfully release it. In either case, you may move to stop the abuser. The judgment mind will attack with negativity. The compassionate mind will stop the abuse with loving energy. It will know how to say no with kindness, without fear or contraction.

The ninth training is a deepening level of the understanding of egolessness. Here one becomes more stable in opening to that deep interconnection of All That Is. When something pulls you out of that spaciousness and integration, you know that you are out. You understand that it is a temporary result of conditions. You do not take it as truth. You work with that experience of separation in the same way that you have worked with difficult body, emotion and mind experiences in the sixth, seventh and eighth trainings. Thus, separation and the arising of the small ego self are seen through Awareness. The greater Self is readily accessible. You understand that you go in one direction or the other by habit and choice.

The tenth training is the deeper resolution of duality. One experiences oneself as a pole, feet grounded in the relative, and we could say here the base and lower chakras grounded in the relative, head and upper chakras grounded in the ultimate. The heart is that which holds it all together. At this level, you truly become an instrument of Light. I do not want to suggest that those in the lower trainings and with heartfelt intention to transcend negativity are not instruments of light, but they are instruments of light in training. The tenth level is the first of more mature service to the light. It is the first level where the automatic response to negativity is to offer it love, to draw it into the light, to draw the negativity up inward into the light and bring the light downward into the negativity. This is possible because you are touching both. You cannot touch both so long as there is residual aversion to negativity, and so long as there is duality.

At this point, the vibrational frequency in all of the bodies is in the process of major transformation. The person at this level is increasingly able to experience negativity as a low frequency vibration, and to understand experientially the power of light as tool. At this level, there still may be karma to resolve so there may not be full liberation, but there is the understanding that liberation is in sight. At the full maturity of the tenth training and initiation, often–in Buddhist terms–is the once-returner. The eleventh to fifteenth levels of trainings and initiations repeat the cycle. In trainings eleven through thirteen, the adept is using his/her mastery of light in a continual way to transform negative energy as it arises in body, emotions and mind. The fourteenth training often leads one to a more profound enlightenment experience and the ability to easily hold both the personality self and the Ground of Being. This may be the first experience of no-self, as contrasted with the dissolution of the ego. The fifteenth training and initiation is of the deepening learning to stably hold this Light, not only into the inner experiences but into the outer world. Here of course we are at the level of non-returner, although many such beings choose to return in service. Karma is resolved to the degree that karma does not force return. There is still some karma, it comes to fruition quickly and is resolved with light.

Now we move to the higher training. I think you can see where this is going. Once this mastery is in place, anything may be done with light. The being that has done this work while deeply grounded in positive polarity, with deepest intention for the good of all beings, will use these deeper practices for healing. By healing I mean the healing of distortion on the physical, emotional and mental levels, in itself and everywhere in the world, wherever that healing is requested. The Entities here are great masters. The tools they use are those of light. All of the practices alluded to in the book (Anna, Grandmother of Jesus) are real; cellular regeneration, light conception and so forth. Back in the times of Lemuria and Atlantis, these were common practices, but the beings were higher density, not third density beings.

The work now is to teach the third density human to bring forth these practices that were once known and were lost through the ages of heavy density human experiences. It is not necessary that just because you have a heavier density body you cannot still work with light. In this process, the earth and all upon it is raised up in vibrational frequency.

Some of you are higher density adepts, bodhisattvas really, returned to help carry forth this transformation. Some of you are third density beings ready for transformation, and who have brought this forth through your courage and repeated growth through endless incarnations in this third density plane. You are all seeking one thing together: the movement of matter into light, without the loss of any of the beautiful qualities of matter. This shift has the power to literally transform the universe. That is why darkness so fears it.

Darkness wishes to keep matter at a low vibration, for darkness itself is a low vibration. It is based on fear, hatred, greed and self-centeredness. Light understands self-centeredness as Self-centeredness, which means holding All-that-Is is at the center. It understands that it is this All-that-Is. Negative polarity puts the personality self at the center. One is constantly at odds with the other; thus there is constant contraction.

The Entities here are not only assisting with physical healing. That is one gift of their work. But the core of their work is the bringing forth of the Light into this earth plane. We who do this work simply call ourselves brothers and sisters of Light. You are also brothers and sisters of Light, still in training, just as we (brothers and sisters of Light) are still in training. We are always learning. We are all beings, incarnate and discarnate, with the objective to bring forth greater and greater Light into the universe.

1. Four empowerments and Seven Branch Prayer: See Aaron's book The Awakened Heart, Deep Spring Center, Parts 1-3, pp. 4-27.

>Know with His Knowing
An Excerpt from A Christmas Story

December 19, 2007

 The full talk is on the DSC web site.

Aaron: Barbara said this is one of her favorite annual events. I think it’s my favorite. I especially love the many young people joining us here. Thank you for coming. For those who are new here tonight, in that lifetime in which our brother Jeshua, or Jesus as some of you call Him, walked the earth, about 2000 years ago, in that lifetime I had the great fortune to know him. These stories come out of that friendship and what I learned from him.

I first knew Him when He was a small boy, as my father and I were part of the Essene school that made a space for His birth, and welcomed Him. He was taken away soon after that birth for His own safety. But when He returned, I had the great fortune to be able to spend time with him. Although I was five years older than Jeshua, we had much love for one another.

I remember once when we were in the gardens of the Essene community and many of the children were chasing butterflies. Everybody wanted, not to catch a butterfly to harm it but simply to hold it, to have butterflies land on them. So when a butterfly flew close, they would reach out for it. Such grabbing is natural for a child.

If you were a butterfly and somebody grabbed at you, would you land? No? (children in audience saying no) No, they flew away. The more they flew away, the more the children grabbed. But Jeshua, perhaps aged 4 or 5, simply sat himself down on the grass and invited the butterflies. He just sat there and the light shined out of him. I would imagine He had a sweet scent like the flowers have, because within a short while He was coated in butterflies in every color, dancing and walking over his skin. He was radiant and they were radiant. They were of different sizes and colors. The other children watched in awe. “How did you do that?” He said, “I’m not doing anything.”

And that’s the trick. How hard it is to do nothing, not to grasp, not to reach out and actively try to draw to you, what will come to you if you simply sit and invite it with your heart. This doesn’t mean you make no effort. He had to go out to the garden. If He had locked himself in a room, the butterflies would not have had access. But once you put yourself in the place in which that which you are inviting can come freely to you, then all you have to do is invite. I want to talk more about this principle with you tonight, and the ways that He demonstrated it so beautifully.

How do we manifest anything in our lives, whether it is spiritual or material? In the Essene school, children were taught from a young age, how to work with their heavy emotions. Sometimes there would be anger or fear or greed; this is normal for the human. Every human feels these emotions.

I should have brought some rubber bands with me tonight. Those who were in my last class are laughing. We’ll use this instead (a watch with stretchable band). Can you see the tension in it? And can you see that it also has the nature to be free of tension? (dangling the band) No tension. Tension comes and right there with the tension is that which is tensionless.

The same is true of all of you. Sometimes tension comes. If you forget that that tensionlessness, that ease and softness and openheartedness, are there, you may think, “I have to get rid of the tension. I have to get rid of my anger.” That’s like twisting the rubber band, making more tension.

But what if you ask, “Right here with tension, where is that which is free of tension?” In my class this semester, I advocated that people literally put a rubber band around their wrist so it’s soft, but when anger came up, to put it over the hand and feel the tension in it. If tension releases, put it back on the wrist again. If the tension remains, take the rubber band off and look at it, how soft and relaxed it is, and find that tension free place within your self where there is no fear, where there is no anger or grasping. Remember the source. Remember what you are.

So in the Essene schools, young children were taught to work this way with their emotions and also within the material world. When there was something that was wanted, not to say, “Where is it? How am I going to get it?” with fear but simply to note, “It’s right here. I invite it.” In this way picture young Jeshua, sitting in the meadow inviting the butterflies. This openness is at the heart of manifestation.

I’ve told you a story before about how young Jeshua and I went into the hills where my father kept his sheep. Part of the year I was a shepherd and part of the year I lived at the Essene school. So Jeshua was permitted to come to the hills there with me. We were perhaps 6 and 11. It began to rain that night. The weather was damp and cold. My name was Nathaniel in that lifetime. He said, “Nathaniel, light the fire.” Now, he’s a little boy and I’m a big boy. I’m supposed to be able to light a fire. So I got out my flint, but all the wood was wet. I was trying to strike a spark.

He became a little impatient. He said, “Nathaniel, just light the fire!” I said, “I’m trying!” He looked at me, a very piercing look and He said, “Never mind the flint, Nathaniel; put it down.” Then He simply lit the fire, or more accurately, He invited the fire that was already present energetically to express, and it did.

That light, that energy is in all of you. You have the ability to manifest it. He knew that I could light the fire. I wasn’t yet convinced. And because I wasn’t convinced, I couldn’t do it, so, no fire. He lit it in a moment.

What are the fires you are attempting to light in your life, and are you going about it the wrong way, trying to make it happen with wet wood and a flint that won’t strike a spark, instead of finding that which is already light, already open and radiant? Light the fire.

About that same age, we were in those same hills and one of the sheep, a lamb, was missing. Of course I was concerned. I couldn’t leave young Jeshua alone; I was responsible for His safety, and I didn’t want to take Him with me out of the shelter into the storm to find this lamb.

He said, “Nathaniel, let me come. We’ll find him quickly.” There was another boy with us, just a little younger than me. So the three of us began to walk out. Driving sleet was coming down. It was cold. It was wet. Jeshua looked up at me and said, “Are you going to let us get wet?” “What choice do we have, it’s sleeting?” I heard the words, “Abba” from Him. Then I could only see that in some way He opened up a force field. It was like an energetic umbrella that covered us, and there was heat. This child, younger than any of you I would say, this 5- or 6-year-old boy, simply allowed himself to draw in that energy of the universe and let it light Him up so that there was a shelter, literally. He was radiating light. So we walked out into the fields and very quickly we heard the lamb alone crying and bleating, picked her up and carried her back to safety.

You think these things are impossible but they are not impossible. YOU cannot do it from this ego that you are, but you can do it when you remember that you are divine and that you are always connected to the source.

He thought of that source as Abba, not so much Father in an awed and respected way, but Abba, Daddy. This is the father in whose lap you comfortably sit, who hugs you and protects you. Why would that Daddy let you get cold and wet in the rain? So when we asked him, “How do you do this?” He said, “I don’t do this; Abba provides what I need. He always provides what we need. All we have to do is ask.” But you in your small selves, you forget that you are connected to the source and you forget to ask.

Once in later years, this was when he was an adult but before He had begun His ministry, several of us were walking a number of days’ journey across the countryside. We had some food with us; we had warm robes. But that first day we came to some beggars, people who were sickly and hungry, and He immediately pulled out what food we were carrying and gave it out. He removed His robe and gave it to a sick man. And as we were watching him, we knew we could not do less. So there we were with dusk coming, without food and without our warm robes.

As the sun began to fall, those of us who accompanied Him became tense, a little bit afraid. It will be dark; we won’t have food, we won’t have shelter. What will we do? He looked at us as if we were from some other planet. “What will you do? It is already provided. Don’t worry. Don’t worry.”

At that point, He sat down. There was a small clearing beside the road and some rocks. And he sat down, simply sat, began to meditate or pray. So we sat and watched Him for a bit. He began to give off light, just a faint glow as if he was lit from within, and the air around Him picked up that light. Within a few minutes, a man appeared. It turned out he lived up on the hillside; we had not noticed his house. He came down and said to us, “You must be cold and hungry. Please come and be my guest.”

There were four of us who went up to this man’s house. He had a very comfortable home. And he provided for us, his wife cooked for us a very beautiful meal. Actually, it was already cooked, more than just enough for his family. It’s clear that at some level he was expecting visitors. And then they gave us blankets and a place to sleep by the fire in their living room, so to speak. Four beds were already laid there.

We talked much of the night. I said this was Jeshua before He had begun his formal ministry, but He loved to talk of the Father, of Abba, the Source, and how we are all connected to that Source, how to rest in that love. This man was entranced by what Jeshua said. When morning came, he gave us breakfast and then insisted, “I am going to walk with you for the day. My brother lives a day’s walk from here. It will be good to see him. And he’ll want you to stay at his house tonight.” So we all walked together, walking and talking. And sure enough, near dusk we came to the brother’s house. While there were no telephones or email in those days, somehow the brother knew. He said, “I’ve been expecting you.” And he also had food in abundance for us, and blankets.

The next morning, the first brother returned home. The second brother insisted he would walk with us for another day to a friend’s house. And so it went for a week; we went from house to house, village to village. Somehow, I can’t explain how, but word spread that we were coming. Perhaps the birds or butterflies carried the message, I don’t know. But as we came to new houses, there wasn’t just the family that lived there, but slowly there were more people who wanted to hear this Teacher who came speaking of the beloved Father, speaking of love.

It was the first time that I ever traveled for a week with no supplies at all, and it was a very powerful learning experience, because in the past, when I would go up in the hills with my sheep, for example, I always carried the food I needed and extra supplies for an emergency. There was no trust. But in this week I learned I truly can trust; my needs will be met.

Many lifetimes later, as a Buddhist monk, I had the opportunity to touch back upon that trust. The monks go on tudong, traveling around the countryside with their alms bowl and a cloak for an extended journey. No food, money, or medicines: nothing else but bowl and robe that they might need may be carried. There’s an enormous trust that those whom they meet will give them food and shelter while the monks share the dhamma.

The first time that I went on such tudong as a young monk, fear came up. “I’m going to be going far from home, traveling for several months. What if I starve?” But when I meditated, somehow a sense of trust awakened in me. When you ask and are present and know that your needs will be met, they are met. It is this knowing that is so important.

Several years ago, Barbara, talking directly with Jeshua, channeled through Judy Coates¹, was speaking with Him of her upcoming trip to the healing center in Brazil, and of the blindness in one eye. Jeshua said to her, “Visualize the swelling decreasing, the unneeded excess flowing/draining away. Know that it is returning to its perfect size and condition. Know it. Use My knowing, if you desire.” Then Jeshua said again, “Know it with My knowing.”

What does it mean to know it with His knowing? What is His knowing? It means knowing from that place of non-separation that knows the faucet is connected to the pipe, is connected to the reservoir, is connected to an infinite source. He said so often and is quoted in your scriptures as saying, “Ask and it will be given.” He speaks of, for example, the lilies of the field, which are cared for by the sun, the rain and the nutritious soil. But you, you think you have to grasp and strive.

To know with His knowing is to come back to that place that knows the source. You can only find that source by meditating, touching deeply into that place of connection. It’s not a connection that you have to do anything to create; it already exists: you just have to remember it.

To know with His knowing, this is what you are looking for in your lives. Could it be, like with the rubber band, that the lack of it is experienced and also the full presence of it? On one level, there’s lack. On another, it’s already here. Here is an example.

João Teixeira de Faria, who is a channel for many different healing entities, heads the Casa de Dom Inácio in Brazil, the healing center where Barbara has visited. He moves into a trance and they come into his body, one at a time. Last year Barbara came up to ask the entity, “What about the hearing now, where are we with it?” And he said, “You will hear. Be patient.” But she felt uncertain. Was this promised healing really possible?

At the time, her lip was bleeding severely. In the ocean accident several years ago, an artery was punctured deep in the lip and the scab kept opening; it didn’t heal. Finally, she was scheduled after this Brazil trip to have some surgery on it here in the United States, to have it repaired. So she had a handkerchief over her lip because it had opened that morning and was spouting blood. The entity said, “You will hear. Be patient.” And he lifted the handkerchief, looked at the lip and said, “But that we can take care of now.”

He didn’t even touch it; he just looked at it. Within minutes, the bleeding stopped. Within three days, the scabbed that had formed fell off; her lip has remained perfect. Her physician here in Ann Arbor, when he looked at it the next month, said, “Maybe I need to go to Brazil!”

Barbara realized as she sat there holding this handkerchief over the wound that had just stopped bleeding, that she had a choice. Jeshua’s words, “Know with My knowing,” came back to her. She could refuse to believe, thinking, “That’s impossible. They can’t possibly have fixed this: it just temporarily stopped; it’s going to start again,” and deny herself from entry into that reality in which the bleeding had stopped. Or she could permit herself to know that reality. Right there with the bleeding was the Ever-Perfect lip and it was now expressing its perfection and could continue to do so.

Right there with your financial problems is abundance. Right there with your bad cold and cough is a system that is completely free of that cold virus. It’s not either/or; both exist. Where do you choose to put your focus? You know with His knowing when you know both are here. Therefore, if the lip is bleeding, I need to hold the handkerchief over it. If I am coughing, perhaps I want a tissue to cough into so I don’t spread this virus. There is no denial of the present moment. But also lip is healed and the lack of the virus is there.

As with Jeshua with the butterflies, He had to come out of the building and into the field. To seek abundance, you must place yourself in the situation where the abundance can come to you. You cannot simply hide from it and say, “Well, come on and find me!” Make yourself accessible to it. But it’s always there. To know the ever-healed body and mind, you must be open to it. Know it with His knowing.

1. Jeshua, channeled through Judith Coates:

Letter from the Editor
Rori Stienstra, Newsletter Manager

Dear Deep Spring friends,

It has now been over a year since this newly formed group of volunteers has taken on the task and privilege of bringing you the newsletter. It has been sometimes an adventure, sometimes a comedy of errors and always, for me, a wonderful and heart-opening journey into the Dharma and the workings of dedicated seekers and teachers–this Sangha.

The newsletter comes from Ann Arbor, Ohio and California! We work together electronically, sending material and ideas back and forth until it is ready to print. Barbara, Roann and Alice have provided us with the gift of experience, having navigated the newsletter process many times before. Maria was in Rhode Island for the first round and has since moved back to California. Learning as we went, we fumbled through our first issue together. Laurie brought her previous experience to the task a year ago with our second issue. I can’t begin to tell you how much respect and appreciation I have for these friends who rise to the occasion three times each year and pull the pieces together into a whole.

We began with the basics and are now expanding to include the richness and activity of Sangha life. The teachings of Barbara and Aaron are central to each newsletter. Last round we invited the DSC teachers to contribute, bringing fresh voices and perspectives, their unique ways of understanding and sharing the Dharma. Many thanks to Susan Weir for the VM series, for coordinating the communication between teachers and the newsletter, and to the generous spirit of the teachers.

With this issue we begin to formally share information on the committees and groups that keep the Sangha running. You will receive updates on retreat planning and other new initiatives. Since social committee activities are planned in the short term, you will find the most current social events information on the DSC webpage under Sangha and Social.

For the next issue we are inviting sangha members to submit works of their heart for publication: photography, art, or poetry; expressions of the creative spirit as inspired by the Dharma. Information on how to submit will be available shortly. Check your e-mail or the information table at DSC in January.

We hope you have been enjoying the newsletter through its evolution. Comments, suggestions and inquiries are welcome. Send us an e-mail at or use the newsletter mailbox at the Sangha. I am so deeply blessed to be a part of this community. Thank you one and all for your kindness and friendship.

Love and Peace,

Letter from the Board
Curt Fish,
 Board President

December 2008

Deep Spring Sangha Members,

Each fall, Deep Spring’s board gets together for long-range planning and member transition. This year was no different. We got together at Linda Longo’s house and spent some time saying goodbye to our outgoing board members and saying hello to our new board members.

The two outgoing board members are Susan Klimist and Delyth Balmer. Both have served on the board for three years and have done much for Deep Spring. During the past year, Delyth has served as Board Secretary, taking meeting minutes and distributing them for review after the meetings. Metta and much appreciation to both for their years of service.

Our new board members are Sherry Hansen and Anna Teare. Sherry has agreed to serve as understudy for the Treasurer (Linda Longo), preparing to take over the role when Linda leaves next year. Anna has stepped right in to the role of Secretary, and has already taken and distributed minutes for the September meeting. Metta and much appreciation to both for their willingness to serve.

Besides hellos and goodbyes, we also did a fair bit of strategic planning, both at the retreat and at the September meeting. We came up with many ideas for initiatives for the coming year. Of course, we had many more ideas than time to do them, so we had to narrow the list down to a manageable size. Paring down the list, we came up with the following collection of high-priority initiatives for the coming year:

  • Location — form a committee and find a new location, or negotiate the best possible deal for our current location.
  • Deep Spring Archives — Get the site up and running, and put the processes in place to keep it up-to-date.
  • Communications — We believe we can improve communications among the board, the teachers, the office and the sangha. We’ll look for ways to do just that.
  • Visioning framework — Take the visioning work that’s been done over the last few years and organize it into a framework that helps us discover and prioritize needs.
  • Board books — We need to be a little more systematic about maintaining our board books, and strike the right balance between digital and hard copies.

Of course, we’re going to need the help of committed volunteers to bring these initiatives to fruition. In particular, we’re actively recruiting volunteers for the Location committee. We need people who are interested in the future location of Deep Spring and have creative ideas for new space and/or ways to make the most of our existing space. We also need people to research possible locations and associated costs. In fact, we need all the help we can get! Send me an e-mail ( to get involved.

And, finally, just one more thing to bring into awareness: We are right in the middle of the giving season. If you have not yet received a letter asking for your contribution to Deep Spring, you will soon. Please give the letter your attention, and act with an open heart.

With metta,

DSC Committees' News

Social Committee

The social committee has some amazing fun stuff on the calendar, so everyone get their pencils out and mark this down! All events have flyers made available on the DSC buffet table. Nov 4 and Nov 9 flyers are out.

Dec. 14: 12:30-1:30pm DSC DRUM CIRCLE! Every 2nd Sunday of the month an open drum circle gathers at DSC. With the positive response over the summer, this activity will continue. Future dates to note: Jan 11, Feb 8 Contact: Alice Brown 734 776-2284.

Nov. 30: 4-8pm TURKEY TREK! A 5-mile hike through old Ann Arbor neighborhoods and along the Huron River, with a potluck gourmet dinner. Bring an appetizer, main dish or dessert to share and beverages of your choice, plus water. Heather O'Neal will provides plates and silverware and offers to carry food; you carry personal water/drinks. Rain or shine. Free. Meet @ 120 Eighth St at 4pm. DSC contact is Tom Slank: 313 347-5843.

Dec: date TBD ANNUAL WHITE ELEPHANT PARTY! Pull your elephants out of the closets and attics, wrap them up and bring them to a special Holiday Party. Hunt, trade, and get that special elephant. Eat, sing, drink and be merry…. @ Linda Longo's 7pm 1907 Frieze Ave , Ann Arbor 668-1735.


Bilha Birma-Rivlin and Linda Longo are stepping down, leaving Tom Slank to carry on alone.

Contact Linda, Bilha or Tom if you'd like to join and help continue these kinds of sangha get-togethers. Linda Longo @ 734 668-1735 or email: Bilha Birma-Rivlin @ 734 330-9376 or email: Tom Slank @ 313 347-5843 or email:

Bookstore Update

The DSC bookstore continues to self-publish Aaron books and to facilitate book orders for classes. Books currently on the shelves are for sale, but once these books are sold they will not be replaced. When the bookstore opened it was very difficult to find Dharma books. Now these books are widely available. Since most of our independent sources for ordering books have gone out of business, books are being purchased from Amazon, which can easily be done by individuals. Please stop by the office to see what is still available on the shelves. There is an order form at the end of the newsletter for ordering Aaron materials. Contact Susan Klimist or the office manager with questions

Retreat Committee

The Retreat Committee opened its August meeting with a small birthday celebration for Mary Grannan. We are very grateful to Mary and Peg Tappe for years of dedicated service, and appreciate their support as we learn the ropes. After welcoming new members, we discussed the format of signing up to be responsible for one retreat. This way the work would be limited to one meeting before, one meeting after, and then organizing the retreat. The last piece of business was a report on the search for a new June retreat site. We have a strong possibility and will keep the sangha posted as details are finalized. Retreat committee contacts are Karen Mori and Hugh Danville. The list of committee members can be found on the DSC website.

The Deep Spring Archives web site is online!

We’re happy to announce the official launch of the Deep Spring Archives web site. The site is our sangha’s online searchable archive of dharma talk transcripts, newsletters, and much more. At this site, you can use the menus to navigate through the document archives, or use the search box to type in words and search across all archived documents. If you’ve ever used Google, you’ll feel right at home searching the Deep Spring Archives.

To use the Deep Spring Archives, open your web browser and go to There’s also a link to it from the main Deep Spring web site. Give it a try and let us know what you think. What’s useful? What could be improved? What else would you like to see on this site? E-mail all comments to Deep Spring would like express the deepest of gratitude to Terry Gliedt for his tireless efforts in making this possible. From researching and recommending technologies to importing documents into the system to working and re-working and re-reworking the menus, Terry has really given his all to make the Deep Spring Archive a reality. Thanks and kudos for a job well done, Terry!

DSC Teachers on … What Inspires Practice

Dorothy Ann (Dottie) Coyne

I began to meditate in 1971 or thereabouts, learning Transcendental Meditation, a concentration practice focused on mantra. Bernie and I both began this practice together. At the time, Bernie’s university students were beginning to smoke pot and “get high” and he was concerned for them and was searching for another way for them to alter their state of consciousness and yet not hurt themselves. As for myself, our intimate relationship was marred by fatigue, which manifested in bouts of anger between us. Our four children were in elementary school in those years and we were stressed and strung out.

The twenty minutes in the AM and the twenty minutes in the PM that TM proscribed really put us back together. I have often said that “meditation saved our marriage” and I truly believe that the minutes of rest and recovery that the practice offered gave us just what we needed as we led our too busy lives over 35 years ago. This reality inspired me then to get to the cushion every day and also inspired me to want to share it with others.

In the recent 20 years, my practice has shifted to Vipassana as I moved from Ohio to Michigan and began my studies with Barbara. The children are now grown and gone to their own lives and Bernie and I continue to sit together with renewed motivation. Now I am inspired by the increasing skillfulness we continually seem to develop in our personal relationship and in all aspects of our lives. My studies of Buddhist psychology led me to greater and greater understanding of how I was making myself unhappy and has given me ways to let go of unskillful identifications and behaviors.

Perhaps the greatest inspiration for me in the present moment is the sangha of Deep Spring itself. As I share life and learning with my friends at Deep Spring, I am increasingly renewed by an appreciation of the beauty of this practice of mindful awareness and its power to transform my life.

David Lawson

When I first read a brief summary of the story of Ramana Maharshi’s life, I was completely drawn to him for some reason that I did not understand. Then, upon later merely seeing a picture of him, I realized that I had to learn as much as possible about his life and teachings as I could. Ramana Maharshi was a Hindu Advaita (non-duality) master who, at the age of 17, left home to find his way to the holy mountain of Arunachala in southern India. Having been abruptly and mysteriously drawn to the mountain, he lived there for the remainder of his life. Eventually, people started coming to him, often to simply sit in his silent presence. Here is something he said that I would like to share with you:

“There is neither creation nor destruction, neither destiny nor free will, neither path nor achievement. This is the final truth.”

A Monthly Retreat:
Days of Meditation at Michigan Friends Center

Carol Blotter and Retreatants

Once a month, a Day of Meditation is offered on the wooded property of Michigan Friends Center in Chelsea. Just being at the Center and on the land is a gift to give yourself. The quiet pine trees, the beauty of the lake down the lane, and the wandering paths through the woods contribute to the sense of being “home.”

Each day is led by Carol Blotter, senior teacher of the Forest Way and Deep Spring Center. The day begins at 9am and ends around 4 pm. These Days of Meditation are fundraisers for Deep Spring Center and Michigan Friends Center.

A Typical Day

After tea and coffee we start by settling down, making introductions, and giving instructions for the focus of the day. Past topics have included “Seeking Love,” “Letting Go,” “Gratitude,” “Forgiveness,” and “What is Meditation?”

Beginners then receive instruction in the basics of meditation practice by Deep Spring Center teacher Peg Tappe. Here participants learn about concentration and mindfulness in sitting and walking insight meditation. During this time experienced meditators may sit or walk in silence.

After lunch, there is a group question-and-answer period. Here the teachers will respond to particular questions or issues relating to practice or to life. A Dharma talk and guided meditation end the day.

Comments from Participants

  • A simple reason for coming to the all-day retreat as compared to a longer, residential retreat is that it is practical. The all day proved to be excellent practice for developing moment-to-moment awareness in my everyday life. I find whenever I make the time to look deeply, deep insight comes.
  • For me, the Day of Meditation was an opportunity to spend a day energizing my practice. Energizing it by relaxing in a safe comfortable non-threatening environment. It provided me with a chance to be alone–but with the support of a kind, gentle and trusting group and clear and understandable teachings.
  • The Day of Meditation was a wonderful opportunity to step out of the constant bustle of everyday life and restore some balance. The setting is beautiful, the group size was perfect, and the program was well constructed. The two walking meditations were really well-timed. I’d done walking meditation before, but the simple breathing instruction we got made a world of difference to the experience. The teachers were very well grounded in the techniques (and much more) and I felt very confident in their instruction.
  • The retreat last weekend was very sweet. I consider that one of the strong points was that we were allowed to craft the experience that was most meaningful to our individual needs. There were kindness and support for us available at whatever level we needed for meditation practice and for what was arising in our personal circumstances. Also, the calm and tranquility of the woods and lake helped me stabilize my thoughts.
  • The Friends Center is the perfect location for a day of meditation–the formal sitting, class discussions, and time to wander the beautiful grounds all fit so well together.
  • I particularly enjoy the small break-out groups. The opportunity for sharing and listening to others do the same–and the teacher’s responses–are wonderful moments. For me they highlight the sameness of us all–the fact that what we experience on our paths is experienced by others. The intimacy of a small open and trusting group always seems to bring me closer to the humanity we all share.
  • I was a little nervous–this was my first day-long retreat. Your clear way of organizing the day into chunks of sitting, walking, and talks made it feel manageable.
  • As a "lapsed meditator," I needed some help in getting back into the swing of things. My mind had been racing and I was having trouble sitting still enough to calm it down. I decided to attend the Day of Meditation in Chelsea. It was exactly what I needed! A perfect balance of gentle instruction, ample time to practice the instruction, a beautiful setting, and profound spiritual teachings. It really got me back into my practice, so I can’t recommend it enough.
Mindfulness in Mexico:
Reflections on a Life and a Retreat

Ann Barden

As many local “Deep Springers” know, my husband Hernan and I spend our winters in Mexico. Our home away from the Michigan weather is in a small city called San Miguel de Allende. It is located in the mountains north of Mexico City where the sun shines for at least 8 hours on 320 days of the year. It is not the beach. The elevation is 6200-6400 feet above sea level. That ensures that, even if the day is hot, the nights are cool. The city is beautiful–full of flowering plants, colorful buildings, Spanish colonial architecture, and warm generous people. Recently, San Miguel was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We live simply here. We don’t have a car, but our small house at the edge of the central district is within walking distance of almost everything we want to do or see. If we need a ride, there are bright green taxis readily available.

Hernan, who was born in Chile, is completely bilingual. He loves the opportunity to use his Spanish as he moves around the city. My Spanish is a work-in-progress, and probably always will be. What makes that comfortable for me here is the kindness of the Mexicans toward my attempts to understand and be understood and a stable North American ex-patriot community. That ex-pat presence has been here for 50 years or more, and is well-integrated into the life of the city. Those folks have also brought with them the northern idea of community service and have established multiple non-profit organizations in the area. These organizations provide health care, rescue animals, establish libraries, set aside nature preserves and botanical gardens, and support much art and music in the community. There are two well-known art schools here, also. It is a culturally rich place with opportunities for learning, for volunteering, and for being entertained.

So why did I title this article “Mindfulness in Mexico”? One of the ex-pat establishments here that has been very meaningful to me is a small Meditation Center ( I walk there (about 8 minutes) to sit and meditate at the regularly scheduled sittings Monday Saturday. There is a small resident community that supports the Center. It is used, though, by many others who may be here permanently or more temporarily. I have done some teaching there for folks who live here or are visiting. I have been thinking, however, about what kind of experience might attract people from the north. That is why I chose this title. There is a plan incubating for me to lead a Practice Intensive here in November, 2009.

It is not a retreat, since attendees would be housed in various places in the town. It would begin on Friday evening with a public dharma talk. On Saturday and Sunday, participants would gather at the Meditation Center from 10 am to 4 pm for teaching and meditation. On Monday Thursday, they would join regular Center attendees at the 8:00 and 8:50 am sittings. These would be followed by discussion until 10:30, when participants would be free to take their practices to the streets and explore the town in various ways. There would be opportunities for individual interviews throughout the week, and some kind of “closing” on Thursday. The size would be limited to 12 participants.

So, this is the basic concept. In a beautiful, historic, culturally rich setting we will work with the connections between mindfulness on the cushion and mindfulness on the streets. It is intended to support making our practice include all experiences of our lives, not just when we meditate.

The development of the program is a work-in-progress, but the dates have been set for November 13-19, 2009. No fees have been set yet but, obviously, the largest expense will be travel. There will be more specific information about costs and arrangement for housing available by the summer of 2009. Meanwhile, feel free to call me or email me with questions or enthusiasm at 734-994-1026 or

Aaron's Closing Quote

This process takes courage, perseverance, faith, and love. As you permit it to happen, you begin to find an undreamed-of wholeness. There is no longer a wall between your conscious mind and your heart, no longer a separation in yourself. There are no longer places that must be hidden. You learn to open to yourself and trust what you find there. What you once buried becomes the fertile ground for exploration. The burned out material from that old subsurface fire becomes the compost heap that provides the rich soil for growth. Always there is growing compassion, forgiveness, and love.

Aaron (2003)