Newsletter, Volume 17, Number 2, Spring/Summer 2009


Amazing Grace: Letter from Barbara
Barbara Brodsky

Releasing Limitation: This is Freedom

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

Gratitude and Power: Connections with the Earth

Vision for Aaron and Barbara's New Two-Year Program

Letter from the Board
Curt Fish, Board President

DSC Committees' News

DSC Teachers' Sharings
Dianne Austin and Peg Tappe

Aaron's Closing Quote

Amazing Grace: Letter from Barbara
Barbara Brodsky

Out my window is a view of melting snow and mud, a typical mid- February day in Michigan. I returned home yesterday from my sixth trip to Casa de Dom Inácio in Brazil, the healing center run by João Teixeira de Faria, or John of God as he is affectionately called. The trip was part of my quest to overcome 36 years of deafness, and to find healing in various aspects of body, mind and spirit. My mind is still full of Brazil, of flowers, smiles, and the amazing love and energy of the place and people.

“You will hear,” the numerous Entities who incorporate into João’s body have told me for the past three years. “Be patient.” And, “What would you like to hear first?” people have often asked me when they learn about my travels there. ‘“My childrens’ voices,” I reply, “or the song ‘Amazing Grace.’” Although that song was written when I could still hear, I only came to know it after I was deaf. I learned all the words, and loved them, but I had no idea of the melody or even of the rhythm of the music. Somehow I’ve always trusted, “I will hear this song some day.”

The first day at the Casa I was sent to surgery, my usual first experience there with each visit. After several quiet days recovering in my room, and the surgery review, the Entity incorporated in João’s body told me to sit in his “current,” as they call the meditation room where the Entity does his work. This is also what usually happens for me, sitting there through the current sessions for the remaining weeks. We sit with eyes closed in meditation for between 2 and 4 hours each Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning, and again in the afternoon. They do the majority of their healing work in these current rooms.

The very powerful energy has a reciprocal basis; the Entities support us and work on us while we meditate, and we support each other, João, and spirit as we meditate and hold the energy field. The third week, I sat in the Entity’s Current on a Friday morning feeling a little low in energy and also a bit sad, reflecting that I was three weeks into my five-week trip and little had happened. They continue to tell me, “You will hear,” and I do believe that, but sometimes it’s harder to have faith in that statement. So I sat in the current with these feelings, just noting as they became predominant, “low energy, lethargic, sad, contracted.” Emotions and physical sensations will arise and fall away. My practice is just to note them and not become self-identified, not to create stories about these mind and body states.

I was drowsing a bit when the touch came, a firm two hands on either side of my head. Sometimes, not often, the Entity gets up from his chair and walks across the room, touches someone sitting in the Current or even leads them to another place. I sat, eyes still closed, feeling like a bolt of lightening had touched me. The hands held on both sides of my head firmly for about ten seconds, and then gave it a small shake. Needless to say, I was no longer sleepy. Mind became very still and focused. I sat up straight and had a deep and energized three hours of meditation.

Beside the energy experience, I also felt deeply loved and seen, that my needs were truly known and recognized. I was told later that it was Dr. Valdivino incorporated at that session, the Entity who has been working with me most consistently through these years. He knew how I was feeling and gave that support. It’s a good reminder that the Entities do know my needs and are helping me, as they keep reminding me verbally. As the hands released, a flow of my tears also released, and tension I didn’t know I was feeling. My head continued to tingle there for the rest of the afternoon and evening and into the weekend. Doubt dissolved. I know that right there with deafness is hearing. My practice the past few visits has been to focus less on “getting” hearing, but on knowing that which can already hear and supporting it. There is no denial of the deafness, just simultaneous acknowledgment that the basis for hearing is also there.

Every Sunday morning there is an English language Interfaith Service held at the Casa. I often go when there is someone willing to sign for me, but have never gone alone, as I would just sit with no way to know what was said. That Sunday I felt moved to attend, though I struggled with it a bit, thinking I would regret it since I could not hear anything. The pull was strong though illogical, but my heart said, “Go.” When the service started, the man leading it began to talk and I just closed my eyes and sat meditating for half an hour. Then I felt a higher energy in the room, and some perception of music. I was literally hearing musical sounds, melody. I can’t say how I was hearing it, whether in the body or the ears, but it was not just tinnitus, but true music. I opened my eyes to find the gathered group singing. One man was standing, and it was his voice I was hearing. I recognized him as a man I had seen singing several times during the preceding week, on the stage in the main hall, and elsewhere.

As my eyes focused on his face, I began to lip-read the words, “How precious did that Grace appear, the hour that first I believed.” He was leading the group singing Amazing Grace. I was hearing the music! I turned to face him and let the music come deep into my heart. Each note reverberated there. We went through all seven verses. Each note had clarity and a purity of sound. My body was shaking so hard I could hardly control it, and tears were streaming down my face. As the closing notes sounded, I had to run from the room, sobbing. A friend came out to help me, and learn the cause of my tears, then hugged me and cried with me when she heard the story.

When spirit opens doors, she does it in a whole-hearted way. The singer, Stephen, is a well-known baritone opera singer. One person who read about this in my journal said, “What a classy reintroduction to the musical world the entities have provided by putting you within ear shot of Stephen! I easily admit to some envy there!” Yes, spirit doesn’t orchestrate things half way. If Amazing Grace is to be the first music I hear, as I had prayed, it will have to be with a world-class singer! When I spoke to Stephen after the service, he was as moved as I was. There are no accidents. We both highly valued this occasion.

Two days later he came to my pousada for a personal concert of Amazing Grace and other songs. At one point I had the opportunity to sing it with him; we had no word sheet; I was the only one who knew the words to all seven verses so I had to sing loud. Stephen said of my singing, “She is hearing it!”

The hearing is not consistent and is still connected only to music, not yet words. But in the remaining two weeks I heard enough more music to know it was real, and would grow and continue.

What is healing? How does this process work? Each time I take another step I realize how little I understand. We move with faith and the intention for the highest good, and have no idea what will happen next, but need to trust the power of loving intention. My highest intention is not to hear but to be of service and move toward whatever is for the highest good of all beings. The intention for hearing is there, but without grasping. Thus, I can’t know what may come next, only trust the process and keep my heart open. If spirit is running the show, then spirit is running the show. Can I let go, as Aaron sometimes asks me, sit back and leave the driving to God/Goddess, whatever power is at the wheel? Perhaps this letting go is the true healing, for only here do we release fear and the contractions of fear and live in Love. When mind and body are uncontracted, we are truly open to the power of Love in our Selves and the universe.

This afternoon I went to the market, needing to fill my empty refrigerator and pantry. I could feel some small tension, on this first day back to everyday life and all the tasks it brings. The body was contracted and my back hurt. I was pushing, not flowing. As I was shopping, a student, not someone I know well, walked up to me with a loving smile and a large bouquet of pink tulips. “These are for you,” she said, indicating with the receipt that she had already paid for them. Just that and a hug and she was gone. What a wonderful reminder. Be present and Love is here. Let go and live in Love.

I won’t be teaching as much this spring and summer, but working hard with Aaron to complete the curriculum for the two-year program, and also to complete a new book. We will have a monthly open night with Aaron, though, to allow us to stay in touch, and Aaron, John and I will lead the June retreat and several out-of-state retreats. I look forward to seeing many of you in these coming months, and wish you all amazing grace and bouquets of pink tulips.

With love, Barbara

Releasing Limitation: This is Freedom
Howell Fall Retreat
October 25, 2008 (Saturday)

Aaron: Good evening. My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron. I hope you’ve all had a very good day. It is a beautiful place to practice. I hope some of you got out, walked on these paths and sat beside the lake.

Barbara was watching a large goose. She was sitting on a dock over the lake and from the other end of the dock, a goose approached her, just walked up to her. He came within about 5 feet and he stopped. It was clear that was his limit. Humans are trustworthy, up to 5 feet! No closer. She sat there motionless. He turned his head; he looked at her. Perhaps he was waiting for some food. There he stood for several minutes.

She began chanting a metta chant in a soft voice. He stood and looked at her for perhaps 20 minutes as she chanted. She chanted; he looked, head sometimes tilted to one side. About once a minute he approached one more footstep, a few inches at a time, and then would pause and looked at her again. She just looked at him and kept chanting, keeping her body motionless. Finally he came close enough that he could have reached out to her, with his strong beak. At that point she said in a louder voice, “That’s close enough.” (laughter) He stopped very willingly and just stood there and looked at her.

I have a point to this story. Each of you has limits in which you have believed; ideas of who and what you are; how far you can go; what you can accomplish for yourself and others in service; how high you can evolve. Sometimes your life invites you to take one more step, and that step may be frightening. Metta keeps singing in your heart, inviting you forward.

Each of you has the ability to take that one more step. That’s what a retreat like this really is about. It’s about the willingness to take it one step further, the willingness to explore areas that you have not previously felt safe to explore, to let go of old limits, old self-concepts, old habits, and begin to express the highest consciousness of which you are presently capable.

This is liberation, perhaps not liberation in the grandest sense, but a very real liberation. Many of you ask me, “What is liberation, Aaron, and when will I get there?” Like the goose, one step at a time.

Today, talking to you, I’ve seen a number of you look at old ways of regarding the mind and the body, that is, ways in which you felt entrapped, and let go. It takes a lot of courage to let go. If you have a fence around you, it holds you in but it also keeps danger out. When you are willing to let go of those fear-based fences, you start to know the unlimited self, the Buddha nature, Christ consciousness, or highest level of your being, and to know that you can express that higher consciousness in the world.

Freedom starts small and simple. If you set out in your practice to say, “In this lifetime I am going to attain arahantship, full liberation,” well, that’s a big step. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. If you don’t, you’re not a failure. What freedom do you have? Do you have more loving relationships now than you did five years ago? Are you more at ease when challenges come up in your life than you were five years ago? Are you less caught up in your own opinions and holding to your own beliefs? Are you more able to hear others? Are you more able to have compassion for others with whom you have a vastly differing view, and not be so attached to self-righteousness about your view and blame others? This is freedom.

Imagine if you had a big thorn in your foot, buried deep under the skin, and every time you put your foot down it hurt. The process of walking hurt, and you did not want that pain, so you suffered. You understand that the pain and the suffering are not the same thing, but sometimes they come together. If you have not recognized the nature of the relationship to the pain and there’s strong grasping to be rid of the pain, you suffer. So here is the thorn creating pain, and here is the suffering based on aversion to the pain and grasping to be free of it.

In that situation, one of two things can happen. There could be a profound enlightenment experience in which you suddenly deeply recognize the nature of your suffering and let go of it. Although the foot still hurts when you walk, there’s no more suffering. That’s very real freedom. There could also be a kind person who comes along and says, “I can take the thorn out,” and removes it for you. Ahhh … That’s also freedom.

I see so many of you disregarding these small levels of freedom, intent on the vast freedom that you hope to attain, but disregarding the reality, “I now have a more loving relationship with certain people in my life than I did a few years ago.” The thorn is working its way out. You haven’t yet fully resolved the suffering but there’s more joy, there’s more ease, there’s more space.

The reason I’m focused on this is that so many of you have a sense of some degree of frustration about your practice because you hold that ideal of full enlightenment, and you’re such perfectionists about yourselves. You are old souls, all of you, and part of the nature of the old soul is to aspire to purity, to clarity, to love. And often old souls are perfectionists. At some level you see that radiance and light to which you aspire, and you see the shadow, what you name as the shadow in the self, and you think you’ve got to scrub it off, that you are only going to be worthy of that light and be able to merge with that light, if you fully purify the shadow.

Well, there’s nothing wrong with that aspiration, to purify the shadow. Certainly that’s wholesome, to release negativity. But, my dear ones, scouring yourself is only going to leave bleeding. You don’t need to scrub the shadow in that way. What you may do is turn to the negative in the self with an open heart, with kindness, and with the wisdom, “This negative thought is simply the result of conditions. I have to attend to the thought so it will not harm another person, but I don’t have to be afraid of the thought: it’s just the result of conditions.” You work to resolve the conditions and simply attend to the results. You must attend to the results, but without fear of them.

You don’t have to fix the results; you just know it as a result. If we had the glass of water here and we knocked it over, the water spill on the rug would be the result of conditions. I don’t have to say, “Oh me! Oh me, oh my! I’m clumsy! Look at this! What a mess!” I just get a towel and mop it up. I use more mindfulness in the future about where the water is placed and about where the foot moves. That’s all. Stop making such a big deal out of these negative arisings, but hold spaciousness for them and know, “This is the result of conditions.” That knowing is the fruit of your practice, the bringing forth of wisdom that sees how every conditioned object arises out of conditions, is impermanent and not self.

So for many of you, the frustration is not that you hold your aim too high but that you still believe that there’s some self that’s got to fix this and this and that. And so you’re fighting with, rather than working harmoniously with, these conditioned mind and body states that arise. Just the understanding that this is so gives you a big piece of liberation, the freedom to stop waging war with your experiences but rather to open your heart mercifully to this human being that you are. How can you be merciful to others if you can’t offer mercy to yourselves?

The bigger liberation will come. We look at the quotes from the Buddha. If you practice this for seven years, or seven lifetimes … Well he’s not saying it’s precisely this, we’ve got to take that “seven” with a grain of salt. But he is saying that if you practice in a skillful way, you will resolve this whole cycle of birth and death. It has to happen. When you contract around a negative thought, it keeps it going. When you relax and hold space for it, it resolves itself, it stops feeding it energy. This is part of the benefit of the practice that Barbara and John were teaching you today—perhaps I should say, reminding you of, today.

There are the seemingly solid objects that arise, the thoughts, the physical sensations. And there is the space. Everything arises in space and passes away. Nothing is solid. Whatever has the nature to arise has the nature to cease.

When you only see the object arising and become caught up with it, that’s when the war begins. First with judgment: this one is good, we’ll keep it; that one is bad, we’ll get rid of it, fix it. But when you relax and say, “Ah, here is this. I don’t even need to know what conditions led to its arising; I just know it arose out of conditions. There are some conditions that are not yet purified in this mind and body. That’s all I need to know. My intention is to purify those conditions and the purification means always involves kindness.” Therefore to say, “Fix it” is only going to perpetuate it. To relax and say, “Ah, here is anger. The conditions for anger are not yet fully purified. With the intention to purify those conditions, I hold space for the anger. I see how the anger arose in a vast space. I take care of the anger to see that it doesn’t hit anything and cause harm. And I rest in the spaciousness, willing to stay present with that anger until it resolves itself.” And of course it will resolve itself. Whatever arises will dissolve.

We have some very specific teachings here from the Buddha; for example, the Bhayabherava sutra. The Buddha, before his enlightenment, wanted to meditate at a haunted shrine. He contemplated this desire. He had heard from others that it was a very terrifying place to go. A lot of fear and dread arose from people with this intention. Some people went to this haunted shrine and ran away screaming.

So he became committed to practice there. There was a powerful energy at this shrine and if he could skillfully utilize this energy, it could bring him closer to enlightenment. He said, “I’m going to go and sit there. I’m going to stay there and meditate there.” So he resolved, “I will sit with the fear and dread if it arises, and allow the experience of it until it resolves itself.” It’s not simple: it takes a lot of courage to sit with fear and dread. It takes a lot of courage to sit with grief or body pain, with feelings of unworthiness and so forth. But with each, the teaching is the same as that, really word for word from this beautiful sutra: to sit with what has arisen and allow the experience of it until it resolves itself.

Two things happen when you do that. One, your faith deepens. You learn that you do have the ability to stay with it. Here we use the refuges as a support. Taking refuge, for the Buddha at that time, he didn’t take refuge in a being called the Buddha; he took refuge in the awakened mind. The small self, the everyday mind, was quaking in terror. But he knew there also was that which was not afraid. That which is aware of fear is not afraid. He knew that. He took refuge in this clarity, this fearlessness.

He took refuge in the dhamma, knowing that whatever has the nature to arise has the nature to cease. So if fear and dread come, he knew they were simply expressions of the conditioned mind. That’s the second part of it—the deepening of faith in the Buddha nature, and then the deepening of wisdom, truly knowing if it has the nature to arise, it has the nature to cease. It is impermanent and not self.

And finally, experiencing the release of fear and dread, that faith is confirmed. Yes, it does cease. Well, if fear and dread will cease at a haunted shrine, surely your suffering will cease. The cessation experience is real, not only the cessation of suffering but the cessation of all these karmic tendencies. There’s another beautiful sutra that I’ve recited with some of you many times.

“Abandon the unwholesome. One can abandon the unwholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. If such abandonment brought pain and suffering, I would not ask you to abandon it. But as it brings good and happiness, I say to you, abandon the unwholesome. Cultivate the wholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. If such cultivation brought suffering, I would not ask you to cultivate it. But as it brings good and happiness, I say to you, cultivate the wholesome.”

It really is as simple as that. You are gardeners. This mind and body are your garden. Wholesome and unwholesome impulses and thoughts arise. You regard them and note which ones are wholesome and which are unwholesome. You find the faith in yourself to release the unwholesome, as hard as it may be. Sometimes you hold onto that unwholesome for many lifetimes, feeling you’ll need it for protection. Finally you realize how hard it’s been carrying this around, and you become ready to release.

Imagine if once, walking in the woods, in the distance you saw a bear. You said to your companion, “What’s that?” “A bear?” “Is it dangerous?” “Oh yes, it can tear you to pieces.” You love to walk in the woods but now when you walk, you carry what seems to be a cage. It weighs about 60 lbs. It’s got bars all the way around it, thick enough so that the bear can’t reach in his claws and get you. You have a rig so this contraption can go over your shoulders, and if you see a bear, all you have to do is stop and drop it on the ground; it’s so heavy, and you barely have to hold it down. You’re safe.

Is it going to change the nature of your walks in the woods? How long are you going to carry this thing? A bear does come, once. He sniffs at you and walks on. Maybe another bear comes and growls at you. Deer come, raccoons come, birds come, and they fly through the bars.

One day you’re walking down a steep slope. You haven’t seen a bear for months. You’ve seen footprints; you know they’re still there. But all your companions say, “No, I don’t carry a cage with me.” Think of how wonderful it’s going to feel when you step out of that cage and leave it behind you. And yet it’s going to be scary. Imagine those first steps. You’re not yet out of sight of the cage and you see some more bear footprints on the ground: “Should I turn around and run back? Should I get it?” You’ve been walking with companions and they’ve walked on ahead, tired of going at your pace while you carry this heavy thing. Let it go. Freedom. If the bear comes, you’ll deal with the bear.

This is a whole different part of the dharma. Why would you attract a bear to you in the first place? If you carry a cage, you’ll probably attract a lot more bears than if you simply put the cage down and walked down the path singing to let the bear know you’re coming and to give him a chance to get away. If you’re certain you have no intention or desire to attract a bear, you probably won’t attract a bear. No guarantees; there are never guarantees in your lives. But probably you won’t attract a bear.

What are you drawing to you? You hold certain kinds of defensive attitudes to protect yourself from the judgment or blame of others, from feelings of unworthiness, from grief that comes from loss, that keep you distant and lacking intimacy. Are you ready to put these down? So much of your practice now is, as John said to you today, how long do I have to carry it? Let it go.

You need to know that you have a choice. This letting go of old beliefs, old limits, old habits, is the foundation for the greater liberation that you seek because the final thing that you let go of is this illusion of a separate self. Can you see what a heavy cage that is? Have you ever considered what you’re dragging around? What is that separate self? How much does it weigh? How much lighter would you be without it? How wondrous would it be, how joyful, how connected, without that burden of the separate self?

But you can’t go straight to the separate self and the release of it, you need to practice, first seeing how it would feel to let go of judgment for a moment, how it would feel to let go of blame, feelings of unworthiness, anger, confusion. Not even to let go. You continue to hold it, for example, your judgment, and there is that vast space of non-judgment. You might say, “Alright, I think I’ll hold onto judgment for awhile. It might prove useful. But I’m not going to get too caught up in it; I’ll just put it near me where I can get it easily if I need it. I’m going to risk being in this space of non-judgment, feeling the spaciousness and joy of non-judgment.” And then somebody says something hurtful to you and you grasp, “I’ve got my judgment! Be careful!”

But understanding continues, “Ah, that’s my old habit energy, isn’t it?” Maybe you don’t need to do that this time. Put it down and see the spaciousness of non-judgment. Turn to the person who’s blaming you. “I hear your anger. I don’t see it your way but I hear that you’re angry. My heart is open to you. I’ll consider what you’ve said.” Feel the spaciousness there. You don’t have to get caught up in it. He’s judging you; you don’t have to reflect it back to him. That’s freedom.

As you practice these small bits of letting go, you prepare yourself for that greater letting go, the letting go of the whole illusion of a separate self, and know you’re not going to lose your deepest essence when you let go of illusion of separate self.

Barbara’s husband was speaking yesterday of a play he planned to see last night, a woman who is the single actor in a play with 9 characters. She plays each of the characters in turn, each different. Could she do that if she held onto one identity? And yet if she’s going to do a convincing job on the stage, she needs to believe in the identity while she’s in it while knowing it’s only a charade. Can you do that? You have personalities and they’re beautiful. Can you enjoy your personality, play it up, but not get caught in self-identity with it? It is only a costume.

Is there any one of you who has worn the same clothing for the past five years, unceasing? Putting it in the wash at night, putting it on in the morning? “My favorite clothes. I have to wear this. This is who I am.” No matter how much you love it, you take it off and put something else on. One day you feel like blue; another day you feel like red. One day you feel free and flowing, another day, more gathered in.

Relax and wear your personality the way you wear your clothes. Let go of the idea, “this is who I am.” When an opinion, comes up of you, stop and look at it. “Ah, what kind of character is this one?” Play with it. See how it feels to have that view.

I think, perhaps not here at silent retreat but a very interesting exercise for many of you would be to divide yourselves in half and each take the part of supporting one of the two presidential candidates. Can you support the candidate whom you do not truly support? Could you speak up in support of that candidate, in support of his views? Or perhaps the vice-presidential candidate? (laughter) Could you speak up supporting the vice-presidential candidate whose views you don’t endorse? Just see how it feels; see where you’re attached. I’m not suggesting you change your vote: only that you talk about it and see where you’re attached.

Where are you attached to self, to this whole idea of who you are, the habits that have been with you, and so forth? Can you just let it go a little bit? Catch it with the other hand? Practice letting it go that way until you’re ready to fully drop it? How does it feel to be without it momentarily?

Each of you has karmic tendencies that you came into the incarnation to explore and to release. Do it! What’s stopping you? Only fear. Resolve to sit with the fear and watch the experience of it until it resolves itself, and when the fear has resolved, let go of that karmic tendency. It really is as simple as that.

I’d like each of you to think of one strong habit energy you have, such as the judging mind, feeling of unworthiness, attachment to opinions, hatred of snakes or belief that you are not capable in one way or another, not bright enough or not mechanically inclined, or whatever. Pick one belief and look at it. Use the little words, “Is that so?” each time this thought comes up. “Oh, I can’t do that.” “Oh, I hate snakes.” Whatever it is, ask, “Is that so?”

At one level there is the human who is afraid of snakes; at another level there is the human who is able to just sit and watch these creatures. At one level there’s the human who can’t figure out how to change the tire; at another level there’s the human who says, “Of course I can. Of course I can.”

Let it go. What blocks that letting go? It’s really a kind of addiction, an addiction to who you thought you were, which is the limited, small self, instead of being who you truly are.

I was a young monk, a novice, walking in the forest in Thailand. I’d rarely been out of my village, which was in a different and tamer part of Thailand. Now I was in the northeast, where there were more thick forests and wild animals. I had met my teacher while he was on a journey where I lived, had ordained with him, and was following him back to where he lived most of the year.

As we walked through the forest, I could hear many different animal sounds, including a roaring, snarling sound, and I asked him, “What’s that?” “That’s a tiger.” This was new to me. I had heard there were tigers in the forest, but here was the reality of the tiger.

It was a long walk. Dusk fell, so my teacher simply sat down, hung his mosquito netting to a branch, and said good night to me. I was quaking with fear, but I watched him and he looked very at ease. He just sat himself down and began to meditate. I thought to myself, “If there was any real danger he would not be so at ease; it must be safe.” So I hung my mosquito netting, put my robe on the ground, and sat. And I also began to meditate, one eye open, keeping a watch. Just in case.

I heard the snarls far away, closer up, far away again, and things slithering around; a great variety of night sounds. Through the little thread of moonlight coming through the trees, I could just barely make out my teacher’s form. After several hours, he lay himself down and went to sleep, so I thought to myself, “It must be safe.” I lay myself down and slept a fitful sleep, but as the night passed, into a more comfortable sleep. At one time I heard padding footsteps go by. In my imagination it was an enormous tiger but of course it could have just been something small.

We rose pre-dawn, packed our robes and mosquito netting, and walked on, several hours’ walk to the nearest village, not breaking silence as we walked. I was laughing at my fear of the night before, now that it was day. How could I have been so afraid? He’s not afraid. And so I let go of my fear and the sounds of the forest began to sound intriguing and friendly.

We came to the town, offered our alms bowls and were given a meal. We retired back into the edge of the forest to eat. Finally, at the end of the meal, talk was permitted, and I said to him, “I was so afraid in the forest last night. But you were so clearly unafraid, and that gave me courage. I saw how silly my fears were, that there was nothing at all to fear because you were sitting there in such serenity, totally unafraid.”

He looked at me and said, “Me? Not afraid of tigers? I was terrified!” I could not understand this. I said, “But you were so serene!” He said, “There was just the fear of the tiger. If there is fear of the tiger, there’s just fear of the tiger. There doesn’t have to be a story that the tiger will come and eat me, there’s just the experience of fear. I sat with that fear and dread and allowed the experience of it until it resolved itself. Then a tiger would snarl and fear would come again, and I would note the fear and drop it, again and again. Cultivating the wholesome, abandoning the unwholesome, releasing the stories.”

This was an important teaching to me. Can you see how different it would have been if he truly were not afraid? Then somehow I would have had to learn how to be not afraid. It’s much harder to learn to be not afraid than it is to simply be present with fear and observe the experience of it, knowing that it’s conditioned and impermanent and will pass. I don’t have to be afraid of fear; it simply has arisen out of conditions. I don’t have to act it out.

This is freedom. Yes, you might say, to be totally be unafraid, that would be an amazing freedom. And it comes to a few. But to be able to say, “Yes, when fear arises, I hold space for fear. That which is aware of fear is not afraid. I rest in awareness, watching this object of fear, compassionately watching the body quaking with fear, until it resolves itself.” You can do it.

Find that tendency with which you’d like to work. Do not wage war on that tendency; rather, be a scientist investigating it. Under what kinds of conditions does it arise? How are you presently relating to it? Can you begin to find spaciousness around it? So watch what happens to it. In what ways does it change? Can you see it literally dissolve itself?

Here is freedom. And it will give you much confidence in your abilities to cultivate ever-greater freedom: truly to live this Buddha nature; to live as an awakened being, with love and courage.

I hope I have inspired you. Thank you for your attention.

Vissudi Maggha: The Path of Purification
Part Three

Susan Weir

In the last article, as we began insight practice, we begin to see things “as they are,” that is, that all objects are impermanent, none of them will create inner happiness, and the “me” we’ve always taken as a stable, ongoing identity is anything but.

Stage 5: Purification by Recognizing What Is and What Is Not the Path
Changing our seat from identifying with the mind to pure awareness.

The hallmark of this stage of purification is that we begin to find the seat of pure awareness, which is outside of the mind—emotions, body, and consciousness. We experience this awareness as the silent, effortless center inside which is the experiencer of all the objects we observe. The switch from being identified with the ego or psyche loosens and the inner center resting in awareness, or the space around objects, begins to take shape. An analogy is that we get that everything we can be aware of arising is like a movie, the movie of our life, so to speak, and that we are not the movie, we are the one experiencing the movie. The factors of enlightenment become more accessible, and deeper experiences begin to occur in meditation and in life.

In our formal sitting, we have moved to choiceless awareness. At further stages, it is the only possible doorway, as trying to control the mind is incompatible with seeing things as they occur. Here we work with the third and fourth foundation of mindfulness. The third, or awareness of mind, is about this shift away from identifying ourselves as the contents of our minds. In the fourth, which we shall see as we examine consciousness itself, is about directly experiencing the smallest molecules of experience.

There are some typical stumbling places that come up as we make this shift from the ego mind to awareness. The part that is still anchored in ego remains convinced that we must make our minds perfect in order to awaken. Part of us is still looking for insight to come from the mind: if we can just figure out and understand more deeply, then our mind will stop being such a problem! We’re still looking for the perfect meditation experience, the perfect teacher. We might find ourselves searching for the perfect book, reading compulsively as the mind grasps to “realize.”

In this stage we let go of the idea that we will win the battle with our mind. We will never make the mind perfect: we simply transcend the mind; that is, what we are looking for is outside the mind. There is a deep letting go as we release the mind to just be what it is.

A second stumbling block at this stage is the giving up of striving and efforting. We have worked so hard to get here, all those hours in practice, the retreats, etc., and our clinging to all this effort now holds us back. The shift into awareness is the shift from effort to effortlessness.

“Trying” during meditation practice or trying to be mindful creates an inner division in us: one part is in the moment; a second part is trying to get other than where we are, somewhere else. Can you see how this is related to the ego ideal of developing a perfect mind? Can you see that mindfulness and trying to be mindful are mutually exclusive? As we discover awareness, we see we have missed it up to this point precisely because it takes no effort to be aware. When we remove the veil of identification with our minds, it is just silently waiting for us, closer to us than our own heartbeat, where it has always been. For example, as you are reading this article, how much effort has it taken to see the page? None. Your eyes are open and the image of the page simply appears. In fact, try to look at this article and not see the page, and you will find this involves extreme (and unsuccessful) effort.

A third stumbling block concerns the fact that we attach to the deeper, breakthrough experiences we are beginning to have in our spiritual practice. This is really just another identification with the mind, which says, “Yeah! Baby! This is what I’ve been waiting for!” We feel happy and accomplished that we have made it! The mind is trying to take ownership and forge a new spiritual identity around our experience.

However, thinking that any experience, however profound, is the answer, is a sharp turn off the path. When we can let an experience go, we are back on the path. We see how ego, self wants to own experiences. Our egos feel okay and good because they are full of spiritualized stuff.

Here what is called the ten corruptions of insight occur. What this means is that when we attach ourselves to the following experiences, and it becomes reinforcement for a positive ego identity, then we are off the path. When we see that the nature of mind is to own our progress, and let go, we are back on the path. The ten experiences we tend to cling to in this way are: illumination, or seeing light; knowledge, where some insight becomes so amazingly clear to you; rapture; calmness or deep peace; bliss; faith; energy; mindfulness; equanimity; and a deep sense of consciousness.

Can you see that all three of these stumblers are different aspects of letting go, of seeing ourselves as our minds? Letting our minds be, or transcending the belief in our minds in this way, opens the door to our true identity, of limitless space and awareness. Two insight knowledges that arise at this point are:

Insight Knowledge 3: Knowledge By Comprehension

We have penetrated all the skandas by seeing that they are all conditioned, have the three marks of existence, and are not “me.” We see all phenomena as impermanent, non-fulfilling, and there is no solid “me.” We can say that the recognition of the three marks becomes mature and complete. Insight Knowledge 4: Knowledge of Arising and Passing Away

Seeing the conditioned and impermanent nature of all experience also involves a deep experience of everything vanishing and changing in every moment. The idea that we can hang on to anything solid vanishes. Predictably, a deep feeling of upheaval and unrest comes with this. Later, we will come back to this (in stage six) with equanimity.

One of the characteristics of finding our seat in awareness instead of within the mind is that awareness takes in things much faster and more completely than the mind, which is relatively slow. It’s well established in current brain research that the mind continuously selects just a small portion of incoming sensory input to focus on or notice. This is a good thing, and has high survival value. For example, if your mind could not prioritize focusing on the road and traffic as you are driving and instead took in every detail of the houses you passed by, you’d end up wrapped around a telephone pole.

Awareness, on the other hand, is capable of taking in the very smallest mind-moments or molecules of experience. It’s analogous to slowing a movie down to the point where you can see the individual frames. In this stage of practice, students often remark that things arise and pass by incredibly quickly. Everything feels speeded up. Awareness can see so much information coming in, that trying to stay in the mind produces a feeling overwhelm here. “There’s just too much to note!” It’s important at this point to let the mind and noting go and just rest in the arising and passing away. Otherwise, you’ll quickly find a sense of being overwhelmed and unable to keep up as the “I” in the mind tries to stay in control.

Because of this, many of the dharma teachings we have learned become accessible as a direct experience for the first time. We’ve probably all learned the steps of the cycle of dependent origination. Sense base > sense contact > perception > pleasant, unpleasant or neutral > craving or aversion> becoming. But this happens so quickly, in the blink of an eye, that up to this point it’s been largely intellectual or reflective. Now, in pure awareness, we can take in things so quickly we directly experience this occurring. At the smallest molecule of impressions, we see that consciousness can take only one object at a time and we can see each step.

This is why it’s at this point on the Path that the dharma teachings are listed, because now we can experience them directly and see for ourselves if they are true. As we do this, our understanding becomes unshakable because it has reached the deepest level of direct experience. Following are the other dharma teachings that begin to be directly accessible at this point:

The skandas, or aggregates. We clearly see that we have taken these things to be our identity; now we directly experience them as empty of “me,” just ongoing processes that happen without a self in control of or directing them. The first four skandas are easier to see this emptiness of self in, but consciousness is the hardest, seeming most like “me.” Consciousness is the light that illuminates the sense field when a sense base contacts a sense object. It is reactive, not proactive, meaning it is not controlled or chosen, but is passive, not unlike a mirror that can only reflect what’s in front of it. This is directly experienced in this purification. Consciousness is conditional, rising and falling with each object.

The six sense bases and six external kinds of objects to be contacted. The eye just experiences sight, the ear sound. There is just seeing, just hearing.

What we begin to experience directly is that when we have a feeling toward an object, a fetter of the mind (greed, aversion, or delusion) reaches out through the sense organ and attaches to the object. The grasping mind clings to, aversion pushes away, delusion sees the sense contact as “me.” This is how we become “fettered” by our sensory input.

The seven factors of enlightenment. These become more an ongoing experience for us. We commit to the first two: mindfulness—with bare attention to each object, and investigation—this is seeing the three marks in all experience. Note: This is not a thinking process. The other five then fall like dominoes: energy, joy, tranquility, concentration, and equanimity: the capstone, sometimes called mirror-mind.

The four noble truths. The direct experience of tanha, or the continual craving and unsettlement in the mind in each moment, becomes clear. We see the second truth: that suffering can not come from the outside in; it always comes from the inside out. We suffer not because of anything that can happen to us, but because we want it to be different. We want our lives to match our ego ideals. When mindfulness at this stage sees it, we don’t try to release it, as we realize that efforting to make the mind different is not the path. Deep seeing itself does all the work.

With this, there is the beginning of release in our needing things to be a particular way in order to be happy. This deep relief, which transcends the mind’s need to control and keep everything safe, is the fulfillment of the third truth. We stop resisting life as we break our identification with a self that desires the pleasant, resists the unpleasant, and maintains the illusion of control. The eight-fold path is both a causative and a result.

The last two stages, purification of knowledge and vision of the way, and purification of direct knowledge and vision, are the final steps in shattering the persistent delusion of the solidness of the psyche. Here we move to the very root of the ego identity as it is being created. We touch the deep root of terror and pain that the mind is constantly trying to protect us from. At this stage, we are willing to move through this terror and find that what we have been looking for is on the other side.

Gratitude and Power: Connections with the Earth
Wednesday Evening with Aaron
November 19, 2008

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. Contrary to your assumptions, I can give a very short opening talk! I want to speak to the power places question that you were just discussing.

You also are each power places. [Before Aaron began, the group had been discussing power places.] Just as the earth has special places where the power is stronger, and comes forth more to the surface, each of you, as you stand on the earth and open yourselves, becomes a power place if you will permit it. In other words, you plug into the earth and become a place where the earth can send its energy forth through you. Of course, it’s not just the earth’s energy; it’s a mixture of the earth’s energy and your own energy. But you all have that capacity to serve as a transmitter of power.

How does one transmit in this way? You know I’m going to sneak something about gratitude in here, don’t you, since this is our Thanksgiving gathering? When you’re experiencing gratitude, the heart is very open. There is joy. There is lack of contraction. When you’re experiencing gratitude and thusly open, then the power that’s within the earth can better move through you and radiate out.

You’ve all met people from whom you feel a strong sense of power. It’s not a power that tries to control or manipulate in any way; usually it’s far from that. So it’s not a power that intimidates you but one that empowers you. Such people have simply learned how to put their roots into the earth and draw the energy from the earth up through themselves, and to draw the energy down into the crown chakra, and open the heart. They know their oneness with All That Is.

These earth power places really serve the same function, to empower. They are places where people have come together through many different cultures and time periods because the power was close to the earth’s surface there; because these ley lines are there. And these spiritual gatherings of people have heightened the power of the places.

Even when these power places on the earth are close to the ley lines, they need to be revealed and invited to open; they are thusly invited by the human presence there that invites their further opening. There are some power places on the earth that are infrequently visited; there is much potential power there. It has not expressed itself and multiplied itself.

Barbara was speaking, for example, of the hollow behind her cabin, which several people of different traditions have found. Several years ago there was a South American shaman who gave a presentation at Michigan Friends Center and was at the lake for the weekend. Barbara had seen him although not spoken to him; he does not speak English. She was sitting and meditating on the dock in the morning when he came down to the beach.

So in the afternoon, I suppose during a break, he went for a walk and Barbara saw him out the window and recognized him, having met him at the lake in the morning. He was just sitting down there in that hollow. She walked out, curious. Communication was difficult: he spoke limited English and she is deaf. But she just came down and stood like this (extending hands outward) and he nodded. She pointed to herself and the cabin and he smiled. So in some way they were communicating about the power of this place. He had been sitting there for 15 or 20 minutes when she came out, so it was long enough that it was clear he was absorbed by the power of the place and moved by it. I give that just as one example. Several people not close to Barbara, or people with whom she has not previously spoken, have felt that as a power place.

So next spring or summer, go out and sit there. Let the earth speak to you. I’m suggesting that because it’s one of the closest, although as Barbara said there is a place in Bird Hills Park that also has power, although I don’t think as strong as the hollow behind the cabin.

Just sit there and meditate. As you feel the energy coming up from the earth, express gratitude for it and then ask, “How can I be a medium for this power and help to bring it forth in the world in ways that serve the highest good, and with love?” Listen carefully. Even if you don’t really believe that you hear your guides, at some level you’ll hear something. You may simply see a bird flying off and feel moved to follow it. Something will speak to you. Just listen. And express your appreciation of this place.

Gratitude is a heart of it. Gratitude invites the energy field to open. Once the energy field is open, you can connect into the earth and into these power spots. And in some way they will communicate their need to you, of what you can do to support the good that they may bring forth into the world.

Gratitude always opens your energy field and chakras. When there is fear, sadness or anger, gratitude is a potent antidote. There is always something for which to be grateful, some place to begin. Gratitude allows you to connect with the power of divinity, within and in the world.

That’s all on gratitude. Let me hear your questions.

Q: The question has to do with, as you just spoke about gratitude and how it affects power and opening of heart. Could you maybe talk about how does trust and fear, how do they either support or detract from power and from our power.

Aaron: How do trust and fear impact power. Trust, like gratitude, is a heart-opening, non-contracting emotion. There’s a deep sense of joy and connection. I think what these have in common—gratitude, trust, appreciation, faith—they are uncontracted energies and they lead you into your interconnection with all that is. It’s hard to feel gratitude without feeling connected to that for which you feel gratitude, and likewise with trust. There’s a strong sense of connection.

When you experience that non-duality, the energy field is open. You become an antenna of sorts. Power comes from above into the crown chakra; power comes from the earth; you vibrate with it and it broadcasts out. It doesn’t broadcast out as power so much as love. You simply become a beacon of openheartedness, non-duality, and love. People feel that energy coming from you. I could not say it’s not your energy, but it’s also the earth’s energy, divine energy. It’s all coming together right there in you.

Fear and any contracting emotion close off this channel. So you could be standing on the greatest power spot on earth but nothing comes through. You are like a black hole absorbing all that energy spinning into nothingness instead of spinning it out where it is accessible.

The Vision for Aaron and Barbara's New Two Year Program
Aaron as dictated to Barbara
February 11, 2009

My blessings and love to you; I am Aaron. I want to describe my vision for the two-year program I intend to lead with Barbara, and with other assistance as well, from the summer of 2009 through the summer of 2011. The overall vision has evolved through my 20 years of teaching Barbara. Consider the Buddha’s “handful of leaves.” I have not taught you of the forest, but only the handful. Now it is time to expand and share of the forest, as I have with Barbara. The handful is all you need for liberation, but at this time in your universe there is call for the intention to expand, beyond seeking personal liberation, and further into active service.

The question is sometimes raised: must one first have full realization before one can serve with skill? If a child is about to fall off the edge of a precipice, the liberated human will save the child and not create any unwholesome karma through self-centered stories during such action. The not-yet-fully-liberated human can still hold the child back from the precipice, and must then also attend to any unwholesome karma that develops. With wisdom, she will use this situation to release and balance some of that karma. Thus, as one serves with love and wisdom, one moves closer to true liberation through service. Your world is on the edge of the precipice, and courageous, wise and loving action is needed. I would help to prepare you for that work, to be true bodhisattvas in this world and the universe.

Through the years, my work with Barbara has centered in four places. First, her development of an ever-deepening vipassana practice that serves as a base for all else. Within this practice, the entire conditioned realm is clearly seen as arising out of conditions and passing away, impermanent and not self. Equally important are the direct experiences of the Unconditioned, for to know only the conditioned with no insight into the Unconditioned is like knowing only cold without warmth, or only darkness without light. It leads one into the illusion of a duality where there is that which is present, and that to be attained, and leads to grasping. Instead, there needs to be realization of the non-dual, as stated in the beautiful words of the Heart Sutra:

“No suffering, no cause of suffering, no path to lead out of suffering;
no knowledge, no attainment, no realization, for there is nothing to attain.”

Second is the development of Bodhichitta, and of the deepest intention to service to all beings. Without the involvement of the loving heart and intention for the highest good of all beings, the meditation practice can become self-centered and contracted, as can the path of service itself. But it is not sufficient that the heart be open as in the practice of metta. The practitioner must have deepened in compassion to the degree that self and other are virtually interchangeable. There must be strong intention to alleviate the suffering of all beings, an intention grounded in love.

These will be the first foundation of our work together, insight and the open heart. Many of you have worked for years with us, with these practices. Here we will take the practice to deeper places. As part of these first and second functions, we will explore together the light and shadow in the self, with a focus on the non-duality of light and shadow. Wherever there is shadow, the light can be found. Wherever there is light, shadow may appear and ask our attention to assist in its dissolution, or at least watchfulness so it does no harm. There is no need to be afraid or self-condemning that negative thoughts arise; how do we attend to them? With this in mind, we will work with what I call “character traits,” those of generosity, patience, loving-kindness, clear speech, courage, honesty, forbearance, peacefulness, tranquility, clarity, and more. We will explore how we can encourage the strengthening of such traits and release the seeming opposites. We do this without creating a “fix-it” attitude, but rather, by simply opening the heart to our true selves and with the determination to express that true self. This will be the core of our private work together through the first six months of the program.

To do this work, we must find supports for it. We have the traditional supports such as taking refuge and work with practices such as the “Four Empowerments” and “Seven Branch Prayer,” (as explained in my book, Awakened Heart). We must go still further. As the third element of our work, we support growing awareness that one has the power and tools to fulfill loving intention. This awareness seeks the various supports offered toward knowing one’s true power—though connection with the Higher Self and guides and through knowing one’s power animals and other supports—discovered through guided meditations, prayer, shamanic journeying, lucid dreaming and breath-work, along with meditation. We will learn skills that support these tools.

We will work with practices to learn how to hold the chakras open and rest in connection to all that is. You will learn the use of harmonics as a tool toward healing and knowing wholeness. You will begin to uncover your true power, with the knowledge that you do now have the maturity to wield that power with love.

Part of this journey is the release of dualistic thought. We will work with the more advanced Light and Energy practices connected with the dzogchen tradition, which foster deeper resting in Awareness and the fullest possible resting in the Natural Light that is your birthright. Gradually you learn to live from the Light.

One must also investigate whatever may block full access to power, such as old beliefs in limitation, or old karma and fears. Within this work, we invite the release and the balancing of unwholesome karma. Most of you will experience healing through this work, but the intention is less toward healing than toward knowing the ever-perfect; and not to personal gain but toward the consecration of this vessel of body-mind-spirit in the highest service. Here we also investigate the fullest extent of power and the marriage of that power to the highest positive polarity. The intention is to live in as full a consciousness as possible, using all the tools and wisdom available to us.

Imagine a sailor with little knowledge beside that of looking to a direction and holding the sail and rudder. The boat may eventually reach the goal. But think of the difference when the sailor knows the winds, tides, effects of friction on the hull, and how to trim the sail or release excess winds. You will wish to sail the boat of conscious living with as much skill as possible.

Finally, there must be the willingness to step out into the world and actually do this work. We see this idea in the view/ meditation/ action progression expressed in the Tibetan Dzogchen tradition. Work in the world is the heart of Neem Karoli Baba’s guidance to “Love, Serve, Remember” as spiritual path. We will borrow his words for inspiration, and words of many great masters, as we deepen in the path of service. In this final stage, we will look at the ways we may express our intentions in the world and how we support the transition to non-dual consciousness. We will work with group and individual projects in that direction. Barbara will also assist in the teaching for this last aspect of our work, with her deep training in satyagraha, ahimsa, and non-violent response to catalyst. My talk on “Trainings” ("Initiations for Spiritual Development," January 24, 2004) offered in the Winter 2008/2009 DSC newsletter (Volume 17, Number 1) also contains material that is directly relevant to this two-year program. I ask that anyone interested in the program also read that talk.

It is my intention in the two-year program to help support a group of true bodhisattvas, people dedicated to service to all beings and committed to living in the highest consciousness that they can maintain. Those who participate will share a commitment to serve as midwives to the earth and all who dwell upon and within her, supporting the transition to 4th density and toward a stability of non-dual consciousness. If this is your intention, and if you have the base of an existent daily and committed vipassana practice or its parallel in a related tradition, we invite you to apply to join us.

Because many will come from out of state, we have envisioned a logistical plan where we will meet three times a year, probably for 5 days (4 nights) each meeting. Between the intensives where we will work as a group, we will meet with each student by phone, email or Instant Messaging (AIM or iChat) on a weekly basis to offer support for the very precise weekly assignments. Some meetings will be up to an hour; others just a brief check-in, as is needed.

It will require commitment, to come to each of six intensives over two years and to do the weekly exercises and arrange time for the private meetings. We will not be able to accept all who apply into the program. Please trust that if this is truly your path, there will be space for you. If there is not, then the Universe has a different path in mind for you, and that will also be perfect.

Offered with love, Aaron.

Note from Barbara:
If you are interested in the program and wish to apply, please send an email to with your name and contact information and a letter that includes (1) your meditation experience (even if I already know it), (2) the name of someone who can serve as a reference if I don’t know your meditation practice, and (3) why you wish to join the program and what calls out to you about it. I will contact you when I hear from you. Application deadline: May 17.

Letter from the Board
Curt Fish,
 Board President

March 2009

Dear Deep Spring Sangha Members,

I would first like to express my deep appreciation for your generosity during our 2008 end-of-year fundraising drive. Despite the challenges we all face in this difficult economy, the spirit of giving is alive and well at Deep Spring.

Mark your calendars for the next Deep Spring sangha meeting on April 19. The board will present the state of the sangha—where we’ve been and where we’d like to go—but we really need your feedback. How can we improve Deep Spring? What changes would you like to see? Please come to the meeting and let us know your thoughts.

Following are the board initiatives for the year:

Location – As no volunteers have come forward to serve on the location committee, and most people seem to be happy where we are, we will be renewing our lease.

Deep Spring Archives – The Deep Spring Archives web site is up and running! The web address is There’s a link to it from the main web site as well. Choose Archives from the menu on the left. Many thanks to Terry Gliedt for making the Archives web site a reality.

More work remains to be done, however. Much more content needs to be posted on the web site; some of the existing content needs a little clean-up.

Communications – Peg has taken on this initiative and made very good progress. She’s publishing the board meeting minutes to the teachers’ web site.

Another big step forward in communication and organization is the appointment in January of our new class coordinator, Vivian Sanders. She works with the teachers to coordinate schedules and ensure that communication is flowing among all the parties involved in producing a class schedule.

The sangha meeting on April 19 will also be a wonderful opportunity for us to communicate and come together in fellowship.

Visioning framework – The visioning framework put together by Anna has been reviewed by the board and approved for use. We are very pleased at the level of organization the framework provides, and look forward to the benefits of a clearer vision of the organization and what is needed to fulfill our mission.

Board books – No progress on this item. We will work on this one in the coming months.

I look forward to seeing you all at the sangha meeting on April 19.

With metta, Curt

DSC Committees' News

Retreat Committee News
The retreat committee has been trying out the new system of having different teams for each retreat. Jan Eveswell, Mallory Walczesky, and Ingrid Weisz are heading up the Steiner retreat led by teachers Susan Weir and Ann Barden. It has been an added joy to get to know on another as we work to offer retreats for the sangha.

A contract has been signed for the June 19-26 retreat at Albion college. The teachers will be Barbara Brodsky, John Orr, Dottie Coyne, and Aaron. Albion is a small liberal arts college with a lovely, quiet campus about an hour west of Ann Arbor. We will all stay in a dorm with the meditation hall downstairs and the dining hall a short walk across the campus. The rooms are doubles with two rooms sharing a bathroom; single rooms with a shared bathroom will be available for an additional fee. There is plenty of space for walking and also a nature area adjacent to the campus. We hope you will share with us this opportunity to explore and deepen your practice.

Social Committee Volunteers Needed
Volunteers are needed for the Social Committee. The committee helps organize the annual picnic and other wonderful events for sangha members and their families to enjoy in a fun, relaxed, and safe environment. Local nature hikes, kayaking, movies, bowling, and other activities are all possible. Volunteers can help with one or more events of their choosing. Please contact Tom Slank at

DSC Newsletter
The Deep Spring Newsletter has been an important way to share the teachings of Barbara and Aaron and of the Deep Spring teachers and community. It has also been a way to communicate information about such items as sangha events, plans, course offerings and volunteer needs.

So, what is the newsletter to you? Do you read it cover to cover? Or maybe you let it sit on the coffee table or night stand and read an article at a time. Do you turn to the calendar to see what new classes are being offered and think about what will fit your needs and your schedule this season?

The time has come to share your ideas. There will be a discussion at the Annual Meeting about what the newsletter looks like now and how it might look in the future. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, e-mail them to or bring them to the meeting on April 19.

DSC Teachers' Sharings

How Art and Practice Meet
Dianne Austin

I don’t make “art” any more. I used to, but there was a crushing amount of self that came with it. Would my artistic creation be good enough, and by extension, was I good enough? Would people like, no, adore it and think I was special? Would they see me as a failure and laugh at me? There was so much expectation and dukka: No matter how effusive the praise, it was never enough to keep me reassured and happy.

The need to make art abated for many years as I studied the Dharma. I didn’t know if that desire would return or not. Over the past several years creative energy has come back like a rising tide, sometimes a tsunami! I do have a great space and enough time to honor this energy. However, it’s not so much about “me” anymore.

Even in the old days, when I was doing art, there was access to this place of no-self, no discursive thought. That experience is available for anyone who wants to explore their “artistic side,” which lives in the right side of the brain. One of the exercises is called blind contour drawing. This is done without looking at your paper and the outcome is supposed to look like a scribble! It is a place of no words, and no outcome!

That same experience permeates my time in the studio. Now there is so much more joy. There is nothing I have to get or prove. The feeling is a letting go of thinking mind, and just experiencing the play of movement and materials. The dance is intuitive. Cutting, bending, gluing, slopping, sawing, shattering, combining and re-combining happens. There are many days of just messing around, nothing gets made, no goals, just play.

Sometimes there is a tap on the shoulder of something that wants to be manifested through me. I say, yes, and off we go. There is a collaborative interplay between materials and what wants to be born. They inform each other and I am their handmaiden. It isn’t always smooth. There are many hours and days of effort that turn out to have nothing to do with what is trying to be made. No problem. Play is play.

The practice of being open and aware in this very moment is a joy. What a welcome relief to let go of the stories of expectation and control. Practicing this in the studio now seems pretty effortless and a lot like heaven.

Washing Up
Peg Tappe

There is a South Indian story about soap. Soap is the dirt we buy. We introduce it to the dirt we have, and the two dirts are so glad to see each other they come out and mix! They swim together in the warm pleasurable water and, at just the right moment, the washer lifts the cloth of our true being free of both soap and dirt. Mystical poetry and other practices may function this way, as soap that dances with what disturbs our clarity. Then, at some moment they drop away and leave us clean, ready to be worn again.

Aaron's Closing Quote

That being that knows its connection with all that is knows its infinite power
because it is not MY power or YOUR power,
but the power of all living and loving energy
wrapped together, hearts connected.


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