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The Teaching of Impermanence

Aaron, channeled by Barbara Brodsky

Video – 17:58 min., closed captioned | Transcript


My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. Thank you for being with me now in your year 2018. Do some of you remember that shift from 1999 to year 2000? Do some of you remember 1960, or 1950? Even 1940, or 1930? Yet, this flow of time is made up of moments, seconds, fractions of a second, and in one second, everything can change. In one second, the sun goes behind a cloud, and the snow begins to fall. In one second, two cars collide. In one second, a baby is born. In one second, a flower opens. All of this arising out of conditions, in each moment.

We talk about anicca, a Pali word which means impermanence; it means everything in this conditioned realm is constantly changing, and there is really no conditioned or mundane thing or thought to which you can hold. Everything changing. If everything is constantly changing, why are you so worried? Whatever is unpleasant now is going to be gone. Whatever is beautiful, and you’re holding, it’s will be gone.

In dharma class, we talk about the importance of living in this moment. This does not mean you cease to pay attention; you are constantly creating and co-creating the conditions out of which the next moment will arise, so you take care of those conditions. But all the planning in the world is not going to prevent the hurricane from passing through, the forest fire from sweeping through, the sickness of a loved one, or your stubbing and breaking your toe. Yes, you can be mindful and not kick that object. But sometimes you’re in the dark and you don’t see it.

There are two important points to balance, here. One is mindfulness and presence in each moment, and one is the deep intention for that which is wholesome and beautiful in your lives and on the Earth. If you live in the moment with fear, “What if this doesn’t work? What if that happens?”, your fear contracts your energy field. When thusly contracted, the light can’t pour out of you; equally important, you are armored, and the radiance of the outside world cannot pour in.

Notice I’ve said, ‘outside world’ and ‘into you’ as if there’s a duality, that which is out there and that which is within. On the relative level, there is a duality. This is not that. But on the ultimate level there is no duality. Everything is part of everything else.

When you look through the branches of a tree in the bare winter, as it is now, here in Michigan, you may see the clear sky. You see the black lines of the branches and the clear sky. They both exist but, being human, the everyday perception cannot focus on both at one time. So, the gaze shifts: branches, and sky. In any moment, one or the other will be predominant.

As you live in what seems to be a dual universe, present with this or present with that, objects arising and passing away, beyond all this arising and passing away, what continues? Is there anything that continues? Love continues! Awareness continues! The innate, let’s call it intelligence— by this I don’t mean mental intelligence, but the knowing heart; the innate intelligence of being; that which is connected to everything, it continues.

So, first we speak in terms of seeming dualities, like the tree branches and the sky. The tree branch, it will fade away eventually. The tree will decay. Even the sky may fade away. The sky is a conditioned object. Love and awareness do not pass away. Love and awareness are part of you— perhaps not a conscious part, right now, but yes, they are a part of you. You cannot lose them because they are not of the nature of conditioned objects; that is, they do not arise and then pass away related to conditions. They simply are. Don’t take my word for it, though. Begin to explore the nature of unconditional love in meditation. Begin to explore the nature of awareness in meditation. Observe Awareness, not consciousness, not mundane consciousness, but full presence. What is this awareness? What is this unconditional love, or where does it rest?

So, yes, we have impermanence on one level, everything changing. As we recorded this today, deep snow is falling everywhere. I’m looking out the windows here; snow on the branches, snow on the ground, flakes coming down. Tomorrow the sun may shine and burn away the snow. We can’t say the snow did not exist; it’s out my window, but it has no substantial reality. It comes and it goes, and it comes and it goes, again.

Some of you, as you are listening to this, may be feeling sadness, fear, anger, or confusion. Some of you may have pain here or there in the body. This is like the snow; it exists but it has no ultimate reality. That means you need to attend to the emotion or the physical discomfort, but not to give it power by making it something solid. This, then, is the blessing of the teaching of impermanence. If an object or experience has the nature to arise, it has the nature to cease.

Why am I speaking of all of this? Many of you are troubled by what is happening in your world, at many different levels. The politics, the United States politics and the global politics, the environment, the wars, the wildfires sweeping through the land, burning trees and homes. The hurricanes, the floods. You cannot turn your back on these. People are suffering because they have lost their homes. Perhaps even loved ones have died.

You must always do everything in your power to alleviate this suffering. But, holding fear of what has arisen as result of conditions and trying to fix what has arisen only creates more contraction and fear. It does not support release of suffering.

You can attend to these things— to the blizzard, to the hurricane, to the forest fire, to the automobile accident, to the volcanic eruption, to the political hate-throwing – with an open heart. You can respond to these with a consciousness that refuses to be drawn in with fear, but instead comes forth to attend. It’s very helpful to remember, as it’s often said: This too shall pass. But you cannot hide yourself, and say, “Well, it will pass so I don’t have to pay any attention to it.” It will pass, and it still must be attended to.

That which is best able to attend is this aspect of you is what I call awareness. So, let’s look just a bit at awareness. It is the place where you come together with everything, no separation. We sometimes talk about this in terms of interbeing. Behind me here I have a wooden altar. It looks like a shelf with legs. What is it really? It came from a tree. It’s a slice of wood from a tree. The tree grew out of the earth. The sun and rain and the soil nurtured the tree. So, looking at this altar – I don’t know if you can see it here behind me— let’s use a visible example, because you can see this: a wooden statue of the Buddha (holding it up). Is it a statue? Yes. A block of wood? Yes. But it’s also the sun and the rain and the soil. It’s the wood from which it came, the tree. It’s the forester who cut the log, and the sculptor who shaped it. It’s all of those things, all part of each other.

When you begin to understand the world this way, you can embrace more fully that yes, everything is arising out of conditions and must be attended from a loving place. When necessary, one must say “no” with love. And yet, nothing is permanent so there is no reason to live your life with fear. Not only no reason, but no use. Reaction form fear only makes things worse. But you can’t say, “So, I will get rid of fear.” No. How would you get rid of it? “I will hold fear when it arises and bring it into my heart. I will remember: this fear has arisen from conditions. It is impermanent. It will pass. And when the fear passes, the radiant heart and radiant awareness, love, remain and will be present.” This is what brings happiness and an end to suffering, knowing that you are that radiance and awareness. You are that love.

As you step into this new year, watch the fear that arises about the Earth, about political situations, and about your own personal situations, and offer yourself the intention not to get trapped in that fear, but to remember, “It arose from conditions, it is impermanent. I will take care of the fear and of the conditions. And I will live with love.” In this way, you can truly make a difference in the world.

Thank you.

Journey to the Awakened Heart

Journey to the Awakened Heart
by Robert Jacobs

NEW 2019!

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Journey to the Awakened Heart follows Robert Jacobs’ travels through Europe, Africa, and Asia in the 1970s as he evolves from a free-spirited, hippie wanderer into a sincere spiritual seeker. Fueled by his desire to become a monk, Jacobs spends fifteen years living in yoga and meditation ashrams under the guidance of his spiritual teachers.

Living from the Awakened Heart

This article was published in the Crazy Wisdom Journal. Fall – September through December 2019 – Issue 73 – Page 9. This is the unedited version and differs slightly from the published version.
You can get a copy of The Awakened Heart here

By Barbara Brodsky, Founder Guiding Teacher for Deep Spring Center. 

Thirty years ago, when I founded Deep Spring Center and first began to teach meditation and channel my discarnate teacher Aaron, there were few places in Ann Arbor where one could meditate and enjoy organized spiritual discussions. The Zen Temple comes to mind; Jewel Heart had just started the previous year. “Meditation” usually meant Buddhist meditation, although one organization in town taught TM [Transcendental Meditation]. There were even fewer that offered any connection with spirit and specifically discarnate, channeled entities. Looking at the Crazy Wisdom Journal now, I see with delight all the opportunities for practice and discussion in many traditions. I see it in Ann Arbor and throughout the world. The last few Wednesday nights, the 30th year of our freely offering Wednesday nights with Aaron, I’ve had the delight to look at my ZOOM screen and see people from many different countries as well as the US, joining those live in the room. Participants come from as far away as China, Palestine, Spain, Brazil, and Canada.

I am glad that so many are seeking deeper spiritual awareness, though at times I feel concerned by an occasional hearing of “my tradition is better than yours.” Better for what? What are we seeking? What do we all have in common? All the people above are asking the same questions, “How do I live with greater compassion and wisdom? How do I truly learn to love my neighbor as myself?” And the most frequent question, “Who am I and why am I here, on this earth so filled with strife and confusion? How can I help?”

People come to a spiritual practice and community for many reasons. Often the start is either because we are searching for meaning in life, or because we feel worn down by life and are suffering and in pain. Some are comforted by belonging to a spiritual community, where new friends and the guidelines of a formal tradition may lead them into more focused and fruitful searching and practice. Connecting with a sangha is one foundation for our spiritual life, and the Buddha actually considered sangha the most important base. Others study and attend classes, looking for answers to the ancient questions through the path of the intellect.

There are those who seek psychological help for their suffering, which may also be supportive for a while. One may gain understanding of the triggers, yet still be reactive to them, suffering because there seems to be no escape. Then on to the existential questions: who are we and why are we here? What is this life about, with its unavoidable pain, with wars, famine, terrorism, hate, natural disasters and the destruction of the environment? What are our lives about in these troubling times, and how can we help ourselves and others to greater joy, well-being and peace?

My experience is that we are all spirit, evolving into higher consciousness, as is the earth that is our home. Aaron says his understanding is that our earth is a cornerstone of expanding consciousness because here we have free will choice: to act out fear-based impulses or to see such impulses arise and know that we need not enact them but can hold to a deeper truth based in lovingkindness and compassion. When we respond from a loving heart, the consciousness that makes such choice literally carries a higher energy, a higher vibration if I may call it that. That which is negatively polarized in the universe, which holds as its highest truth the preservation of the small self above all else and has no qualms about harm to others, cannot tolerate such high vibration and backs off. Thus, as we learn to hold to a loving attitude toward all beings (including ourselves), learn to be non-reactive and release dualistic ideas of self versus other, we are gradually inviting ourselves, our earth, and the entire universe into higher consciousness. It is to this end that we started Deep Spring Center, to support movement into a higher, loving consciousness and vibration.

All spiritual paths that truly teach love are working in this direction, each with their own specific tools and passageways. One is not better than the others. Is it better to eat carrots than cheese than chocolate? What does each unique mind/body/spirit need at that moment? Each path does have its own unique way of teaching and expressing the same truths, and we are each karmically more pre-disposed to some paths than others. But there are many paths to higher consciousness. It feels vital to keep the big picture in our minds and hearts.

Deep Spring Center does not hold to any one tradition but is a Center for deep insight into non-duality, experienced and understood through meditation. The core practices are Vipassana (or mindfulness meditation) and Pure Awareness meditation, along with practices that support the open heart. It is essential that we commit our energy to a path and trust it to bring us home.

For me, tools offered in various traditions have been helpful on this life journey and Aaron and I have drawn them into Deep Spring’s offerings. Jesus asks us to “love one another,” but how do we love people who bring us pain and trigger fear? It’s not so easy. From Buddhism, the beautiful Eightfold Path guides me to moral awareness, deepening wisdom and presence, and gives me tools to love.  But I was born into a Jewish family and find great wisdom there too. All of these traditions and teachers touch my heart and inform my path. So does nature, and the immense kindness I have encountered. This blend is my path and what I teach; what Deep Spring offers. It seems for most of us there is a blend; each of us is unique. The parts will come together with some degree of ease when we understand and follow our highest intentions.

Without a clear sense of my destination, I cannot walk a path but will only meander in circles. My intention for myself and Deep Spring students has never been to make someone a good meditator but to help myself and others live from the deepest place of love and interconnection in our hearts. It is to look at the craziness of our world and respond with compassion that knows how to say no with lovingkindess. It is to envision the earth as the Eden it was meant to be and to know this end is possible. Thus, Aaron and I invite people to explore deeply and know their intentions.

For many, the first intention is to live with less suffering, for the self and others. To do so, we need to understand the ground of our suffering as the belief in separate selves, with separate needs. On the mundane level, this is true. We are each unique. But is anything truly separate? Perhaps a first step is to experientially understand that the mundane consciousness that keeps us to our separate selves is only one face of who we are. Are we our bodies? Our intellect? Our emotions? Our consciousness? Once we release what we are not, we can begin to open to what we truly are, individually and together as sentient beings.

Then, we may practice meditation that helps us to experience a deeper truth of being. We may have a profound experience of that Ground of Being. Various paths and traditions can lead us there. Is that the end, just to find that Ground? What next?

Buddhism offers a teaching of “the three kayas,” which I find helpful. Dharmakaya (the word kaya means ‘body”) is “truth body,” the awakened heart/mind. It is what I mentioned just above, that to which we may open in profound meditation experiences where the ego and body dissolve and we experience the heart of awakened being. Nirmanakaya is form body, the mundane realm. We all know this one, our everyday experience. Sambhogakaya, wealth body, is the bridge between. When we stand on that bridge, we can use our deepest spiritual experiences to remain aware of and connected to the Unconditioned, the Divine, not losing sight of it and also not attempting to lose ourselves in it as escape from the trials of mundane existence. Such escape can be enticing. From a place of stability on that bridge, where the heart remembers its true being, we can reach back into this suffering world and invite others onto the bridge. From here we see the suffering world, and we know the truth of our innate radiance and divine essence. Presence, kindness, wisdom, generosity, patience, and compassion are all tools for living from this bridge.

When I keep in mind my intention to alleviate suffering in the world, and truly to help move this earth into a higher consciousness, I find much more patience and tolerance for living “on the bridge,” allowing myself to keep touching my own and others’ suffering compassionately and with less fear. Here is where all of us can respond with a deep honesty to the discomfort of the immensity of suffering in the world, and our feelings of helplessness. Each spiritual tradition offers its own ways to find stability on that bridge. Deep Spring Center, as organization and as individuals, is committed to living from the bridge.

As I look over the many spiritual offerings in Crazy Wisdom Journal, and I think of the many practitioners in all these programs, I hope to invite all to pause and ask, “Where am I going?” What would this earth be like if we all were able to evolve beyond so much self-identification with the fearful, separated self, and to truly know one another as radiant expression of the Love that is our source? How can we deepen our commitment to this evolution, for ourselves, our planet, and indeed our entire universe? We often feel so helpless in our world today, but we are indeed powerful beyond measure.

I would like to end with the opening lines of Aaron’s book, Human.[1] It speaks to me of the “bridge.”

My friend, you are human and yet you are also spirit.
To be spirit is to rest in the core of being that is birthless and deathless.
To be human is to contemplate the cessation of your conscious existence.
To be spirit is to live fully in the heart of love.
To be human is to know fear.
To be spirit is to offer everything.
To be human is to experience the fear expressions of greed and clinging.
To be spirit is to know divine compassion.
To be human is to know the fear expressions of judgment and anger.
To be spirit is to know your completion.
To be human is to hunger for it.
Yet, to be human and to be spirit are not at all incompatible,
for you are not incarnate to abolish fear and its expressions but to learn to draw them into the heart of love.
Walk by my side for a while and I will teach you.
Some of this, not all, is cut. See her version.  I wiggled some back in.

Deep Spring Center for Meditation and Spiritual Inquiry was founded in 1989 in line with these intentions to awaken to higher consciousness.

Part of what we teach and practice is co-creation with spirit.

All are welcome to come and listen, but in the long run, to bring forth growth and change, we must each take responsibility to develop a spiritual practice that supports us to live our intentions.

DSC is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt public charity, non-profit organization staffed by volunteers, guided by an international Board of Directors, and centered in Ann Arbor, MI. Please visit our web site at, or email us at [email protected] or call 734-477-5848 for further information.

[1] Human, by Aaron
Deep Spring Press – Ann Arbor, Michigan
First edition 2003; revised edition 2014


Dharma Path – Transcript – April 2, 2019, #6

April 2, 2019 Tuesday Dharma Path Class
Working with Chakras; Guided Chakra Exercises

Barbara: We have a sense of where you are with the practices we’ve been doing. I want to start with some time for questions. Aaron will incorporate when needed. Do you have questions about the homework you’ve been doing? I know that some of you are not getting the light practices, and some of you are, and that’s okay. No practice is meant for everybody. Aaron is going to bring some new things in tonight that he thinks will help. Read more

Dharma Path – Transcript – April 16, 2019, #7

April 16, 2019 Tuesday Evening, Dharma Path Class
Pure Awareness Instruction; Skandhas; Discussion: Do We Need Eyes Open to Do Pure Awareness?; Introduction to Working with the Elements; Q&A on Chakras

Barbara: I’m going to assume it would be beneficial for you to hear basic instructions again, even if you’ve done it before. People seem to be away, out enjoying spring. Meditating under the trees, I hope. Read more