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Semi Annual Fundraiser 2018 – From Aaron channeled by Barbara Brodsky

From Aaron, channeled by Barbara Brodsky

Almost thirty years ago, Barbara became conscious of me in the room when she entered for her morning meditation. When she asked me, “Who are you and why are you here?” I told her I was her guide and was there to help her understand suffering and move past it. A few months later, I was speaking to many more people through Barbara. I was again asked: Why are you here? Are you also our guide? “For a few, I am a guide,” I replied. “For most of you, I am a teacher, perhaps one of many in this lifetime. You will find your own guides, learn to hear them, and connect to your own deepest wisdom through your Higher Selves. I am here to help you understand that you are spirit, that you have come into the incarnation to raise yourselves and this earth to a higher vibration, to be a ground for Love. In following that path, you can literally change the entire universe and end suffering on this and all heavier vibrational planes.”

My teaching first was brought out into the wider world through my book, Presence, Kindness and Freedom. If you are present in each moment and with lovingkindness, you will find freedom and help others also to find freedom. It is as simple as that: simple but not easy but requiring dedicated practice. Many of you have done this practice for years and deepened into it. When enough of you have moved into less fear, reactivity, and contraction and can live from the spaciousness of Love and the open heart, your earth will be on a path toward peace that was the original vision for this earth, by those angelic beings who helped to ground it in Loving Energy. (See the Earth History transcripts in the archives for more on this concept.)

I have always emphasized meditation practice that supports such presence. But I do not teach to make you into meditators, but to help you and all beings find true freedom from old fear and reactivity, to help you know yourselves as spirit, “angels in earthsuits” as I have called you, truly here on a divine mission to bring love where there has been fear and bring light where there has been only darkness.

That book and other books that followed were first steps. Through the years we have taught ten here, two dozen there, going ever deeper. Because of distances, many of you could join me only once a year. It has made progress seem slow, but we do not measure progress in time, but by the opening of the heart and deepening of wisdom.

Now many of you have the foundation, and we have the technical tools, to move ahead, through our upcoming two-year program. Through advances in technology that have finally caught up to my intentions, we may offer the deepest teaching to all who are ready, regardless of location: a teaching of love, of service and of liberation, grounded in dharma principles. For those not enrolled in the class, the contents will be made available to a wider audience through the Deep Spring Center transcript and video archives.

This technology needs your golden coins to pay for the equipment and the expertise of paid editors and our truly essential Managing Director. I do not wish finances to stand in the way of people’s participation. It would be lovely if you were all completely telepathic and we had no need for technology, but such is not yet the case! Please give as you are able to support Deep Spring Center, which in turn supports this movement to the Light and true liberation for all beings. Imagine it, and it will be so!

I thank you. You are ever in my heart,
With love, Aaron

From Tavis Taylor, M.D., President, Board of Directors

From the July Semi Annual Fundraiser for 2018

Dear Friends Hello!

It is summer in the northern hemisphere and Deep Spring Center is avidly planning our fall and winter programs. Since 2016 we have been expanding our reach to provide our message of unconditional love and compassion for all of life world wide thanks to ever expanding digital technology.

With new video and editing equipment and software programs, our super techs, Tana and Bill, have set up methods of video and live stream productions of classes, workshops, meetings and meditations to allow access by anyone in the world who has internet access. We have received warm thanks from those living in places such as China, Malaysia and Dubai-a long way from Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. I think this is very exciting to be able to reach out world wide and share these vital concepts.

Our present projects will video new classes and discussions, plus we will also resurrect some of the older archived videos which have valuable messages people have requested. It is our plan to be able to offer several different levels of topics, so each person may progress at their own speed through these integral spiritual concepts.

People who have been a part of Deep Spring Center for many years have different learning needs than someone who has just started with Barbara Brodsky and Aaron. We want to be able to offer information to each of you at your level and let you progress onward at your own pace when you are ready.

In this manner, more experienced students are not bored with repetitive information and newer students can revisit information they want as often as needed before moving on. We have found that it can take several times hearing the same message before one truly understands it. Creating videos one can access independently will aid in learning for all students.

In order to continue to produce these programs for world wide dissemination, we need funding. It takes time to record, edit, upload, maintain and store the video programs. We have to pay for these activities. We are asking you, our friends and students, to help fund this video project so we can continue to share these programs with everyone. Reviewing the fall and winter schedule, we will need $7,000 to share these programs with you.

During this semi-annual funding drive every donor with be gifted a free digital download to the ebook, The Awakened Heart by Barbara Brodsky and Aaron. For those donors who donate $100 or more, the first 100 will receive an autographed copy of Presence, Kindness, and Freedom by Aaron. For those who donate monthly or donate $250+ per year will receive Presence, Kindness and Freedom plus automatic registration to live streaming with Evenings with Aaron and the private video link to watch anytime.

Presence, Kindness, and Freedom by Barbara BrodskyPresence Kindness and Freedom is an excellent book. I recommend it to every patient I work with. Aaron has outlined most of our human emotions and how to effectively learn to use them for growth and healing. Every one of us can use this as a guideline. I typically recommend reading the whole book, from beginning to end to get a basic understanding of the concepts. Then, go back to the beginning and spend time on each chapter, work within yourself for each emotion, learn how to address these necessary emotions and challenges in our everyday lives in a spiritually constructive manner.

You can donate by sending a check made out to Deep Spring Center, 6655 Jackson Road, Unit 565, Ann Arbor MI 48103 or online at: http://ow.ly/fts330lf2aw We are very excited about these worthwhile video projects and hope you will assist us in developing these so you may share in the learning from wherever you are in our beautiful, but struggling world. Please introduce yourselves at http://ow.ly/C4L530lf2dh so we might learn a bit about you.

Love and light,
Tavis Taylor, M.D. President, Deep Spring Center

Dana Books by Aaron and Barbara Brodsky

DANA BOOKS | THESE BOOKS ARE OFFERED FREELY ONLINE OR AS A PDF.

♥ Aaron* – channeled through Barbara Brodsky
The printed version of this book is Presence Kindness and Freedom.

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♥ Christmas Stories, A Collection of Memories from Aaron* –  channeled through Barbara Brodsky
Aaron’s inspiring memories from the past life in which he was a “simple shepherd” who knew and loved that teacher we call Jesus. Each year at Christmas Aaron has shared memories with us as “teaching stories.”

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♥ No Chain at All – by Aaron*, channeled through Barbara Brodsky
This book grew out of the weekly advanced class with Aaron. It’s very much the heart of what he’s been teaching. While you can just read through it, the book is really a workbook which invites your participation.

Aaron: I find the expression of this law of dependent origination to be one of Buddhism’s most valuable contributions to the planet. It is called “The Chain of Becoming.” Teachings speak of the way we have each become caught in this chain, moving blindly from one incarnation to another, never able to find freedom from suffering. This is real, on one plane. Yet on another level, there is no chain at all, nor has there ever been. You are free. You have always been free. In the coming months we will explore these truths and come to see that they are not contradictory …

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♥ The Awakened Heart – Barbara Brodsky and Aaron*
Approximately 1300 years ago, the Buddhist Indian monk/poet, Shantideva, wrote The Way of the Bodhisattva, elucidating an important part of the Buddhist path. The Awakened Heart is not commentary on the poem, but uses it as background.

In Aaron’s words: For many years you have heard me talk about making space for the heavy emotions. A primary emphasis of my teaching has been that it is not bad to feel emotions, that when certain conditions are present, certain emotions will arise. … I teach people to make more space around the emotion. … If you don’t want those emotions to arise you must begin to look deeply at the conditions out of which they arise, primarily the conditions of fear, of the illusion of separation-separation from other beings and separation from the divine. … Through a series of practices and exercises, one could more deeply open to that highest aspect of the self which does not choose to invite in the conditions which give rise to such painful emotion. This is not a “getting rid of” anything, rather we note that side by side there is the tense and frightened human and there is the innately loving, open-hearted human. You have a choice: you can enact your fear or you can choose to note your fear, to observe that the loving Awakened Heart is always present, to nurture it and to enact that loving heart. You always have a choice.

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♥ The Path of Natural Light: Part One by Aaron*, channeled through Barbara Brodsky

These are complete transcripts of the 1993-1994 Wednesday night classes on relative versus ultimate reality, and light/energy work. From the book: I see our work then as finding that balance between relative and ultimate-the horizontal plane of healing and the vertical plane of knowing there was never anybody that needed to heal. With wisdom and pure awareness, that sense of self dissolves … the whole notion of fragmentation was an illusion, but it is the illusion of the relative reality, and the suffering within that illusion must be attended. The human manifestation needs healing … In past months we have been discussing the light body, the perfect, unwrinkled sheet of paper, the illusory wrinkles and how the physical, emotional and mental bodies reflect those wrinkles … We move ahead with this caution: what I teach is not escape from your humanness, but deeper embracing of that humanness, wrinkles and all … again, I remind you, you are not getting rid of. There was nothing there to get rid of. Rather, you are freeing yourself of the delusion that there was something that needed to be gotten rid of.

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♥ The Path of Natural Light: Part Two by Aaron*, channeled through Barbara Brodsky

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♥ Seven Days: A Journey Into Awareness, Days One to Three (Part One) by Barbara Brodsky and Aaron*
There have been many requests for a book from Aaron about meditation. This book offers in-depth material on meditation practice with specific “how-to” instruction. In November 1996, Barbara and Aaron offered a three day workshop/retreat in Mexico City. In April 1997 they returned to lead a four day silent residential meditation retreat. This book contains the transcripts of all of the talks and instruction, offered by both Aaron and Barbara, of those seven days. The first days deal more with spiritual inquiry and basic instruction in vipassana or insight meditation. There is a progressive deepening of instruction. There is also considerable discussion of working with heavy emotions and the various painful catalysts of our lives, with specific instruction offered for meditation with heavy mind states, resistance, restlessness, physical pain and other difficult states of mind and body.

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*Aaron is a discarnate spirit that speaks through Barbara Brodsky

Letter From Barbara Brodsky – 2018 Oakwood Fall Retreat

Dear friends

As you may know, our Oakwood retreat is just five months away. That may seem like a long time, but many people need that much time to clear calendars for a week, and Oakwood planning for the retreat committee and teachers begins now.

I realize that some of you may have hesitated to register, as you wondered if John and I would show up, given John’s illness during Oakwood 2017 and my busy life during these past two months since Hal’s stroke. John’s health is much improved, as is Hal’s. I want to reassure you that both John and I plan to be at Oakwood, with deepened dharma drawn from this challenging year. For both of us, this year would not have been endurable without our practices. But we both go past enduring and do continue to find real happiness. This is the fruit of practice, what Aaron calls “The Dharma Path.”

Since January in Brazil, Aaron has been talking enthusiastically to me about his planned direction of teaching, the new year-long course we will begin in September live and on-line (more about that separately), and Aaron’s intention to bring some of the content to Oakwood. Aaron says:

“I might call this course ‘The Spiritual Path’— what it is, why we are drawn to it, in fact, came into incarnation to walk it, and how we may live it. Our two-part focus is waking up and living with love. You learn to use the challenges of daily life as the grist for the mill, to help you wake up. Everything is included—spiritual fatigue, pain, heavy emotion, feelings of shame or unworthiness, feeling out of control, helplessness, anger, confusion, fear, grief. It is all part of practice and of the human experience, all fodder for awakening. Our meditation practices are a vital core … .”

What is this spiritual path? It does ride like a roller coaster at times, with its ups and downs. I’ve been on this roller coaster quite a bit since Hal’s stroke. It may seem to be a simplistic statement, but I am learning to relax and know that it will go up and down, and to let go of trying to hold it steady. Many practitioners reach a point where practice seems to become stagnant or feels too hard and they withdraw or give up, just at the point where new support and dedication are most important.

A retreat is one of the best ways I know to rejuvenate our commitment and practice, and Oakwood is a beautiful venue for a retreat. I am personally very excited about the new course that Aaron and I will offer starting in the fall, and about this retreat, as ways to deepen our practice and support our opening hearts. This year our Oakwood retreat gives us an extra day, too. Aaron, The Mother, John and I look forward to this added time with you and look forward to seeing you there.

With love, Barbara

Retreat Information and Registration

 

 

Managing Director | Board of Directors, Volunteers, Oakwood Fall Retreat

by Tana Dean, Managing Director
from weekly newsletter, May 2, 2018

As always, it’s a busy month at Deep Spring Center, serving an expanding international community, with local support in Ann Arbor, MI. Of course, the Board of Directors is always busy exploring ways to support you. This month, however, they have also been supporting our founder, Barbara Brodsky, and her husband, Hal, who suffered a major stroke in February. We are indeed fortunate to have the connection with spirit in the form of Aaron, The Mother and Jeshua, who offer their lighted spiritual guidance.

Since January, you have heard from many of the Board members, who not only give their time to serve on the Board of Directors but also lead a team to help run the center. Now we are asking you for help. We need volunteers to help with a variety of tasks, some that need to be done locally, and others that can be done from a distance. Every little bit helps, so when we put out a request, please step forward. The time commitment need not be great, and it can make all the difference in the world to the running and growth of Deep Spring.

The retreat team has extended the early bird registration discount until Friday, June 1 for the Fall Oakwood Retreat. Please take advantage of this extension to get the discount. In response to those of you who were interested in a full week-long retreat, the retreat this year has been extended by one more day, running from Monday to Monday.
You are what keeps me passionate, knowing that many people are helped in so many ways through this non-profit that continues its vision, “To awaken to higher consciousness. We rest in the knowing that this is already so.” Please join with us to help us strengthen our presence in the world.

Loving Kindness,
Tana Dean
Managing Director

Steiner Spring Retreat | March 9-11, 2018 | Ruth Essig

Ruth shares her experience at this lovely, intimate retreat held in the spring at Steiner House on Geddes Rd. in Ann Arbor, MI…

I wanted to share what an extraordinary weekend it was at the retreat. The Steiner House was an excellent space that accommodated all our needs so well for meditation, separate groups, individual rooms, and food (yum!). It was a small intimate gathering in a safe space that felt supportive of individual inquiry. I’ve learned to trust where I’m guided to be and I’m so grateful for the teachings, healing energy, and sense of community that was nurtured over the weekend.

I am so grateful that my curiosity led me to the Oakwood retreat and now to Ann Arbor, as it’s made my life, inner and outer, richer.

Thanks, Mary, for your feedback on the weather. It had been snowing at home the day we were driving downstate and I was concerned about road conditions, but it was a mostly sunny, balmy day with dry roads. Buds were popping out on trees and bushes there and spring flowers coming up. Yeahhhh!

Tricia joined me on the weekend and this was her first introduction to meditation instruction/teachings and we were talking so much on the drive home that I missed the turn-off to get on 10 to Midland, so we were almost to the Houghton Lake exit before realizing we’d gone too far north on 75!! It was a good hour and a bit out of the way, but also such stimulating conversation that it was well worth it!

Well, that’s it from up north Michigan! I trust that all is well with everyone and look forward to our continued interaction.

Thank you for your loving presence, gassho.

With metta,
Ruth

 

From the Board of Directors President | Tavis Taylor, M.D.

From the President
From Board of Directors President, Tavis Taylor, M.D.

Greetings from the Pacific Northwest! As the President of the Board of Deep Spring Center (DSC), I would like to fill you in on some exciting new developments that have taken place over the last couple of years. Following a major revision in organization that was made in 2016, Deep Spring Center is now poised to offer programming to all of our members located both near and far.

But first, let me introduce myself. I am a Board Certified Internal Medicine M.D. who is semi-retired from private practice, now working part time in an underserved clinic. I also practice complementary spiritual energy healing. Twenty years ago I would have told you that anything outside of allopathic medicine was unfounded and a placebo effect. I am glad I developed a more open mind and keep learning. I have two adult children, one getting a public health degree with plans to go onto nursing; the other working as a personal trainer and a brand new father—which makes me a new grandparent! I like to hike, bike, kayak, read, go to the theatre, travel and expand my spiritual well-being. The latter is why I am a part of Deep Spring Center.

I first came to know Barbara and Aaron personally in 2011. Having read her book Cosmic Healing, I then went to the DSC website and found a listing for a retreat that was to take place in Seattle. Imagine that: the center was in Ann Arbor, Michigan, yet there was to be a retreat in my area of the country! And it was to take place the following month: how convenient. I had no idea what to expect, given that the retreat was in someone’s home and not at a big retreat center. Yet there, in this nice cozy house with wonderful hosts, were Barbara and Aaron, the authors of the book I had just read. Wow! Over the years I have come to know Barbara and Aaron and some of the other members of DSC, despite my being located in the far northwest corner of the U.S.

In 2016 with the advent of an exploding digital world of technology, the Deep Spring Center Board took a new approach and decided to expand using computer media software that allows meetings to occur “face to face” in real time while members are anywhere in the world. I was invited to join the Board and jumped at the opportunity to help DSC expand. This connection via computer is integral to our success. While traveling, I have been known to seek out a pub with good wi-fi in order to participate in one of our meetings, such as in northern Scotland: good thing I had a headset to hear over the pub rowdies!

I am a relatively new president, having served as a board member from summer 2016 until November 2017, when I was drafted to this new position. I have found the DSC board to be a wonderful group of loving, compassionate people who feel strongly about sharing our mission with all those who are interested. We and the volunteers are developing new ways to reach out to as many people as possible. Tana and Bill have become IT whizzes with social media apps and video technology to bring live streaming workshops and other segments to you worldwide. Mary and Celeste are very organized and warmly create multi-day workshops and retreats for people to personally attend; Celeste has also organized an online meditation group. Bob, Isabelle and Tana are keeping us on track with finances and record-keeping. Roann is helping keep us up to date on the business end of things, and on making sure that what we send you is accurate and easy to read. And, of course, Barbara and Aaron are our loving and dedicated founding teachers and guides, without whom none of this would be happening. Tana is the backbone of Deep Spring Center. It is only because of her dedication, expertise and enthusiasm as our manager that we have been able to accomplish so much.

We rely on volunteers to help with the many projects being developed. Thank you to those of you who have stepped up to help move us forward. We are grateful for your specialized skills and your guidance. You are part of our developing international family.

With this new international digital approach, Deep Spring Center membership has grown significantly, which means that we no longer know who everyone is: we’re all over the world. As part of our effort in developing a sangha, a group of people with similar interests, we invite you to introduce yourself to us. Shortly, we will be putting a page up on the website for you to leave a short paragraph about yourself; we look forward to getting to know you a bit.

Thank you for sharing your love and interest in spiritual growth with us. As each one of us grows and lightens our own vibration, it lightens the vibration of the whole.

Light and Love to each of you,
Tavis Taylor, President
Deep Spring Center

Dharma Journal | April 2018 | Vipassana Meditation-Deeper, Clearer Seeing

Recorded at Steiner House in Ann Arbor Michigan in March 2018 during the Spring Vipassana Retreat.

Video and Transcript, the video is also closed captioned.

March 11, 2018 Sunday, Steiner Retreat, Ann Arbor 
Part 2: Vipassana Meditation | Deeper, Clearer Seeing

There are many forms of meditation; there is no one right form. What is the desired end? Why are you meditating? At Deep Spring Center we teach a mixture of vipassana and pure awareness meditation. This weekend you’re here specially to work on vipassana. I’ll touch on pure awareness just a few minutes as I talk, but not in depth.

Vipassana is a Pali language word, the language from which these teachings originated in southeast Asia. Passana means to see, and vipassana means deeper, clearer seeing. Normally we deeply see the things that are pleasant and we avert our gaze from that which is unpleasant. Vipassana invites us to stay present. When we do, we notice that some things are pleasant, some are unpleasant, and some are neutral, and how we normally relate to these experiences. When something is unpleasant, “Ooooo! I like that!” When it’s unpleasant we contract and pull away. When something is neutral we normally get bored by it and look for something else to entertain us.

When something is pleasant and we like it, that’s fine. “I like that.” But then, grasping comes: “I want that!” Can you feel the distinction? “I like it.” “I want it!” “I like it” doesn’t have any contraction to it. It’s open. Just, “Oh, it’s lovely.” “I want it! I want flowers!” Unpleasant: “I don’t like that”, free of contraction, versus “Aaack! Get rid of it!”, run the other way, with contraction. And neutral— hmm, kind of boring; where else can I go? Can I just be here with nothing? A little bit boring, nothing happening. The mind wanting something to stimulate it.

So, we start to watch mindfully, not just in meditation but in our daily lives, how we habitually relate, and we start to see the patterns. Very strong patterns like I mentioned earlier, my pattern of, “I”ll be upright when something pushes me.” To tighten myself and push back. (demonstrating push arms) push hard… (Barbara just relaxes with the push, then feeds the energy back) eventually she’ll stop pushing and then I’ll straighten up. Now, I can just keep doing that. How long is she going to keep pushing? Thank you.

I don’t have to push back. I don’t have to resist the push and tighten myself. I don’t have to run away. I just dance with it. We do this with arms. Push through… Now I’m pushing back hard! Can you see the contraction? Now I collapse with the push. Versus just dancing with it… I give the energy back. Just dancing with it. I can do it forever. As she begin to push hard—I’m dancing with it and I just kind of return the energy. And she pushes again… hard… I absorb it and push it back, return it. You can dance with it forever. This is not how most of us habitually live our lives. We harden up or we run, fight or flight, or freeze, try to disappear.

In sitting practice, we have the wonderful opportunity, just sitting, breathing in, breathing out. I am peaceful and relaxed and suddenly a fly lands on my forehead. It’s just a little tickle. It’s not really unpleasant, it’s not like something is burning me or hitting me. Tickling, tickling. I feel it, “unpleasant, unpleasant.” And I feel the “I don’t want this.” It goes so quickly from unpleasant to, “Oh no, is this fly going to be landing on my head the whole hour? What am I going to do? I can’t stand it.”

This is a vital point of practice. The touch of the fly is no longer the predominant object. My contraction around the fly is predominant. Can you feel that shift? Touching, touching, knowing it as unpleasant. Feeling myself contract, strong aversion, don’t want this. Tension, tension. Breathing in, I am aware of the tension. Breathing out, I hold space for the tension. I begin to relax, and the fly is still walking across my forehead. But I’m no longer feeling that strong degree of contraction, aversion and irritation. Then I can reach my hand up and just gently brush it away.

The experience is similar with body experience. Sitting, perhaps sitting with your legs crossed there on the cushion, and pain in the knee developing. Feeling pain, feeling pain. Same thing— same story: oh no! This is going to ruin my meditation because there’s pain in my knees. How can I find peace and meditate if there’s pain in my knees? Well, your meditation is not to find peace in a way of controlling your experience, but to open to the innate peacefulness that’s always there. To realize the power of that spaciousness and joy and peace in yourselves.

So, one notes the pain. Breathing in, I am aware of the pain. Breathing out, I hold space for that pain. We can do subtle things, like try to use the practice to make the pain go away. I’m holding space for it, I’m being kind to it, but it’s not going away. What am I doing wrong? We get into these stories too.

Instead, one notes pain as throbbing, as burning, pulsation, tingling. Then the growing aversion to the sensation is noticed, and how the whole body is hardening around it. Noting contraction. Same thing exactly as with the fly. The pain in the knee is no longer predominant. The strength of my “I want to get rid of it”, and the whole body contracted around it, is predominant. I breathe, noting contraction, anger, fear. You don’t have to give it a precise label, just contracting or aversion will do. Opening, relaxing, so that the heart is fully present with this human’s experience of body pain. Unpleasant, unpleasant. And then, very gently, I move my leg. Just once, into a different position. Releasing the pain— that’s a kind thing to do for our bodies when they hurt. But I don’t do it repeatedly, … “My knee hurts; I need to move it. (moves it) There, that’s better. Now my other knee hurts. I need to move it…. Better. Oh no, my back hurts too. I need to move that.” My shoulder hurts, my neck hurts— we can spend the whole hour trying to run away from pain rather than exploring our relationship with pain and finding the one who is aware of pain, and the deep place inside me, that can hold space for the pain and take appropriate care of the pain, without having to hold my body in contraction. My heart may be closed, the stories flowing— “I’m not going to be able to walk at the end of the sitting. My knees are going to be locked in place, they’re so painful. They’re going to have to cart me off to the hospital.” The experienced people are laughing. These stories come. If the story comes, just say, “Shhh….. Story! Story”” Quiet the story. Come back to the experience.

One may ask, “what does this story protect me form?” Often the stories are a way of avoiding something greater than the discomfort, like fear, grief, or anger.

All of these challenging experiences will come, I promise you. I want to read you a favorite poem of mine. It’s called “The Guest House”, by Rumi.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi

So our practice is not to control our experience. We’re all experts at controlling our experience. Our practice is to open our hearts and remind ourselves how to be present with love in painful and un-painful experiences— in beautiful experiences, too. How to just open our hearts.

We start with what we call a primary object. For those new to practice, it will be the breath. Feel the experience of the breath coming into the nostrils and flowing out. Try it with me. A slightly cooler sensation of touch at the nostril. Breathing in, and then the out breath, softer, warmer, touching the upper lip… (frequent pauses, not noted)

You can label it “breathing in and breathing out,” or you can just feel it. Just aware of that touch, knowing the direct experience of the inhale and the exhale. And again, the inhale… and the exhale…

As I inhale, I pick up a scent. Perhaps the cook is in the kitchen cooking food. Can others of you smell that? Subtle, a very lovely scent. It’s immediately pulling my attention from the breath to the scent. Pleasant, pleasant. So I’m still breathing, but the scent is also becoming predominant…

And now, I don’t know where the scent was coming from, but it’s gone. What’s predominant now is a kind of grasping after that scent. Where did it go? I want it back! Subtle tension. Breathing in and aware of the tension; breathing out and aware of the tension. The tension dissolving.

So this predominant object has faded away. The secondary objects have faded. I just come back to the breath. Breathing in, breathing out. Breathing in, and breathing out… As I sit here, I begin to feel the sun is no longer hitting the window. It’s not warming me anymore. I begin to feel chilly, cold. My body closes in tight— cold, cold. It’s not very cold, so it’s a more neutral sensation. I simply note it. Feeling cold, feeling cold, but it’s not holding my attention strongly. I consciously let it go and come back to the breath. Breathing in and breathing out…

Now, I cannot hear this but you can. You’re breathing, you’re relaxed, and suddenly:(tapping cup, glass, other objects on table). Hearing, hearing… (bell/gong) Unpleasant. If you’re trying to meditate it’s going to be unpleasant, whatever kind of sound it is, because you don’t want it. Somebody singing in a beautiful voice in the next room— “But I’m trying to meditate.” Or the lawnmower going, or the snowblower. “Hearing, hearing.”

So, we are present with the primary object. For the beginners, let’s let it be the breath for today. When something becomes predominant, we allow attention to move to it. We are not trying to hold our attention on the breath. That means pushing something away. That’s not being present with our direct experience of the moment. To be present in this moment, with its lovely sound, pleasant, pleasant; with its unlovely sound, unpleasant, unpleasant; with the contraction with the unpleasant; or with the pleasant. Maybe you live in an apartment and through the wall you heard your neighbor, who is a concert violinist, playing his violin. Pleasant, pleasant, ahhh, pleasant. And then he stops. “But I want more of it!” Grasping, grasping.

When we can be present in each moment with things as they are, we see the almost subtle intention to move to a story, such as, “I’ll never hear the rest of that concerto; he stopped.” Or, “I’ll never be able to meditate, the traffic is too loud.” Or the snowblower is too loud. We see these stories building up, and, my favorite response to stories is, “Is that so?” If I really want to hear the rest of the concerto I can go knock on my neighbor’s door and say, “Would you play it for me?” If the snowblower is loud, I can remember it’s blowing away the snow for me, so I’ll be able to walk down my driveway or path. “Thank you, thank you.” Or if it’s across the street and it’s not going to help me, I can just note my neighbor is getting his snow cleared. Sound, sound, loud sound, maybe unpleasant sound. Can we make space for that? And you can, you really can. Most people have not tried, but moved into that fight or flight or freeze. Get away from it, control it. Run out screaming and say, “Shut off your snowblower!”

Learning to live peacefully in myself means watching these arisings of war in myself. I talked earlier about clear comprehension. What is my highest purpose here? Is it to perpetuate a war within myself and in the world? Or to find a way to live peacefully with things as they are? With the early morning snowblower, with my husband’s stroke, where is peace?

Somebody asked me last night, is there still any joy in your life? Actually, I was talking to somebody on the phone, not a person who I know very well in terms of heart-centered discussion. He said to me, “Your life will change totally and you’ll never be happy again.” This is somebody who has also lost a loved one. I said to him, “Thank you for sharing your experience of it.”

I thought to myself when I hung up the phone, am I happy? Yes, I’m happy. I have wonderful friends! And many more of you out there, even those I’ve never met who are here today. People who I love, genuinely love. My heart is open. I’m awed by the strength of my three sons, and their wisdom and their love. I’m going to buy myself some sushi for lunch. I’m going to go and hold Hal’s hand again. And if I find he’s dying, this morning, then I’ll still hold his hand and say goodbye. But I can be happy, and that does not negate the grief.

Our practice allows ourselves to just be— just sitting with the unpleasant noise, the snowblower. “It’s interrupting my practice. I can’t practice with it.” Oh yes I can. Right here is my practice, to be present with sound, maybe unpleasant sound, and find the spaciousness to hold both the unpleasantness of it and the real joy of being. Here I am, a human— you can all hear the sound, I can’t. Imagine my joy if I could hear that snowblower! To be present with things as they are. Just sitting with unpleasant sensations like sadness and finding joy in the shared human experiences of joy and sadness! I am alive! I feel!

We call this practice choiceless awareness. We do not try to control what arises in our experience, nor do we climb on and ride it off into the sunset. We notice it. We hold space for it. We note that it has arisen out of many conditions. If you were going to go for a beautiful walk and suddenly it started to sleet, “Oh no, I was going to walk in the Arb. I really wanted to get out there and walk but the sun is gone, the sky is gray now. Oh no.” There are atmospheric conditions, and the sleet arose from the conditions. Breathing in and aware of desire, frustration, yearning. Just breathing. Whatever has the nature to arise has the nature to cease. This is true of the sleet and rain. It’s true of the inner storm.

I had 2 weeks of intense storm churning inside me, until yesterday when it really began to release. So it took 2 weeks, but it didn’t take 2 years, or even 2 months. This doesn’t mean I won’t grieve anymore; it means I’ve remembered how to hold space for the grief, the fear, the pain.

This is the fruit of the practice. And we do it just like this. Hearing the snowblower, feeling the pain in the back, knowing the grief. Watching that move from the direct sensation— hearing or touching, throbbing, whatever— to the mental formation— fear, anger, or just contraction, the confusion of, “I don’t know what’s happening.” Turmoil. What is the direct experience of turmoil? Where is it in my body? I give it my full, kind attention. The pain in my knee or back is no longer the predominant object; the turmoil is, whatever form it’s taking. And like that sleet storm out there, as I give it attention, gradually it resolves and blows away. And maybe I’m left with a pain in my back. Ahhh, putting my hand back there and touching it for the kindness. Ahhh, maybe changing my posture a bit. And then moving on with the sitting.

I know A and D are going to carry these instructions further. This is just a beginning glimpse of the instructions. And if I were here with you for another hour or for the morning, I would now have you stretch and do some walking meditation and come back and have another round of instruction. Or have you just sit and meditate for a while.

So, I’m going to leave you all and go off to my husband in his new room, where we got him settled in last night, and see how he’s doing. And I’ll be back with you tomorrow morning. I hope you all have a wonderful day. Thank you for letting me be with you this morning.

Technology, Here We Come!

By Bill Riccobono

From living room talks in founding teacher Barbara Brodsky’s home, to group talks in various sangha settings, now via Zoom in the sanctuary at Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth, the dharma is being spread around the globe. It has been quite a journey … and a steep learning curve at that. But with the help of friends to guide our acquisition of the proper camera and video equipment at a reasonable cost, and the help of Zoom, an online technology that allows us to bring together up to 99 people from around the world, the Deep Spring Center dharma is being spread like never-before imagined!

Approximately 18 months ago, we began with an office manager with some techie skills and a photographer wannabe. Our decision to stream content live on the Internet meant that we needed the equipment to do so and the training to know how to use the equipment! Slowly, we gathered the materials and outlined our production plan and needs. We spent much of the summer of 2015 figuring out how to work with the new equipment.

Learning how to use the camera was the easiest. But even so, with its remote controls, different optical options, and lack of clarity surrounding Bluetooth vs. wireless … we had our hands full. Learning about Zoom was another matter. We were optimistic. Why couldn’t we use three microphones and expect that each would operate predictably and also be properly connected to the laptop/Zoom? (We now use one!) And then we needed to make sure that the various pieces of equipment (approximately 7 or 8) were wired together properly.

We scheduled a dress rehearsal for early September. There were some glitches with wiring, of course, and problems getting the camera to behave as it should, but we did manage a 30-minute taping. With the live Evenings with Aaron night just one week away, anxiety was mounting. We arrived 2.5 hours early to get set up. We started ten minutes late and then encountered a few stumbles along the way—but no matter: we were up, live, sending out the dharma.

At the end of the session, the 12-15 people in Ann Arbor joined Barbara up front so that the 10 online were able to see who had been attending in-person. The hearts and voices from everyone there celebrated our first live presentation as we all waved good-bye to one another. And thus was the first video for the archives produced. It was an incredible, wonderful feeling (and relief). And, you know, maybe something we could consider doing on a regular basis.

Gratefully,
Bill Riccobono
Video Production Team Leader
Deep Spring Center Board

Dharma Journal | March 2018 | Sharing the Fruits of Practice

Recorded at Steiner House in Ann Arbor Michigan in March 2018 during the Spring Vipassana Retreat.

Video and Transcript, the video is also closed captioned.

March 10, 2018 Saturday, Steiner Retreat, Ann Arbor
Part 1: Being Present with Pain, Fear, and Grief in Our Lives

Barbara: Good morning to you all. For those who have not met me, I’m Barbara Brodsky, the guiding teacher of Deep Spring Center. It’s wonderful to be here with you. D and I were to be leading the retreat, and then, as you may have heard, my husband had a major stroke 2 weeks ago. I got up in the morning. It was a beautiful day, like today. We had planned a wonderful day. We were getting an early start, going to the gym and then out for breakfast, to do some errands, go for a walk in the park. Come home for dinner and see a movie. Such a lovely day. I walked into the kitchen to see if he wanted to get ready to go, and he was unconscious on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood and vomit.

I called 911. An ambulance came. A little funny piece of this. I came in before I dressed, asking, “Hal, are you getting dressed? Are you getting ready to go?” I was naked! I ran to my phone and called 911; they said, “Stay on the line.” “But, but…!” I had my bathing suit there because we were going to the gym., so I pulled it on.

He was moved yesterday from the ICU at UM to an acute care, longer term rehab facility that’s housed in St. Joe’s. We have no idea what the future will hold.

Obviously, this is a major trauma in his life, in my life, in my sons’ lives. My 3 sons all came in that day, exactly two weeks ago yesterday, and they’ve been with me, putting their lives, their families, their work on hold. I could not have done it without them. But still, this is my husband and my life. We’ve been married 50 years; how am I going to live my life without him?

There’s a lot of fear, grief, and confusion. There is financial uncertainty: if he needs long-term nursing care, it’s pretty much going to eat up all of our savings. Eventually he’ll get on Medicaid, but not until I’m literally poor; this is how they do it. So, he has to use up all of our savings before he can go on Medicaid. Then what do I live on? So, fear. Fear about the future, fear about a lot of things.

For those who may be watching this as a video, the reason I’m pausing and turning my head sometimes is that we have a student here who is completely deaf, just as I am, and someone is signing to him. I’m going too fast! I need to remember to slow down. Mindfulness. I’m speaking here to whoever will be watching this on the video.

I’m talking about this mostly to share the fruits of practice. Why are you here to learn vipassana? In what way can it support you through this kind of major change and trauma in your lives? These things will happen to us.

Everything changes in a second. A friend wrote me an email two days ago— when it was snowing. She was getting off the freeway exit to her home, skidded on a patch of black ice, and her car spun around in front of the next lane of traffic. A car swerved around her, and she continued to spin and went off the side of the road. It didn’t turn over, fortunately; just slipped off into a ditch. She said that 15 seconds seemed like an eternity. Each second slowed down; she was not hurt but she could have been killed or badly injured. Everything changes in a moment.

Our practice is not to stop emotions, or pain, or fear; that’s simply denial. It’s not living; it’s shutting down, armoring. Of course, even at our best we’re going to armor ourselves when things are very painful. But, when the stories come up— not just, “What will happen?” but noting the anxiety, fear, “They’ll take all my money! I’m going to have to set up a tent somewhere and live there”. Then, “Well, I have a minus-zero sleeping bag, I’ll be okay!” Where does it stop? So many stories.

Letting go of the stories doesn’t mean I cut off the story, with, “No, I won’t allow this story!” but that I note that movement into the story before it starts to roll too far. So first, I’m breathing and I’m peaceful. Or I’m lying in bed at 4am and the thought comes up: what will happen to Hal? What will happen to me? Mind clenches into that question. One of the things that mind does, next, is to run into stories, such as trying to picture myself safe, living in my tent. “Poor me! Well I’d rather live in a tent than a really ugly, horrible dorm room with 3 other women in some cheap old age home….” Can you feel the stories and the energy and the negativity?

As an aside from the video, I am reviewing this transcript at 3AM; I woke after an hour’s sleep, intense grief and fear entering my dreams. I sat up and meditated for a while, but mind would not settle down at all. So, I came into my office to review the transcript. Sometimes we just have to allow ourselves an escape if the emotion is too strong. When I finish this, I’ll go out to my hot tub and soak a while, meditate there, and then go back to bed.

At this point, with stories wanting to pour out, we note “fear, fear”, or just “contraction”. I may not even be aware that I’m afraid. Contracting, contracting. Breathing in, I am aware of the contraction. Breathing out, I hold space for the contraction. When I open to whatever has come up and is causing so much discomfort, there’s space for it. We have enormous capacity for the fear, grief, pain, anger, if we will allow ourselves to experience these. I’ve been visualizing the grief or the fear as a small, compact ball, fiery hot, and holding it in a large, cool space, maybe with water pouring through. But mostly we don’t want to experience such painful objects. If we don’t allow ourselves to experience them then we shut ourselves off.

Probably 25 years ago, I was on a long retreat in Canada. It was cold, snow up to my thighs. II woke in the middle of the night and could feel the contraction in myself, that there was something I had been avoiding and needed to let myself see. My teacher, Aaron, said, “Go out and walk in the snow.” It was 2AM. “Go out and walk in the snow.” So, I dressed warmly, went out and walked in the snow with my walking sticks for balance. Along with my deafness, my middle ear semicircular canal is non-functional, so I don’t have normal ear balance. Aaron said, “Now let go of the walking sticks.” “But I’ll fall!” “Yes!”

I put the walking sticks aside, stood, and fell. Of course, the snow was deep. It wasn’t a painful fall; it was like landing in a soft cloud. I was warmly dressed. I got up. “Do it again: stand, fall.” I must have fallen over 15 times, sitting on the ground for a minute or two after each fall. The landing wasn’t hard. Letting myself fall was hard.

I began to see how I lived my life trying to be upright. I lost my hearing just after my first son was born 45 years ago. It was traumatic, and I was determined, “I will survive this. There’s nothing I will not do but hear.” Can you feel the tension in that statement? “I will do it!” It did take courage to learn to live deaf and without balance, but instead of opening with love to that part of me that was strong and courageous, and moving from there, I pushed away fear and pain and became armored and stoic. I WILL do it! I didn’t honor my strength but was determined to push away any weakness. I could see how I’d been living my life all that time trying to be upright, the strong one who could handle everything. It allowed a major shift for me, 20 years into being deaf.

Well, I felt I had long passed that old pattern, that I had learned what I needed to. Yesterday during a bodywork session, lying on the table, I could feel how hard and painful my back was, and how much energy I was holding in the clenched back,. Lying on a table, I was meditating, and as I felt that clenching in my back and brought kind attention to it, and the practitioner saw the hardness too and touched my back gently, there was a feeling almost like someone like someone had opened a valve in my back and tons of garbage and sludge were pouring out, all the accumulation of these two weeks, and probably of a lifetime!.

So it was very powerful to feel how I had been locking that energy in. Obviously, this has been immensely traumatic. I love my husband dearly. We were— are to celebrate— I will not use the past tense, our 50th anniversary in May. I could feel how I was storing this grief, the fear, in my body and especially in my back.

So, we do what is skillful. Here is an example. We have a practice called clear comprehension of purpose. I asked myself, as I was lying there, what is my highest purpose? Is it to armor myself in that way and push the feelings away? Or is it to allow myself to open, to be present with the pain? Because only when I’m present with pain can I be fully present with love. Is what I am doing in this moment consistent with my highest purpose? If not, what options do I have that I have not yet considered?

We’re here to live our lives fully. Trauma is going to happen to every one of you in some way or another. You may fall off your bike and break your wrist. A loved one may die. You may get sick or in a car accident. You may lose your job. A tree may be struck by lightning and fall on your house. This is life; we can’t escape this. In order to live our lives with joy and love, we need to be willing to be present with the pain, the fear, the grief. We begin to understand, this has arisen out of conditions and it does not have to rule the rest of my life.

There is another part. Right here with fear is that which is not afraid. Right here with grief is the one who is joyful. It doesn’t mean I shut out the grief, or the fear, or the anger, but rather, I learn how to hold both anger and the one who is not angry.

Last night, sitting in my husband’s room meditating, maybe because of my experience of opening earlier in the day, I was finally able to allow myself to feel how angry I was at him. Now, how can you be angry at someone who’s had a stroke? It’s not his fault. Basically, he took good care of himself. We went to the gym every day. He was in good physical shape. But the anger is there. “Look what you did to our lives! How could you have a stroke?” And the resentment. I depended on him, because he was a financial analyst in his working days, to take care of all the paperwork. “Why didn’t you set it up somehow, so we would have money for this?” Well, this is not his fault. This is the system we live in, and it’s a bad system. Nursing home insurance is exorbitantly expensive, and we made a conscious decision, years ago, not to buy it. This is the result of our decision. But, anger came up. So, I sat there, first allowing myself to feel the anger. Breathing in, I am aware of the anger. Just breathing and holding space for the anger. Aware of the intermingling of anger and fear.

I began to do a compassion meditation. First, starting with myself and offering compassion to myself. Can I truly love myself and the pain I am feeling? Hold myself in my heart and not condemn myself for being angry, for feeling fear, resentment, confusion? And then, turning to Hal, just: I love you unconditionally. I love you. And there’s still anger and fear. That doesn’t negate the love. So, this is part of what I mean when I say, “that which is aware of angry is not angry.” We can find the one who genuinely loves, is openhearted and tender, is not angry, right there with the anger.

I needed to find a way to hold space for our entire experience, pain and love. I could not have lived these last two weeks without my meditation practice. I would have been totally overwhelmed. I would have spent my days curled up in a fetal ball, sobbing. I couldn’t have done it. The practice allowed me to know the experience of the moment, and, just as important, to know how I was relating to that experience. Obviously I was not able to do this completely or I wouldn’t have been storing all the tension in my back. So, it took me 2 weeks to get in touch with the tension, but that’s better than 2 months or 2 years. It’s really pretty much released now. I’m slumping, I no longer have to be tall! I don’t have to be upright. I give myself permission to cry and be afraid.

With some time alone in the room with Hal, I did something I didn’t think I could do. I was standing next to his bed, and I bent over and put my head on his chest. I’ve done this a couple of times the past 2 days. He can move his left arm and hand. His right side is completely paralyzed. I took his left hand and put it on my face. It felt good to feel his hand touching me. And I just let myself cry there, with my head on his chest. He’s beginning to become a little more responsive. He’s opening his eyes and looking at people, but I had no idea if he recognized it’s me.

But last night as I was there, not sobbing but crying softly, I felt his fingers begin to move in my hair. That little bit of comfort, little bit of contact, saying, “I am here. Don’t worry, it’s going to be okay.” And what okay means… (pausing for a tissue)— some things are hard to talk about without crying… Current events are always harder than the past ones…

I felt myself melt into his being for about 10 minutes. He could die tomorrow, or today. Who knows. They told us the first week there’s only a 5% chance he’ll survive the first week. They told us the second week there’s only a 5% chance he’ll ever get off the ventilator. But he’s alive and off the ventilator. They told us when he left the ICU there’s only a 10%, 20% chance he’s going to survive the rest of the month. He will, or he won’t; I can’t hold onto him. But I can be present with my fear with kindness for myself and for him, can allow myself that connection with him. It may be the last really human connection I’ll ever have with him. In a sense I was saying goodbye to him last night, and also hello to him. Hello to the new Hal, however he is, and the promise, “I love you. I’ll stick with you and we’ll see what happens.” And I think he could feel that from me, too, at some level. My tears were for both of us.

We don’t know how much he can understand. The stroke destroyed the neural channels that allow the brain to send messages to the speech center, and to the right side of body. But the brain intelligence is intact. There’s no way of knowing whether he understands speech. Several times it seems that he has. Several times we’ve said, “Can you raise your hand?” and he’s raised his hand. So, it may be that he’s understanding. The brain can form new channels and is doing so.

Coming back to my talk. Can you see how important it is to allow ourselves to be present with things as they are and not shut ourselves down? This is the only way we can live our lives fully and with love. And I assume that’s what we all want to do, or you all wouldn’t be here. For each of you it’s going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, to find the places where you habitually shut down and to recognize: maybe I don’t have to do that anymore. Maybe I can open my heart and just be present in this moment with the grief, fear, pain, anger, or confusion of this moment. This is how the practice really changes us.

Rudolph Steiner House, Ann Arbor, MI

DSC teacher Dorothyann shares her thoughts about the 2018 March retreat

Deep Spring Center’s annual March Retreat with basic instruction in Vipassana Meditation was held at the Steiner House in Ann Arbor this year.

The event drew seventeen folks from all directions. Responding to our online promotion, they came from Traverse City, Cadillac, Alpena, Midland, Grand Blanc, Sterling Heights, Pinckney, Westland, Toledo, Dayton to join local Ann Arbor retreatants in a weekend exploring the four foundations of mindfulness as well as the four noble truths of Buddhist teaching.

Most of the retreatants for the weekend were new to the practice. But as the group settled in, it became apparent to the teachers that these students of the dharma were serious and hungry to learn the practice. They entered into the noble silence as if they had been doing it all their lives.

As comments were shared at the closing, it was plain that Barbara Brodsky’s teaching from her own personal situation with her husband’s health had left a very strong impression. We can forget how lucky we are in Ann Arbor to have such an inspiring guiding teacher and opportunities to sit with fellow meditators regularly.

As people talked during the final hour of the last day, Dorothyann Coyne and Amy Koch, who were both teaching with Barbara, could hear the very heart-felt desire for more opportunities to learn and practice meditation in towns around us. It is wonderful that Deep Spring Center can address this very real spiritual hunger not only with our annual March Retreat but also with the many classes and special events that are carried out into the world through our internet offerings.

What Like Minded Loving Hearts Can Accomplish

As Managing Director I am passionate about Deep Spring Center and the possibilities of what like-minded, loving hearts can accomplish. We are on an exciting journey that is part of a growing international spiritual center, Deep Spring Center.
The volunteers and I have spent hours, dare I say years, developing a center that uses technology to connect us. This newsletter is a sample of the organization that supports the dharma and the teachings of Aaron, channeled by Barbara Brodsky.
Barbara Brodsky returned recently from the Casa in Brazil and is now ready to continue her work with Aaron and teaching the dharma.
The end of this month features several Deep Spring Center events.
  • Sunday, March 25, Remembering Wholeness, 2:00 – 5:00 pm, will be held locally offering Darshan, which is an interaction between the human and the divine as Barbara channels the Mother. Other sessions this spring will be held on Sundays, April 15 and June 3.
  • Wednesday, March 28, Evenings with Aaron, 7:00 – 9:00 pm, will be held locally and streamed live. Aaron, channeled by Barbara, shares stories, teachings and answers questions from those at the center and online. Another session will be held in late spring, on Sunday, May 9.
  • Weekly, Sunday Online Meditation from Anywhere, 11:00 am – 12 noon eastern, exclusively online for our growing international sangha. No experience needed; facilitated by Celeste Zygmont.
So many avenues have been developed to connect and support Deep Spring Center. Visit our website at DeepSpring.org. Join us on Facebook, follow us on twitter and view the monthly Dharma Journal on YouTube.
You can always connect with me personally at [email protected]. I will do my best to assist you.
Lovingkindness,
Tana Dean
Managing Director

Dharma Journal | February 2018 | Opening the Loving Heart to the Pain of the World

Recorded in Barbara Brodsky’s office. Aaron discusses impermanence.

Video and Transcript, the video is also closed captioned.

Aaron: My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron. When you are watching this, it will be Febru-ary, the month of your celebration of St. Valentine’s Day, a festival of love. I hope that you ex-tend love to yourself and to others all year round. But let’s just focus on this one day, the day of the heart, the day of love.

Last month i spoke about impermanence, and that while on the relative level everything is im-permanent – that it arises out of conditions, and then passes away – on the ultimate level nothing ever passes away. The affairs of the moment— the itch, the worry, the planning mind, all of these things come and are gone. What remains is the loving heart; presence and loving kind-ness. When you move into the place where you and everything are not separate, then you can begin truly to love.

I spoke last month about the tree that grows out of the conditions of rich soil, sunshine, rain, and a seed, and grows into a tree. The tree is cut down. The sculptor shapes the tree. I used this (holding a wood Buddha) last month as an example, and we’ll use it again, a heavy piece of wood. This is a tree you’re looking at. This is clouds and sunshine, rivers and oceans, and the rich earth. You are like this piece of wood. Even more like it, as you are also a Buddha, an awakened one. But you are part of everything.

However, the human has the habitual tendency to close itself in and separate from everything else. It’s really part of the reflex of being a mammal. You understand that the body can be harmed, and so you armor yourself. The more armored you are, the less you can interconnect. It is only when you open the armor that you can truly mesh with everything and be everything.

A lot of you have been worrying about political affairs in the past few months, concerned be-cause there are certain policies of the governing bodies that you do not like, and that leads you to anger at them and closing your heart to them. As soon as you create that separation, whether it’s with your president or your Congress, your local officials, or your neighbors, people who create discomfort for you because they have different views, as soon as you separate yourself the en-ergy can no longer flow. This person has this stance, and that person has that stance, and they clash. When you begin to know yourself as energy and light, as the essence of pure awareness and the loving heart, you begin to recognize that everything else has the same essence. Two trees don’t fight with each other; the branches and roots grow through each other. They may even come to support each other. Does a tree have more wisdom than you do?

Last month I spoke about impermanence, the impermanence of the mundane aspects of your being. It’s so helpful when you begin to contemplate that which continues within you— not the mundane aspects but awareness, love, presence, wisdom. Not to create a new self-identity but to let go of “self-identity”, and to truly know, I am “That”. I am connected with everything. If noth-ing is separate, then I do not have to be afraid of anything. Then I can truly move into a space of unconditional love. Love and compassion come together, and they are strong.

The wisdom arises that knows how to balance the ultimate level of unconditional love and the relative level that knows how to say no to something that’s abusive, that’s dangerous, that’s harmful.

You probably realize I’m recording this not now in February but it’s actually December, and we’ve been watching the forest fires sweeping through California. People have come to me, say-ing, “Aaron, I hate these forest fires!” Well, I understand you dislike the destruction. I understand that you feel grief about the loss of life, human and animal and natural forest. But as soon as you say, “I hate this!” you create separation.

You are beings of energy, and fire is an elemental energy. You interrelate to everything. The same elements are in you and in the world out there. Hate is a contractive emotion. It’s a fiery emotion, ungrounded and devoid of water element, hard with a thick crust. Do you think hate helps to extinguish fires?

Of course I’m talking about the actual forest fire, but let’s look at the fire of anger; the fire of strong antithetical feelings toward another human being. Does hate help to shift them? You do not have to hate something to say no to it. I would guess that many of those who are out there on the front lines with huge equipment, trying to put out the forest fires, have much more a respect than hatred of the fire. There is the intention to control the fire so as not to allow it to do harm. But this is not hate.

What happens when you know the fire in yourself, as you’re fighting the figurative or literal forest fire? Since most of you are not out there with hoses fighting the literal forest fire, let’s go to the figurative. Here is a neighbor or a spouse or parent or child who’s angry. They’re always pushing you. It’s very uncomfortable, and the thought starts to come, “I hate this person.” Hate. Is that going to put out the fire? Let’s look at what you think of as the other alternative. “Oh, push me around! Do whatever you want.” And they’ll keep pushing and pushing. Is that going to put out the fire?

The option takes going into your heart and knowing that hate, as emotion, has arisen out of con-ditions and is impermanent. You can begin to uncover that within yourself which is connected, which has compassion for the pain of the other, and still is able to say, “No, you may not do harm because of your pain.” You begin a shift that says it is not your pain, it is our pain. And I am able to stay connected to our pain with my heart open. I say no, you may not do harm. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a forest fire or an internal forest fire of heavy feelings between yourself and others. Or nations threatening each other with nuclear arms. Or “hate-mongering” amongst polit-ical figures. You have the power to say no to all this because of the essence of what you are, which is loving, pure awareness that can hold it all when you release the armoring and allow yourself to be touched by the pain that is creating this world of emotions, this hatred, this anger, this confusion. Whenever you armor yourself it creates separation.

What is asked of you is the courage to allow yourself to be touched by the pain of this moment, and right there with the pain, to find the love in this moment, the spaciousness in this moment, the possibilities for growth in this moment. For communication, for learning.

I’m coming back to my initial thought: everything in the conditioned realm is impermanent. For some of you, that is a ground for fear. “I want something to hold onto.” You have something to hold onto, but it is not what you think. It does not belong to you. It simply is, and therefore it can never be lost. It is love, it is light, spaciousness and presence. When you know yourself as this, everything becomes possible.

So this month as you celebrate love and St. Valentine flying up there with his bow and arrow, let his arrow touch your heart. Let it awaken you to the truth of unconditional love that is your es-sence. Let it allow you to open yourself to the pain of the world, the enormous suffering of the world, because only as that hard shell of armor falls away can you begin to be the love of the world and invite others to be that with you. It doesn’t mean you won’t have to talk out disagree-ments, but there is no longer merely conflict but merging, understanding, and love.

I am coming back here as I close to a very favorite Buddhist sutra. “Abandon the unwholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it.” And it goes on, then, to, “Cultivate the whole-some. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it.” You do not abandon the unwholesome by armoring yourself but by opening yourself so that you can release that tension of separation, of fear, of hatred, and find your true being. In that true being, you cultivate the wholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it.

Thank you.

Davy Rothbart – Facebook entry about his dad Hal Rothbart

Davy Rothbart from his facebook page about his dad’s major stroke. Hal Rothbart is at the Neuro ICU University of Michigan Hospital. Posted: Mon., Feb. 26, 2018.

Hi friends and loved ones: As you may know, my Dad Hal Rothbart had a major stroke early Friday morning and is in the Neuro ICU at University of Michigan Hospital. I’ve been here with my family and some close family friends the past 3 days. While even small degrees of recovery from a stroke of this magnitude are very rare, my Dad has a uniquely vital spirit and has always been one to live life outside the box, and we are remaining hopeful and optimistic. He has shown some small but meaningful signs of progress, and while he can’t really communicate, he has occasional moments of semi-awareness, where he seems to understand our presence and be able to absorb some of our words. So, here’s where you all come in — whether you know my Dad or not… Two options below!

So many of you have met my Dad or know him well, and I know it means a lot to him to have so many people thinking about him. I would love for you to share a story about my Dad with me — and with him. I will read as many of these to him as I can. Could be a sentence, a paragraph, or a page — a small moment, a great memory, general good wishes, anything at all. Leave it in the comments below so that others can also appreciate your words, or feel free to email or FB message it to me privately. His condition, while severe, is stable for now, so feel free to share a quick message now or something longer in the next few days if you’d like to gather your thoughts first. Or both! CRUCIAL: Please address any reminiscences in the 2nd person, directly to my dad. Like: “I remember that time when you…” Imagine you are in the room with him and talking to him yourself. The idea is that I’ll tell him who’s writing to him and then read your message/story for him.

For the other portion of you who have maybe never met my Dad, I am seeking personal stories of people overcoming great odds and triumphing in some way. Maybe you, your friend, or someone you heard about who was told that something was next-to-impossible, highly unlikely, but they found a way to do it anyway. Could be a health battle, a creative pursuit, a social justice campaign, something from sports, politics, or anything at all, no matter how large or small the challenge. These stories are motivating, encouraging, and inspiring, and I plan to share some of these with my Dad as well… whatever you’d like to share here.

Thank you so much for participating, it really means a lot. And we are all so grateful for all of the loving texts, FB messages, emails, and calls these past couple days — and all of the generous local support as well, including the elite and empathetic doctors, nurses, and staff at U. of M. Hospital.

You can see much more detailed updates about my Dad’s evolving condition on my brother Mike Forster Rothbart‘s Facebook page, so if you’re interested please send him a friend request or stay tuned to his feed.

I’ll post again in the coming days, I’m sure. Love to all of you, and especially to my Dad, a true O.G. and an amazing father.

Hal Rothbart – Barbara Brodsky’s husband suffering from a brain hemorrage

Please visit this site for continuing updates: https://www.caringbridge.org/public/halrothbart
This blog will no longer be updated, Sun., March 11, 2018.
 
Created Sunday, February 25, 2018; updated Thursday, March 8 at 10 am eastern
Hal Rothbart, Barbara Brodsky’s husband suffered from a stroke (brain hemorrage) Thursday (Feb. 22, 2018) night and is now in intensive care at the University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor, MI. Following is the information available. I will be sending out the link to this blog post and update here for people to read. Inviting healing and calming energy to Hal Rothbart, his family and all those caring for and about him.
Tana Dean, Managing Director, DSC

From Mike Forster Rothbart – My mom and Aaron makes these specific requests about what to do now:
 
Dear friends, remember that while the stroke and bleeding did cause damage, further inflammation can be  temporary, caused by the stroke and bleeding. We release this inflammation and invite the clear tissue to return. The most important gift you can give is to offer a very gentle calming energy. Always inviting, healing, never grasping at it. Picture his brain like a small baby that was deeply frightened by a loud noise. Picture how you would hold and quiet that baby, inviting it to release its fear and find its calm center. In this way picture his brain releasing the inflammation and returning to its natural state. 

We know that cells can regenerate. The time for that has not come yet. The first step is to invite the brain to release the trauma it has experienced by calming and loving it. When that is done, in a few days, we’ll look at the next step.
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Video:

https://www.facebook.com/mfrphoto/videos/10107958929692977/

March 8 am
Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 14 morning

It’s hard to keep an even keel while bouncing on a trampoline. My dad is back in the ICU.

Last night about 9 pm, I was washing a stack of dishes, Peter was watching Jumanji and mom was getting into bed when Davy called from the hospital.

See, yesterday afternoon Dr. Morgan replaced dad’s trach tube in preparation for his departure. He explained to me that—oddly—it is a supply issue: the trach tubes that the hospital prefers are hard to find, so they swap them out for another more common brand when patients are leaving.

Around 8 pm, dad started having trouble breathing. A medical technician noticed him inhaling through his mouth, which should not be possible with a cuffed trach. They discovered that the new trach tube was not positioned correctly. As Davy watched, 3 doctors and 2 nurses soon crowded around the bed as they yanked the tube out of the small hole in his esophagus and urgently tried to replace it.

Afterwards, one of the doctors debriefed Davy and reassured him. “It probably looked worse than it was,” he said, but then admitted he could not remember a time when they had replaced a trach tube out on the ward rather than in an ICU sterile room.

The first days in the hospital we were riding every high and low like this. Oh no, I would think, he is not responding to our voices, is he dying? Then eventually I’d realize that he was just sleepy. Over the weeks I’ve got more inured to the ups and downs. “Alarm fatigue,” one nurse told me, “when alarms start going off and you don’t even notice them anymore.”

Nevertheless, tonight feels like a step back. I cried a bit when I got off the phone with Davy.

He’s back in the ICU ®

You don’t know how lucky you are boy.

As far as we know, he’ll be staying there all day.

Michael Forster Rothbart

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March 7, 8 pm

Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 13 evening

Here is a video of my mom and dad together yesterday. I was crying while I watched them together.

https://www.facebook.com/mfrphoto/videos/10107957621065477/

SO! The hospital is kicking my dad out. They believe he has recovered enough to move to a Long-Term Acute Care facility. If all goes well, tomorrow at 10 am he will hail an ambulance and roll across town to Select Specialty Hospital, a private for-profit ICU located inside St. Joseph’s hospital.

There is a fascinating story behind why he is moving, involving managed care, Medicare and miscommunication between departments in the hospital. I’ll share this all if and when I get a chance. However, we toured the Select ward today and it looks adequate. Not as wonderful as the U of M Neurology ICU, but it will do. We can expect my dad to be there for about 4 weeks.

For those who want to visit: Follow signs to St. Jo’s Main Entrance (Lot B). From the cental lobby take the elevator to 7th floor North. You’ll see signs for Select, and walk down the hall to the nurses’ station.

Look for new volunteer information tomorrow.  Thanks.

Mike

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Written by Davy March 6

Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 12 morning

Last night Davy was at the hospital at midnight. Here is his report.

Hi all,

Good news — My dad “graduated” from the Neuro ICU tonight and moved down the hall to Unit 4A. Thank you so much to all who have helped him survive the most dangerous moments of this past week and reach a new point in his healing. Your generous presence has made a huge difference to him — and to us. I’m deeply grateful.

Just wanted to give everyone a heads-up since I know some of you have visits planned this week. Although he’s off the ICU, continuing to have guests, loving energy, and interactivity is the best way for him to continue his recovery, especially as he will have less company of nurses and doctors on this new wing. Let’s keep giving him love!

You can just drop by or you can sign up for a time to visit here: https://doodle.com/poll/72bw7bvtizhufphg

His new room is #A-4111. It’s not far from the ICU, and if you end up in the ICU, they’ll point you here. Instead of taking Elevator 2, you now take Elevator 3, UH-East elevator. Still on floor 4. Emerge from elevator, take a right and continue onto the wing. At first main cross-hall, take a right, and go down maybe 100 feet, you will see #4111 on the right. He has his own room with a view, and even his own bathroom.

It’s good for him to have auditory, visual and physical stimuli. You may want to talk to him, read to him, or sing to him yourself. I’ve also brought some of my Dad’s favorite CDs and a little boombox on his bedside table. No pressure to have music running nonstop, but feel free to play some of the Broadway soundtracks or other fun CDs for sing-alongs, if he’s awake, or something quieter and more restful if he’s asleep. When I leave, I usually put on something soothing at a low volume, to run for a while after I’m gone…

Feel free to hold his hand or give him some light massage. He’s also had some swelling in his right hand, so elevating it slightly and rubbing it to encourage circulation is great, especially if he’s already awake. As always, be sure to wash hands or use hand sanitizer when entering (there’s plenty of it in the room), and if you’ve got a cold or flu, best to stay away ’til you’re feeling better.

Let us know if anyone has any questions — and thanks again so much for all of the incredible generosity all of you have shown these past 12 days to my Dad and our whole family!

Love, Davy

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March 5, 11 pm

Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 11 evening

Here’s my dad’s to-do list from the week before his stroke: He was working on a second print run of my mom’s book, “deposit Casa book money,” doing things for all three of his sons “do mailings, write up projects” and wanted to go to the gym every day. He worked on a play about Flint. He planned a classic movie night for his new neighbors and deliberated about what movie to show. West Side Story? Terms of Endearment?

The movie night was cancelled. It was scheduled for Saturday night, the day after he had his stroke. He’s been in the ICU for 11 days now, but he’ll be moving any time to the general care neurology ward. During morning rounds, the head doctor told me today that there is not much more they can do for him in the ICU. Now we just need to wait and see how he recovers.

We were in the hospital for 5 hours this morning and early afternoon. Dad slept almost the whole time—he even slept through his occupational therapy. Laura the OT taught me how to move his arms up and down and rotate his wrists and elbows while he snored away. He has settled into a schedule of being more wakeful from 5 am to 9 am and then again from 3 pm to 10 pm or even later. Meanwhile, the rest of us have settled into our own wacky schedules, sleeping from 1 or 2 am until 7 am. Last night mom couldn’t sleep because of stress and a chattering monkey mind and she got up to do more email at 3 in the morning.

In the ICU, dad had a steady stream of visitors, though he generally slept through them. The doc, the physical therapist, the occupational therapist, the Medicaid expert, the med tech, the respiratory nurse, the rabbi and the janitor all came to call. It sounds like the beginning of a joke…. We learned a lot. Then three friends came to sit with him for a couple hours each.

It was actually Ken, the janitor, who tipped me off about how soon they may move dad. I befriended Ken as he came in and out of the room, because that is something my dad would do were he not laying inert. “See how his nametag got pulled over to the side [on the board]??” Ken asked. That means he may move down the hall as soon as a bed opens up. The “G/C” written up alongside his name means that he won’t get moved to the stroke unit, he’ll go to general 4a ward instead.

Mike Forster Rothbart

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Evening, Sunday, March 4 

Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 10 evening 

Every piece of good news is also bad, and I can’t tell up from down anymore. It turns out that my mom and Davy are the family optimists, while Peter and I are more skeptical that any behavior we see dad attempt has any real significance. The big question is: how much is he still in there? Do any of the motions he makes demonstrate conscious thought or are they just autonomic? Is he responding to our stimuli or is he just moving?

This morning he was quite alert. Mom talked to him awhile and when she stepped away, he lifted his head and turned. I’d like to say he turned his head to keep watching her, but all I can say for sure is that he lifted his head for a few seconds.

This afternoon he mostly slept. During one awake period, he was scratching at his nose. I held up a tissue and encouraged him to blow his nose. He took the tissue in his hand but just held it. Mom took a second tissue and mimed blowing her nose, asking him to try it. He lifted the tissue up as high as his throat then let it drop. I wish I believed he was thinking “For god’s sake, Barbara, I don’t feel like blowing my damn nose. Stop babying me!” But realistically at best, he’s thinking “face—voice—woman. Who?,” if he’s even thinking at all.

Today dad’s lungs improved, and he mostly stopped coughing up blood. Tomorrow the doctors will consider moving him off the ICU to the Neurology unit. Tomorrow the physical therapist wants to try sitting him up. Tomorrow the hospital billing office wants to meet with us to discuss options after discharge. Depending on his recovery rate, he might move to an LTAC facility — longterm acute care — for two to three weeks, or go directly to sub-acute rehab (a medical facility inside a nursing home) for six to ten weeks. After that we can only guess what he’ll need, probably a nursing home. The going rate in Michigan for the kind of medical facility he’ll need is $100,000 per year or more. It scares my mom to think about what will happen.

One problem is that my parents’ finances are a mess. Any system of organizing it was mostly in my dad’s head. This feels like when your hard drive gets corrupted and you lose the document you were working on that you were sure you’d saved. Except the document in question here is my parents’ retirement plan.

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Sun., March 4, 2018
Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 9 evening

Dad spent more time asleep today than awake, but he seemed to sleep soundly, an hour or two at a time, and when he awoke he was often alert for a few minutes.

Brock (dad’s nurse today), Davy and I tried to get dad to respond to directions. (See video).

 [NOTE to email list: you should be able to follow this link even if you don’t use Facebook].

We tried a lot of different commands — wiggle your foot, raise your thumb, close your eyes, open your eyes, turn your head. Dad looked like he was listening to us. Brock showed us how to mime a gesture, touch the relevant body part and speak to dad, so that he would get related stimuli from three different senses. And sometimes he did respond — on average, once per five times. A 20% response rate is higher than he’s had since Day 2, though it is not always clear if he is following a request or just moving. Dad tires easily, so after a few minutes of Simon Says we play music or sing or talk to him.

So that’s the good news. The bad news is that dad continues to cough up lots of blood and mucus. There’s a lot of fluid in his lungs, and this pneumonia is the main factor keeping him in the ICU at this point. Originally they hoped to move him down the hall today, but the staff still need to suction his esophagus every 30 to 60 minutes. They feed a foot-long skinny rubber tube through the hole in his trachae and down his throat. Dad’s face turns red as he gags and coughs up blood. It looks almost as unpleasant to me as a standard catheter.

But I am so impressed with the ICU staff. Today I watched Brock wipe dad’s butt, change his soiled sheets, rotate him, suction his throat, and still have energy left to engage him in conversation. They are dedicated and it’s clear they really care. This makes me nervous about what will happen to dad when he leaves here.

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March 2, 11 pm
Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 8

This morning, dad was the most awake and active I’ve seen him since the stroke. For three hours he had his eyes more open than closed (perhaps 60/40), moving his left arm and leg frequently. For the first time, the movement looked purposeful. He’d lift his arm to stroke his beard, or grab his hospital gown. He reclined in bed and looked around at sounds. I played Broadway show tunes for him and he appeared to be listening.

  This video clip gives a sense of how he looks and moves. [NOTE to email list: you should be able to follow this link even if you don’t use Facebook].

  As we sat with dad, I talked with Brock—his nurse for today—about levels of consciousness. “At the basic level,” Brock told me, “a person just has vague unfocused movements,” like withdrawing from physical pain. At the next level, someone will respond to stimuli such as sounds or light or touch, but there are still no signs of conscious thought. “You can hold someone’s hand and say ‘squeeze my hand,’ but are they actually following your command or just responding to the sensation of touch?,” Brock asked. What the doctors really look for are ways to determine comprehension and conscious response, such as telling a patient to hold two fingers in the air. “If you say that and they lift two fingers, you know they are listening—that won’t happen by accident.”

  While we talked, we watched dad lift his arm over his head and stare at the IV lines attached to his wrist, as if trying to figure out what they were. Like a baby staring at toys dangling over the crib.

  Progess? Definitely. Part of an upward trend? It’s too soon to tell.

  So I’m celebrating the small things. It is tragically less than the vigorous man I talked to 10 days ago, but such an improvement over the passive patient I saw last Friday. When he first arrived at the ICU, the doctors gave him a low chance for survival, and now they are talking to us about planning for nursing homes.

  After 9 hours at the hospital, mom and I headed home. Davy and Peter came after lunch and stayed into the evening.

  Davy just now told me that dad has been “super awake with me the past 90 minutes. We listened and I sang to all of Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack and half of West Side story. Both his eyes are tracking together and he even seemed to follow some commands with wiggling his thumb, although it’s always hard to tell. Definitely the most alert I’ve seen him though, after a sluggish afternoon and early evening.”

And tomorrow is another day.

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From Mike Rothbart, March 1; 5:10 pm:

CALL for Volunteers to help my Dad and Mom:

Since my dad @Hal Rothbart had a major stroke last week, we’ve received so many offers to help. We’re so grateful! Now we’re getting organized enough to plan what we need. Here are our 4 major requests:

  1. Sitting with Hal:

We created a schedule for people to keep Hal company while he’s in the ICU. Please sign up for a two-hour block. (You’re also welcome to drop by for a bit, but planned visits are more useful).

Sign up for times through March 9 here: https://doodle.com/poll/72bw7bvtizhufphg

Those with bodywork training have been coming to do work on him. If you have questions or none of the listed times work, contact visitor coordinator Beth Mulder at [email protected].

2. Supporting Barbara and her family.

Barbara and her family will need emotional, physical and practical support. This will include meals, massages, some errands and brief physical tasks at Barbara’s house, and helping Barbara organize living in her home without Hal there.

Soon we will start a volunteer sign-up using www.caringbridge.orgWe will notify you when this is available can also contact volunteer coordinator Ann Thomas at [email protected] with offers. (Note if you offered to help before, it may have gotten lost in the chaos, so please let us know again.)

3. Collecting stories of inspiration.

Davy has been gathering stories and reading them to Hal. See more details here: www.facebook.com/davy.rothbart/posts/1799111850113238 . You can send stories to Davy at [email protected].

4. Sending your prayers and healing energy our way. We have two scheduled times each day for focused meditation for healing, in person and from afar, at 10 am and 8 pm EST. (And obviously your prayers are welcome anytime!) Look for more specific instructions at www.facebook.com/mfrphoto.

We are posting updates daily at www.facebook.com/mfrphoto and www.deepspring.org/hal-rothbart/. If you don’t use Facebook and would like to get updates by email, send a request to [email protected].

  Thanks all!

Mike Forster Rothbart
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March 1, 11 pm
Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 7 evening

This morning dad was alert around 5 am, according to today’s nurse, Charlotte, and neurosurgeon Larry Morgan. They used the ceiling-mounted lift to raise him out of bed and transfer him to a giant hospital barcalounger by the window. He sat there until it was time to leave for surgery. It’s good for his body to get propped in different positions, Charlotte said.

It was a quiet afternoon in the hospital. Dad mostly slept while he recovered from this morning’s PEG tube operation. He woke up for 40 minutes and was looking around while I held his hand and talked to him. I discussed the weather (wet sleet, blowing horizontally), the names of the nurses and the bagel I had for lunch. Every few minutes I reminded him where he was and why.

It’s hard for me to talk for a long time to someone who is unresponsive, so I gave myself breaks by playing 80s rock on the radio. He looked briefly interested each time a new song came on. Michael Jackson: “I’m talking bout the man in the mirror. I’m askin him to change his way-ay-ays.” Air Supply: “Here I am, the one that you love. Askin’ for another day.”

When I say he woke up, I want to make sure you understand: the difference is subtle. Like the distinction between being half-awake and half-asleep. He groggily looks around a minute and sometimes his left eye focuses. Then he drifts. His left arm moves up as he idly tries to grasp his air tube. But often it looks less intentional than like someone turning in his sleep.

Until today, his left wrist was frequently tied down to prevent him from yanking out his feeding tube whenever he gagged on it. Now his hand is free, since there is nothing critical he can pull. The hose just has humidified air with extra oxyen, blowing gently past his new breathing hole. Anyway, Dr. Morgan doubts he has the dexterity to really pull it yet.

Davy and Peter came to watch the Michigan game with him. The two of them kept jumping out of their seats as Michigan blew shot after shot and the refs made bad calls. Dad looked, at best, mildly puzzled as his eye passed over the screen. Other times he appeared oblivious or asleep. Michigan won in OT but dad was unaware.

Even though it is not clear how much is getting through, it will be important for the next six weeks to give him as much stimulation as possible. The neurons will be re-establishing broken connections around the damaged area. The period of most likely recovery begins now.

Unfortunately, there’s only one thing right now to which he consistently gives a clear response: physical pain. Gagging and grimacing when a nurse siphons out his throat with a long tube. Pulling his hand away when a nurse squeezes a pressure point.

He does sometimes respond to other stimula but it is inconsistent. Davy is there now, and just reported that Jim, the night nurse, got dad to lift his left foot on command this evening. If we can get him to start following such commands, we’ll really be able to make progress. But it’s hard to track: every hour is different.

We’re still looking for volunteers to come sit with Hal. Sign up here: https://doodle.com/poll/72bw7bvtizhufphg

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February 28, 2018 | Mike Forster Rothbart
Update on my dad: @Hal Rothbart — Day 6 morning.

Today dad is getting a tracheostomy, minor surgery creating a small hole in his windpipe, to provide an alternative airway for breathing. Until now he’s had a breathing tube. Although he has been breathing mostly on his own for 48 hours, they can’t extubate him (Word of the Day: extubate: to take the tube out. Opposite of intubate!) unless he becomes more alert. Otherwise there is a danger of swallowing fluids or his tongue and choking.

We hoped to see him more awake and responsive yesterday so that the surgery would not be necessary. However, he instead seemed sleepy most of the day. In earlier days, he would move his foot or squeeze a hand when asked to do so. Yesterday he rarely did, and often closed his eyes to drift back to sleep in the middle of our talking to him.

It feels counterintuitive to me, but this surgery is actually less invasive than the breathing tube he has stuck in there now. It looks extremely unpleasant every time he gags and coughs from it. Worse, the tube opens him up to infection. He already has minor pneumonia in his lungs and was running a fever up to 102. The “trache” will give him more time to recover at his own pace. Choosing this operation was the first major decision point for the family. There will be others.

The surgery is scheduled for approximately 11 am to 1 pm. If possible I’ll post a quick note when it starts.

We’ve had so many offers to help, we are so grateful! But we have not had any good way to organize people. Until now. We’re very happy to introduce Hal’s ICU volunteer coordinator, Beth Mulder, @beth.kollinmulder. Look for an email or post here soon about coming to sit with Hal and helping Barbara with some small household tasks.

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Davy Rothbart facebook post, Mon., Feb. 26, 2018

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Update on my dad Hal Rothbart – Day 4 morning, Feb. 27, 2018

Good morning friends. Thank you. We could not do this without you. Amazing to come home after a day at the hospital and find a surprise dinner hanging from the doorknob. I always thought my dad had many acquaintances and no close friends, but I realize I was wrong. He touched people wherever he went.

Three days ago in upstate New York we had freezing rain overnight. When I woke, the trees on the ridge all glistened like a million chandeliers. I thought about going up the mountain to take photos. Maybe next time? No one knew it yet, but my dad was already laying unconscious on his kitchen floor. And so here I am in A2, learning more than I ever wanted to know about strokes.

Yesterday we had a long meeting with the head neurologist and dad’s neurosurgeon. They gave us useful background about hemorrhagic strokes. There are six common causes, and figuring out the cause will help them treat it. Two CAT scans gave them information about the size and location of the bleed, and last night’s MRI will tell them more details.

We’re just waiting for the MRI results now.

Hemorrhagic strokes happen when a blood vessel in your brain leaks or ruptures. It can be from an aneurysm (a weak spot in the blood vessel), an AVM (arteriovenous malformation —misformed blood vessels) or CAA (cerebral amyloid angiopathy, plaque-like deposits of proteins built up in the blood vessels). They’ve ruled the first two out, but it could be the third.

Stroke can also be caused by high blood pressure (hypertension), severe trauma or a tumor. Dad’s blood pressure was fine, and any trauma to his head while falling was the result of the stroke, not the cause of it.

So that leaves a tumor or CAA. Both would be bad news in different ways: CAA has no known treatment and after it has bled once it is more likely to do so again. However, a brain tumor may need aggressive treatment to stop it.

The neurology team is making their rounds now, starting at room 4212 at the far end of the hall, and working clockwise towards us. They’ll tell us what they see on the MRI.

Meanwhile, last evening dad had a lower dose of Propofol, the sedative. Half as much as before. This is a good sign for weaning him from it.

Our present plan is to continue two healing circles a day, 10 am EST and 8 pm EST for half an hour. Join when you can!

Update on my dad: Hal Rothbart — Day 4 evening – #2, Feb. 26, 2017

The doctors warned us that day 4 would be a hump day. They were talking about stroke patients, because the swelling in the brain could peak today. However, tonight I realize it also seems to be hump day for family members. We are all exhausted after sleeping less than 4 hours per night.

Poor dad also looks exhausted. His body needs to rest to recover, but he gets woken frequently by nurses, to suck fluid from his lungs or check his pupils or draw blood or turn him. It’s a constant balance between maintaining his body and letting his brain heal. “If you or I had to come here, healthy, and spend a week living as a patient on the ICU, we’d go crazy,” one of the neurologists commented. The same doctor advised us that recovery from a stroke is a marathon not a sprint. We are trying to learn to pace ourselves.

Today we had good news throughout the day, but each step is so incremental that it is hard to stay optimistic when it is mixed in with bad news.

On the good side:
• Dad was removed from the sedative Propofol at 6 am and never had to be put back on it.
• This meant he was more alert more often, especially in the morning.
• At 8 am, his ventilator was switched from SIMV mode (Synchronized Intermittent Mandatory Ventilation) to Spontaneous mode. Basically this means he was breathing on his own instead of having forced air. Except a few brief periods, he breathed for himself all day. The next step will be to remove the breathing tube entirely, but he is not ready for that yet.
• The MRI showed less swelling than expected. Sometimes the edema (blood and fluid on the brain) can cause additional brain damage but this doesn’t seem to be the case.
• Dad’s other body parts are functioning fairly well: lungs, gastrointestinal, circulatory systems all doing what they are supposed to do. Blood pressure remained normal most of the time.
• They removed his neck brace after the MRI showed no spinal damage.

On the other hand:
• The MRI showed that the most likely cause of the stroke was CAA (cerebral amyloid angiopathy), plaque-like deposits of proteins built up in the blood vessels. Probably better than a tumor, but there is no known medical cure for CAA, and after one stroke, it is common to have additional strokes.
• Dad has developed some pneumonia in his lungs, probably from the vomit he inhaled.
• He developed a fever this afternoon, peaking about 102 degrees, although they got it back down to 99 by 8 pm.
• The doctors want to see dad consistently more alert and wakeful before they will risk removing the breathing tube. Ideally, he should be responsive when we talk to him, able to move a hand or foot on command, track movement with his left eye, and not drift back to sleep in the middle. Although he had moments of seeming engaged, he was not passing these tests this afternoon. He was less alert than in the morning.
• If the breathing tube does not come out this week, it will be time to consider a tracheostomy.
• One method to increase alertness and reduce swelling is by giving a hypersaline solution. This increases sodium and thus decreases liquids in the brain. They tried this about 1 pm but it did not have the desired effect.

Just now, at 10 pm, four of us are winding down for bed and Davy is taking the night shift at the hospital. He just texted this update:

Dad had a good exam at 9:30pm. Elevated alertness and followed commands on opening eyes, moving leg and moving hand. Justine, the new night nurse, scored him a 10 on his Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). Hung with him a few more minutes then he went back to sleep. Just now Vicky the respiratory nurse came in and listened to his breathing and said it’s much improved since last night, and that overall she is sensing incremental progress. Little bit at a time, she said. And Justine cautioned don’t worry if it’s two steps forward one step back. I like seeing the nurses own hopeful attitudes after seeing him. They told me they see a lot of patients and that dad is doing well in the context of others who deal with an extreme stroke like this.

Hal Rothbart and Barbara Brodsky on their wedding night from Mike Forster Rothbart

 

 

My parents dancing at their wedding, 6 people, people smiling, people standing and wedding,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes for tomorrow, Feb. 26, 2018:
We will continue to have two healing circles a day, 10 am EST and 8 pm EST for half an hour. Here are specific requests about what to do:

For Tuesday keep the focus the same as before: relieving inflammation and fluids on the brain, quieting, and gentle. The hemorrhage is centered in his left frontal lobe. [Previous instructions here: www.facebook.com/mfrphoto/posts/10107917665107537 ]

Note 2: Local Ann Arbor friends: we will need volunteers to take shifts sitting with Hal in his ICU room, plus people to support Barbara with some logistical tasks and meals. Those of you who are on Barbara’s local mailing list will get an email with details soon. If you don’t get an email, check back here tomorrow.

Feb 25 10:25pm
Update on Hal Rothbart: Day 3 evening

We’ll have prayer circles again on Monday, from 10 to 10:30 am and 8 to 8:30 pm (Eastern). We will gather (in person or remotely) to pray and support him. Please join us when you can — if you’re busy at those times, feel free to do it when you can.

My mom and Aaron make these specific requests about what to do:

“Dear friends of Hal,

For Monday please keep the focus the same as before, on relieving inflammation on the brain, quieting, and gentle. [Previous instructions here: www.facebook.com/mfrphoto/posts/10107917665107537 and above at the beginning of this post]

Depending on the results of tonight’s MRI, on Tuesday we may be ready to begin some stimulation of the cortex, helping energize the brain and body to better function. Please check in here after 9 pm Monday night for new instructions.”

I realize people from many different parts of my life are reading these updates, so a brief word about my mom for those who don’t know her. She is a spiritual channeler, and primarily channels a spirit named Aaron.

For the purposes of supporting dad, it doesn’t really matter whether you believe in this or think it’s hogwash. As Aaron says, “Some of you may feel skepticism or discomfort at the idea of being addressed by a spirit. It doesn’t matter if I’m “real.” If my words are useful, use them. If not, discard them.”

We appreciate having you quietly praying in whatever form you prefer to do it. Quakers hold people in the light. Jews say Mi Sheberakh. Catholics have their rosaries and Buddhists their mantras.

As dad would sing right now if he could, “Come on something come on in don’t be shy meet a guy pull up a chair.”

(See https://genius.com/Leonard-bernstein-somethings-coming-lyrics

Mike Forster Rothbart
_________________________________________________________

 

Hal Rothbart with family at UofM hospital in Ann Arbor, MI

From Barbara, Fri., Feb. 24 at 10:50 pm:

Dear ones,
It seems from the email/ fb response that we had over 50 people, maybe closer to 100, tuned in with meditation. Please join us tomorrow at 8AM, 8 PM.

Eight of us gathered in his room – me, Mike, Davy,  2 friends of mine and Hal’s, 2 friends of Davy’s and one nurse. Meditating. The nurse stopped the sedation drug at 7:58pm and left it off for nearly an hour. (Previously they had taken him off for 5 minutes at a time but his blood pressure started to rise and he grimaced as if in pain. This time they gave him tylenol before they stopped the sedative).

We gathered around Hal and began to talk to him, then sing some of his favorite songs, play music, tell jokes. His eyes opened occasionally. At first they were unfocused but later his eyes moved around to different places although not always tracking together. He seemed to look at one or another face for a few  moments, and at times we all felt he smiled. Davy told him to move his left foot and then his left hand and sometimes he moved after. With his left hand he sometimes tried to reach up to his tubes, which the nurse felt was a common response to the discomfort.

This morning he was breathing completely with the ventilator while sedated. Late this afternoon he started breathing partly on his own. The ventilator was set to 14 (not sure of the units) and during the time from 8 to 9 tonight, the total intake?/air level was 16 to 22; the nurse said that meant 25% or 30% of the air was coming in from his own effort.

We could feel the huge base of energy support around us. Thank you. It made a big difference for him and all of us.

Very tired, so that’s its for tonight, We need to be there at 7 to meet again with the neurosurgeon on his rounds. Then meditation at 8AM. and our son Peter arrives from Seattle around 9.
with love, Barbara
_________________________________________________________

Written by our son Mike
Updates on dad  Feb 24, 2018 12:45 pm

Day 2:

We slept 2 to 5 hours (Davy 2, me 4 and mom 5) and returned to the hospital for morning rounds. We met with a neurosurgeon who gave us difficult news. Dad had massive internal bleeding the first day — a 7 cm wide affected area, like the size of a hockey puck, in the left rear quadrant of his brain.

Typically day 3 and 4  after a stroke are critical because that’s when there’s the most swelling in the brain. Sometimes this causes further damage, and other times it is temporary and then passes. (What to do about this; See more below) During those days he will be less alert.

The bleeding has now stopped. However patients his age have less than 10% chance of partial recovery and almost no chance of full recovery. Many die within a few weeks.

But dad has always liked to beat the odds. More importantly, we have a caring community around him with a lot of knowledge of healing (of all kinds — allopathic, spiritual etc).

So many of you have asked how to help. Here is one thing we would like:

Tonight from 8 to 8:30 pm (Eastern) we are going to gather (in person or remotely) to pray and hold him in the light. Please join us. We’ll do the same again Sunday (Sunday, Feb. 25) 8 am and 8 pm.

My mom and Aaron makes these specific requests about what to do now:

Dear friends, remember that while the stroke and bleeding did cause damage, further inflammation can be  temporary, caused by the stroke and bleeding. We release this inflammation and invite the clear tissue to return. The most important gift you can give is to offer a very gentle calming energy. Always inviting, healing, never grasping at it. Picture his brain like a small baby that was deeply frightened by a loud noise. Picture how you would hold and quiet that baby, inviting it to release its fear and find its calm center. In this way picture his brain releasing the inflammation and returning to its natural state.

We know that cells can regenerate. The time for that has not come yet. The first step is to invite the brain to release the trauma it has experienced by calming and loving it. When that is done, in a few days, we’ll look at the next step.

Mike Forster Rothbart

Technology, Here We Come!

by Bill Riccobono

From living room talks in founding teacher Barbara Brodsky’s home, to group talks in various sangha settings, now via Zoom in the sanctuary at Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth, the dharma is being spread around the globe. It has been quite a journey … and a steep learning curve at that. But with the help of friends to guide our acquisition of the proper camera and video equipment at a reasonable cost, and the help of Zoom, an online technology that allows us to bring together up to 99 people from around the world, the Deep Spring Center dharma is being spread like never-before imagined!

Approximately 18 months ago, we began with an office manager with some techie skills and a photographer wannabe. Our decision to stream content live on the Internet meant that we needed the equipment to do so and the training to know how to use the equipment! Slowly, we gathered the materials and outlined our production plan and needs. We spent much of the summer of 2015 figuring out how to work with the new equipment.

Learning how to use the camera was the easiest. But even so, with its remote controls, different optical options, and lack of clarity surrounding Bluetooth vs. wireless … we had our hands full. Learning about Zoom was another matter. We were optimistic. Why couldn’t we use three microphones and expect that each would operate predictably and also be properly connected to the laptop/Zoom? (We now use one!) And then we needed to make sure that the various pieces of equipment (approximately 7 or 8) were wired together properly.

We scheduled a dress rehearsal for early September. There were some glitches with wiring, of course, and problems getting the camera to behave as it should, but we did manage a 30-minute taping. With the live Evenings with Aaron night just one week away, anxiety was mounting. We arrived 2.5 hours early to get set up. We started ten minutes late and then encountered a few stumbles along the way—but no matter: we were up, live, sending out the dharma.

At the end of the session, the 12-15 people in Ann Arbor joined Barbara up front so that the 10 online were able to see who had been attending in-person. The hearts and voices from everyone there celebrated our first live presentation as we all waved good-bye to one another. And thus was the first video for the archives produced. It was an incredible, wonderful feeling (and relief). And, you know, maybe something we could consider doing on a regular basis.

Gratefully,
Bill Riccobono
Video Production Team Leader
Deep Spring Center Board

______________________________________________________________________

From email newsletter February 13, 2018 | Link

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Eleven Short Stories about Empathy

EMPATHY …

THESE ELEVEN SHORT STORIES ARE ALL VERY GOOD STORIES AND MAKE US THINK TWICE ABOUT THE DAILY HAPPENINGS IN OUR LIVES AS WE DEAL WITH OTHERS!!

1.  Today, I interviewed my grandmother for part of a research paper I’m working on for my Psychology class. When I asked her to define success in her own words, she said;”Success is when you look back at your life and the memories make you smile.” 

2.  Today, after my 72 hour shift at the fire station, a woman ran up to me at the grocery store and gave me a hug. When I tensed up, she realized I didn’t recognize her. She let go with tears of joy in her eyes and the most sincere smile and said; “On 9-11-2001, you carried me out of the World Trade Center.”

3.  Today, after I watched my dog get run over by a car, I sat on the side of the road holding him and crying.  And just before he died;He licked the tears off my face.

4.  Today at 7AM, I woke up feeling ill, but decided I needed the money, so I went into work. At 3PM I got laid off.  On my drive home I got a flat tire. When I went into the trunk for the spare, it was flat too.A man in a BMW pulled over, gave me a ride, we chatted, and then he offered me a job. I start tomorrow.  

5.  Today, as my father, three brothers, and two sisters stood around my mother’s hospital bed, my mother uttered her last coherent words before she died.She simply said, “I feel so loved right now. We should have gotten together like this more often.”

6.  Today, I kissed my dad on the forehead as he passed away in a small hospital bed. About 5 seconds after he passed,I realized it was the first time I had given him a kiss since I was a little boy.

7.  Today, in the cutest voice, my 8-year-old daughter asked me to start recycling. I chuckled and asked, “Why?” She replied, “So you can help me save the planet.” I chuckled again and asked, “And why do you want to save the planet?”Because that’s where I keep all my stuff,” 

8.  Today, when I witnessed a 27-year-old breast cancer patient laughing hysterically at her 2-year-old daughter’s antics, I suddenly realized that,I need to stop complaining about my life and start celebrating it again.

9.  Today, a boy in a wheelchair saw me desperately struggling on crutches with my broken leg and offered to carry my backpack and books for me. He helped me all the way across campus to my class and as he was leaving he said,”I hope you feel better soon.”

10. Today, I was feeling down because the results of a biopsy came back malignant. When I got home, I opened an e-mail that said, “Thinking of you today. If you need me, I’m a phone call away.” It was from a high school friend I hadn’t seen in 10 years.

11. Today, I was traveling in Kenya and I met a refugee from Zimbabwe. He said he hadn’t eaten anything in over 3 days and looked extremely skinny and unhealthy. Then my friend offered him the rest of the sandwich he was eating.The first thing the man said was, “We can share it.

From Tavis Taylor, M.D.
Board of Directors
President, Deep Spring Center

Dharma Journal | January 2018 | The Teaching of Impermanence

Recorded in Barbara Brodsky’s office. Aaron discusses impermanence.

Video and Transcript, the video is also closed captioned.

Aaron: 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 re-member 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 con-ditioned 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 mo-ment, 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 hap-pens?”, 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 an-ything that continues? Love continues! Awareness continues! The innate, let’s call it intelli-gence— 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 aware-ness 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 im-permanence. 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 envi-ronment, the wars, the wildfires sweeping through the land, burning trees and homes. The hurri-canes, 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 auto-mobile 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.

Dharma Journal | December 2017 | Celebrate Your Own Birth Into Awakening

Recorded in Barbara Brodsky’s living room. Aaron discusses ‘what does it mean to awaken’ and Vipassana meditation, also celebrating your own birthday into awakeing.

Video and Transcript, the video is also closed captioned.

Barbara – Hello, this is Barbara. We’re taking you on a little bit of a tour this fall – my cabin, and we’ve been in my office. Today, for December, we’re in my living room. This is where, in 1989, I started having people come for meditation classes and gatherings with Aaron. You can’t see I’m facing the fireplace, but I sat on a zafu in front of the fireplace, and people sat on sofas and chairs around the room – 5 of us to start, and then 10 and then 20, and we bought lots of folding chairs. So this was our original home, and a few of you will remember sitting by the fireplace with me and with Aaron.

I want to share some personal delights with you. You see the painting behind me. I had been teaching sculpture at University of Michigan, and making sculpture. Then I met Aaron and really shifted and became a medium and dharma teacher, and I told my parents what I was doing. My mother is a wonderful painter. In my living room here – you can’t see it – but it’s filled with her paintings. So, a few months later when I came to visit, she handed me this painting. “This is for you.” I felt so loved and so cherished for her to see deeply into what was meaningful to me and to paint this beautiful painting of the Buddha.

Maybe a year or two later my oldest son was on a year-long trip through India and Asia. He was in Dharmsala and sitting and meditating as close as one can get under the Bodhi Tree where the Buddha was awakened. Leaves fell on him. He thought, “Oh, this is the perfect gift for my mom.” So these are leaves from the original Bodhi Tree … well, not the original, but the tree that has grown up there from the seeds that took root from the original – one after another, after another, numerous lifetimes of that tree.

It’s December now, and I think December 20th Aaron will offer his Christmas stories. For many years we had a big Christmas tree here in the living room, and people sitting around – sometimes 20 or 30 people squeezed into the room – Aaron speaking from a zafu in front of the fire, sharing his Christmas stories. So I’d like you to picture that scene as he talks now. I’m going to move out of the body and let Aaron incorporate. Thank you.

Aaron – My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron. Thank you for being here with me. As you watch this in December, you’re entering the annual celebration of what you consider the birth time of Yeshua ben Joseph, Jesus, son of Joseph. We celebrate his birth, but equally important, celebrate the awakening of yourself, who also is the Christ consciousness, or Buddha nature. You’ve forgotten who you are. But I would ask you, as you celebrate his birth, to celebrate your own birth into awakening.

In November, I talked about Vipassana meditation and the power of this meditation to lead you to live your lives with more wisdom and compassion and finally truly to awaken. I trust this practice because it was the ground practice for me, for my own full awakening. I trust it because for others whom I have watched learn the practice and deepen in it, I have seen them awaken.

What does it mean to awaken? To know your true nature as truly an expression of the living Christ, the living Buddha, the living awakened one. The word Buddha … people call him the Buddha, but that wasn’t his name, which was Siddhartha Gautama. The story goes he was walking down the street after his awakening, and someone looked at him radiant and said, “Are you a god?” “No.” “Well, what are you?” “I am awake.” In that language, “I am a Buddha. I am awakened to Buddha nature, awake.” Christ has the same meaning. He was not named Jesus Christ. Jesus, – Yeshua, as I call him – who was awakened into Christ consciousness, the highest awakened consciousness, where karma is resolved, where each lives completely from the true essence of love, of wisdom.

We look up to these beloved teachers for their examples. Now it is your turn to do the work and become the awake one that you already are. I hope by the time you are seeing this, my new book, Path of Clear Light, will be published and available. In it I delineate some of the non-dual practices where, for example, that which is aware of fear is not afraid. That which is aware of anger is not angry. That which is aware of darkness and contraction is not dark and contracted but opened and radiant. You don’t have to get rid of anything, only to more fully realize the truth of what you are. You are love. You are light. Why are you so resistant to letting yourself know that?

As we celebrate Yeshua’s birthday this month, celebrate your birth into the fullest possible awakening in two ways. Watch the places of resistance to the deeper truth. “I am light. I am love.” Why would you resist? But my dear ones, if you are truly love and light, you may feel you must be responsible to be that 24/7. You are human. No one in human form can be that clarity 24/7. When the conditions are present, anger, fear, confusion, doubt – they will arise. The issue is, how do you respond to these? And this takes me back into last month’s talk.

In honor of Yeshua, if you hold him deep in your heart, in honor of the Buddha, in honor of any enlightened master, hold your intention. “What he has done I also can do. I can wake up, and I can express love, light, patience, generosity, goodness, tenderness.” I can express all of these beautiful emotions, not because I have finally gotten something from out there that allows me to do this but because this is also my true nature, just as it is the Buddha’s and Yeshua’s true nature. So, we can awaken to our own true nature and live it more and more consistently. There is nothing to get rid of. When there is fear or confusion, pause and breathe and remember your highest intention. Is it to get lost in the fear, anger, or confusion again and yet again, or finally to say, “No, I am not going to get drawn in.”?

Picture the image. You are walking by a marsh that is known to have quicksand in it. Somebody comes running past you carrying a bag. He says, “This is gold. They’re chasing me.” And he throws it far into the marsh and runs on. Ten minutes later, soldiers arrive. “Where did he go? He has the gold. Where is he?” You don’t mention the gold, you just say, “He went that way.” Now what are you going to do? It’s a lot of gold. If you try to walk into the marsh, you’re probably going to drown in the quicksand. You try it. You drown in the quicksand. It’s not a pleasant death. Next lifetime, similar scenario. Maybe he has something else precious – diamonds – he throws it into the marsh.

How many times are you going to go into that marsh, drawn by greed, knowing you will probably be trapped by the quicksand and will die, before you say, “I don’t need the gold, those diamonds. I don’t need any of it. I am free. Greed is no longer pulling me into the marsh,” and you walk on? It could be greed. It could be anger. It could be any emotion. Opening your heart, see the arising of whatever has trapped you. See your deepest intention for freedom for the highest good of all beings, to be the Christ, the Buddha, the Awakened One that you already are. Say no to whatever is luring you downward, “No, no thank you,” and move on. And then you are free – free of the old karma, free to live your life as an awake one, truly centered in love and in light.

This living of the Truth is the greatest tribute you can give to these beloved masters who came to teach you this. I hope you will listen to my Christmas stories on December 20th. There is much more I would share with you more directly about Yeshua and what he felt it means to be awake. Many long conversations with him and experiences with him taught me about awakeness, long before I ever full awakened. If he can do it, if I can do it, you can do it.

And the wonderful part is there is nothing to do— you are already awake – only to let go of the idea that you are still enslaved. And indeed you are enslaved if your mind has not resolved itself with the old stories. Let go of them and come to know your true being. You are light. You are love. Nowhere to go, nothing to do – just joy, wonder, presence, and being.

On this December day I thank my beloved brother Yeshua and my teacher Siddhartha Gautama for all they have given me to allow me to know that I am awake and fully to pass that knowing onto you. Thank you, and may you have a blessed holiday.

Evenings with Aaron – Dec. 20, 2017 – Christmas Stories

December 20, 2017 Wednesday with Aaron, Christmas Stories

Aaron, Jeshua, and Barbara on the Awakened State; The Lord’s Prayer with Yeshua

Property of Deep Spring Center: https://deepspring.org/

To read more transcripts: archives.deepspring.org

Barbara: I’ve been introducing myself… The first part was not recorded, meeting Aaron. People began to come to me and ask, “Can we talk to him?” I said, “Sure; if you can hear him, you can talk to him.” Well, other people said, “I can’t hear him.” How do I do this? Aaron said, “Just listen the way you do when I’m talking to you and say out loud what you’re hearing.” Somebody then said to me, “Oh, you’re channeling.” What’s channeling? This was very new to me.

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