November 9, 2016 Wednesday Evening
On the Presidential Election; Gratitude; Bobbleheads and Sharing Space in the Home
Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. Barbara has asked me several times during the day how best to understand this election. How did we have the results we have for this election, and why? What are we to do with it?
Let us begin with a prayer. Each day we consecrate ourselves to the light, and to service to the highest good of all beings. But we acknowledge we are blind, and we don’t always know what the highest good is; therefore all we can do is work from our hearts, aspiring to the highest good with trust that if we hold this intention we will be led on a clear path. Through our gathering here, I suppose about 18 of you gathered here in this circle tonight, we all consecrate our hearts, our bodies, our minds, our energy to the highest good of all beings. And we acknowledge that we walk blindly. We pray for loving guidance in whatever form it comes. We pray for the equanimity and faith to understand eventually we will see the way clearly. Eventually we will come out to where we intended.
There’s a quotation from Gandhi that I asked Barbara to download this morning so I could read it to you.
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it, always.”
This is not to call anybody a tyrant or murderer. This is only to remind you that what you see as positive is just one side, one view. A core of our dharma teaching is not to be attached to views. We think we know the way, but sometimes we don’t know the way. Consider the first three of the Tiep Hien precepts from Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Order of Interbeing.”
- Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory or ideology. All systems of thought are guiding means, not absolute truth.
- Know that the knowledge you presently possess will change and is not changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn to practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to receive others’ viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not only in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.
- Do not force others, including children, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness
Imagine this situation. I’ve come with several carloads of you to a vast woods, on the far side of which is an ocean shore. We have been told that a large boatload of refugees is coming in a ship and will be dropped of somewhere just offshore. If they are to survive they need our help, so we must get to the shore. But there’s no clearly marked trail, and none of you have ever been here before. To make it more challenging, there is also, at another parking area, several carloads of people who are determined not to let these refugees land. They will not shoot, they will not kill you, they will just do everything that they can to block your access.
So we start out together walking through the woods. In the beginning there’s one clear trail. But soon there’s a fork. Right, left, which way shall we go? Which way, right or left? (Group: Right! Left! Right!) Right! Left! Here’s a tiny deer trail that goes straight ahead, maybe it’s that one. Some people say, “This right-hand trail looks much better used. This must be the correct way.” Who knows if it’s going to the shore? It’s better used, but where is it going? “This is the way.” Everyone in this group wants to get to the shore to help the refugees, but some people say we go right, some people say we go left, and one or two even say the tiny deer trail. The group decides it will stay together, for now, so we go right.
It’s going to be a 4 or 5 hour walk to the coast. For a while it seems to be going in the right direction, and then it swerves around. Some people say, “Let’s go back to start,” others say, “Let’s cut through the woods. I can see which direction we should go.” Many opinions here. No one is right. Nobody has ever been here before. No one knows the correct way. Some people become angry. “You’re getting us lost! You should have gone left from the start!” “How do you know? You’ve never been here before.” “Well this way isn’t correct, so that way must be.” Opinions, beliefs.
It’s important to keep in mind that everyone wants to reach the coast and help the refugees, and to get there ahead of the other group that wishes to block the refugees. As soon as you have two people you’re going to have different opinions. Some seem more wholesome than others: “Follow a clear trail so we don’t get scratched, so we don’t fall.” Others may seem more dramatic: “Forge through the woods!” There’s not a clear path to the goal. The ones who want to forge through the woods, they may even become very angry and start screaming at the ones who went right, telling them how bad they are, what idiots they are. And the ones that went right, they’re saying, “Keep the faith. Yes, I know it’s turning away, but I bet it will swing back.” And to the other forge-through-the-woods group, “You’re the idiots.” Anger.
My dear ones, you came into the incarnation knowing it was going to be so. If you had wanted it to be simple and clear-cut, you would have not come into this heavy density earth plane. If you did not want opposition, you would have stayed in a heavenly realm with clear connection to your guides, with heavenly beings around you, with so much love. With a deep sense of what you could trust, that it’s right there, present with you.
Think of a little child. Now the two-year-old, when you say, “This,” they’ll say, “That.” But basically in a dangerous situation the two year olds trust the mother or father. If you’re walking in the woods with a two-year-old, the child’s not going to say, “We should go this way.”— “Mommy, which way? Daddy, which way?” They trust. But you are not two year olds, and you came into the incarnation to develop your own free will choice, which can seem like a great gift or a heavy burden. That free will choice, “I choose,” who is this I? Who chooses? The small self, the ego, fear? Or is it wisdom, love, clarity? Who chooses? So in the context of the earth incarnation you have the opportunity to practice watching contraction and fear without acting it out in your daily life.
You have just had a very huge presidential election, the country seeming more divided than it has ever been before. Some of you simply cannot understand: how can there be so many people who supported this other candidate? And actually, I think for all of you gathered here, the candidate of your preference won the popular vote. How can this other candidate be elected?
The thing is, this candidate was elected, and the fact that there were almost 50% of the voters supporting this candidate should say to you there’s something to which you have not been paying attention. There’s something vital to be learned here.
So let’s take us back. We really want to get to those refugees. The path has wound around for an hour, and we seem to be going further and further from our destination. Some people become angry and say, “No, we’re going this way!” You say, “Well I want to keep going this way.” “No, we’re sticking together. You’ve got to follow me.” Here we are, one nation, indivisible. We stick together. We have one president.
If you follow, gritting your teeth and filled with resentment, you really can’t learn anything, can you? But when you follow willing to engage in dialogue with those walking along with you, asking, “Where do you think this will take us?”, really open to the possibility that something new might happen, willing to say no when this new path takes you up to a steep cliff and they say, “Well let’s just climb down,” — “No, I won’t do that. We could get killed. No.” But insofar as the path seems reasonable and with harm to none, instead of saying, “This guy is crazy,” can you say, “Let’s see what’s happening here? Why did all these 49% of the voters support the other candidate? What are they experiencing that I don’t understand? What pain, what fear, what lack?”
Sometimes you have to go a little bit this way and then a little bit that way and then back this way and then back that way in order to find your way. If you move back and forth in that way smoothly and openheartedly, eyes open, ready to say no with love when that’s appropriate, you can learn, and you can engage in dialogue. But when you must be hauled along, angry, refusing to engage in any dialogue, refusing to listen, how can you learn?
I would say every person in this country wants something specific, which is personal peace and happiness, their own well-being. For most people, they’ll extend that out to their family and their friends. Some people will extend that even to a wider audience: their communities, the people like them, of their race, their religion, their culture. And a few will expand it out to all beings. But when people believe, “My needs won’t be met unless we do this,” they’re coming from a place of so much fear. And unless you can hear their fear, you cannot attend to their fear and help to find solutions that work for everyone. Then it just becomes a pushing match.
When there is clarity, we all want to be happy, we all are suffering, we are all confused, we are all in pain, and we begin to open our hearts to each other, then there can be healing. If the candidate that I assume most of you supported had won, the, what I sometimes call the loyal opposition, the most angry of those who supported the president-elect, who seem to you to be much more immersed in anger and service to self, some of them would have lacked the ability to open doors. There might have been violence. At best they would have sulked, complained, refused to participate, judged, and there could not have been healing. You, my dear ones, came into the earth awake, knowing that it was going to be hard work. I’m not saying that none of this loyal opposition did, but some of them came in with a much lower consciousness and really don’t remember who they are or why they’re here. You who understand that, you are not only light but lighthouses, beacons shining, holding that beacon of light open to others. You understand that you do have the option literally to hear others and to help all the angry people of this country, the hurting people of this country, to feel heard. You don’t have to agree with them, you have to hear them, because as soon as they start to feel heard, so much of their negative stance, grounded in fear, will fall away.
There’s the beautiful line from the Dhammapada, from the Buddha: “You are what you think. With your thoughts you make the world.” What are these thoughts? Think a pure thought and love and light will follow you. Think an impure thought and suffering and pain will follow you.
You all have a wonderful opportunity here truly to change your country and your world by opening your hearts to the present situation and asking not, “How will my needs be met?”, but, “What can I do to serve?” How can I best literally serve others and attend to, take care of the suffering in this country and in the world? No, it’s not going to be easy, and I think this is one of the challenges. Many of you are feeling exhausted, and you’d like it to be easy. “If only the election went the way I wished it would go, then I could lie back and rest, continue to ignore all those disenfranchised people, to pretend they don’t exist. I could follow the wonderful, or at least the adequate, leader that I wished for. I wouldn’t have to struggle. I could close my eyes, blinders. Unless there was violence I could somewhat ignore the degree of pain.” But these people coming to rallies and shouting hate-filled epithets, bullying others, filled with prejudice, this response doesn’t come to you unless you are suffering. It’s a cry for help. And you have the opportunity not to be some kind of a savior on a mountaintop but simply a human being with an open and loving heart, literally able to hear, to attend to suffering, to help.
I said I felt many of you wanted it to be easy, and part of your suffering right now is, “Oh, what are we going to do? And Aaron is telling me I’m going to have to work hard to hear others that I don’t want to hear.” So it seems like a huge chore, a burden to you. “I don’t want this. I’m exhausted. I just want it all to go away.” Well yes, I know that. But you did volunteer for the incarnation. Nobody forced you here. At some level you knew you were going to have to work hard.
Picture yourself in the situations of people throughout history who have had dictators, bullies, really negative people governing them, even commanding them to do things that were not acceptable to them, under threat of death. You live in an amazing country. No matter what you think of the president-elect, there is a Senate, there is a Congress. He cannot bully his way through. He may make it hard. He may set up a lot of obstacles. He may destroy programs or things that you hoped for, that you’re going to have to wait for and campaign for again. But you also need to trust the system and your ability peacefully to make yourself heard. And you need to trust your capacity to say no with compassion if somebody sends you out to do something that is totally unacceptable to you. Nobody can make you hate others or bully others. Nobody can make you think less of people of a different religion, race, sexual orientation or nationality. That’s what’s in your heart. If it comes up, it’s because it’s already there, at least the seed of it.
So here we come to a third part of this. For many of you, when you look at the president-elect and some of his followers, you see the shadow side of the world, people filled with hate and prejudice, people filled with fear and willing to bully others, to mock others, to intimidate others. A very central spiritual lesson that I know we’ve talked about many times is that when somebody really bothers you, it’s because there’s something in that person that you’re afraid could be in yourself. I’m not saying it is manifesting in yourselves. But when a person of political power or any sort of power expresses prejudice to others, is there anybody in this room who cannot say that at some time or another you have felt prejudiced against another person, opinionated against another person? I’m not talking just of racial or sexual prejudice or whatever, but any sort of prejudice. This person who comes in with a teased bouffant hair style, and you look at them and say, “That’s weird!” That’s a kind of prejudice, a kind of judgment. You’re not going to push that person away, but if there’s a luncheon and people sitting 3 and 4 to a table, you may very seriously try to find a different table. This person is sitting alone, other tables are filling up. She’s loud, you don’t like her hairdo, her clothes clash. It seems like she’s been drinking a bit, a lot of little things that offend you. Are you going to sit at her table? Who’s going to sit at her table?
Consider this president-elect and his supporters, why do they offend you? Yes, you disagree with some of his polices, but there is more. They mirror what you see as the shadow in yourself, and the potential for that to manifest. They are your teachers. On the one hand, you say no to them. If somebody tries to pass a law that is harmful to people, a clear no is needed, and you work with your Congress and representatives and whoever is appropriate to make sure this kind of law is not passed. Can you do it with love and not with fear? But we must also acknowledge the inner shadow.
There’s a teaching I’ve given here a number of times, one of the two stories of Milarepa. In the first story we simply serve our demons tea, and most of you have heard that story. The demons come in. They’re hideous, and Milarepa says, “Sit by my fire, have tea.” That’s a start. At that point we are still seeing a duality, me and the demon. “The demon is out there and I am here, and I’m going to invite him for tea; aren’t I nice?” But we start to realize as we mature that the demon is not only out there.
In the second Milarepa story, he comes back to his fire carrying this big load of wood on his back, and the demons have taken over his campsite. He’s appalled when he sees how many there are. They are making a big mess of everything, throwing food and clothing and utensils all over, making a terrible mess. So his first impulse is to grab one of his sticks of firewood and go after them, chase them away. He begins to do that and they laugh. He realizes this won’t work. “I’m just feeding them energy.” They love negative energy, they love fear and anger. So he sits down by his fire. He reflects after a while, maybe they’ve always been here and I’ve just never noticed them. I’ll just sit here a while and see what happens.
They become bored and most of them go, but there’s one big demon who remains. This fellow has huge, bulging eyes, fangs, an enormous mouth, a foul stench, and he follows Milarepa everywhere. This is a very hard practice. Milarepa walks up to him, looks in his eyes, puts his head in the demon’s mouth and says, “Eat me.” Do you understand that? “Eat me.” Dissolve the duality. If I see you as a demon, it’s the demon in myself that I’m seeing. And when I look at you and right there with the demon I see something beautiful, it’s the beauty in myself that I’m seeing. And we are one. “Eat me.” End the separation.
You are called upon at this time to find those with whom you disagree and say, “Eat me.” Really to dissolve the separation. This doesn’t mean that you must relinquish the wisdom and love of your heart. It means that you must recognize that right there with your own wisdom and love there is some negativity. And you cannot expect this other one to express his or her beauty, radiance, and love and relinquish their negativity unless you are willing to look deeply at your own negativity, the shadow side within you. This world of yours needs to heal together, knowing that all beings everywhere are suffering, all beings feel fear and pain. And also recognizing that some beings are, let us say of a much less mature consciousness, and those of you who are a bit more evolved in consciousness need to take care of the others the way a mother takes care of a two-year-old having a tantrum. The parent doesn’t smack the two-year-old or tell him how terrible he is. At some level the parent is able to take loving care of the two-year-old by holding him and saying, “No, shhh.” Because he recognizes how close he is to losing it, stomping his feet and yelling, right there with the two-year-old! But he’s determined not to do it.
If this whole world is to move deeper into this raising of consciousness, it needs to come from each of you. Each of you must honor that commitment that you made when you came into the incarnation to live with as much love as you are able, even when there is fear, anger, confusion, disappointment.
One of you asked me in an email this morning, “What if the president-elect engages in growing brutality, negativity, violence, retribution? How do we act?” The same way you act if he doesn’t. Say no with as much love as you can to anything that is negative. Listen deeply and try to understand where anything negative is coming from, even while you say no to it. Do the deep work in yourself to see where that negativity is reflected in you and release it within you so you’re not adding that energy to the world.
How do we say no with love? I read you a quote from Gandhi, a few minutes ago. Gandhi did an amazing job of saying no with love, and literally changed the world. Again, quoting the Buddha: “Hatred is never ceased by hatred. Only love ceases hatred.” How do you learn to love, no matter how negative the catalyst and how much it frightens you? How do you most fully express that love? Like the sun hidden behind clouds, how do you let that sun of Love emerge? How do you release the clouds and let the sun burn through them so that the true radiance that you are can emerge?
Many years ago Barbara and Hal, their children and her brother and his children were visiting her parents at their condo community in Florida. They were cooking at a group of grills around picnic tables available to the large condo community. The children had been playing in the pool and had come over to sit by the picnic table. The brother was cooking the meat. Another man used the next grill. Barbara was helping to get things ready when a man who was clearly drunk rode up on his bicycle, put his bicycle against the next table, blocking the way of the man cooking there. He also had children nearby. The man just put the bike in the way so the man turned to him and said, “Please move your bike. I can’t get to my food.” The man said, “I can put my bike wherever I want.” The man said, “No, I was here first, and this is my table and my grill,” and he went to pick up the bike and move it. The man with the bike picked up a big carving knife and said, “Put my bike down, now!” All the children watching were scared. What’s going to happen? They weren’t babies at this point but pre-teen and teen. So the man was menacing. One man with a knife, one man with a bike, holding it up, getting ready to throw the bike. What does one do?
Barbara’s brother simply walked up behind the man holding the knife, and grabbed his arm, immobilizing it. Now, he was 6’ 6”. It’s easy not to argue with a man who’s 6’ 6”. But he grabbed his arm firmly but not roughly and he said in the calmest voice, “You don’t want to do that.” With his other hand he reached around and said, “Give me the knife.” “You don’t want to do that. Give me the knife.” He was holding his arm tight, but he wasn’t menacing the man but talking to him in a very clear way, “No, you don’t want to do that. Give me the knife.” The man gave him the knife. The brother let go of the arm and said, “Come sit down at my table. I’ll move your bike for you.” He took the bike from the other man, put it down in a safe place. He had just finished cooking a hamburger. “Would you like a hamburger?” The man said no, but he sat there for a few minutes. Then he got on his bike and rode away.
Barbara asked her brother afterward, “Were you afraid?” And Bud said, “Yes, of course I was afraid. But I also knew that I could not give our children an example of violence being met with violence. That I needed to be very clear and say no, that I couldn’t walk away, and I couldn’t attack.” It was so clear that kindness said no. I use this as an example because Bud was afraid, yes. He was a man with a big knife. He could easily have tried to turn it on Bud, or used it, thrown it at somebody. You must say no to negativity. But if fear says no, you are simply bringing more fear into the world.
This is where I speak of the shadow in each of you, and your free will choice to enact that shadow, or not to enact that shadow. You came into the incarnation to practice free will choice of loving kindness, to do no harm, to support the evolution of consciousness on this earth. Are you going to do it or not? And here you have the, may I say it this way, gift of a very uncomfortable situation as teacher. Here’s the man with the knife, figuratively speaking. Are you going to scream and run the other way? How many are moving to Canada? Are you going to pick up your own knife and throw it at him? What are you going to do?
Let’s multiply this. Suppose it wasn’t just one man with a knife but he had three or four people with him, and they were all angry and they all picked up knives. What are you going to do? This is really a good metaphor for where your country is right now, maybe without knives, just fists, but anger and oppositionality. Where is healing to be found? It does start within yourself, by finding the shadow in yourself, the places where you’re deeply attached to your views to the point that you cannot hear another, and yet you expect another to hear your views and not to be attached to their own.
I’m not talking here about right view or wrong view, only oppositional views. Everybody is trying to get through that woods and attend the refugees. But people have different ideas of how that should happen and what should happen, and some of them with a much more self-centered idea of what should happen. You must absolutely say no to bullying, to hatred, to prejudice, to that which would do harm. Absolutely. The question is, what says no? Can you find the way to say no with loving kindness? When you do that, you’ve enormously escalated the raising of consciousness of this earth. You’ve opened enormous doors.
My talk tonight, two weeks before Thanksgiving, was to be on gratitude. After all the emails I received today, it was clear I needed to talk about the election. But let’s take it on to gratitude.
Imagine yourself in a situation where you’re feeling angry and impatient, and somebody in a very unskillful way walks up to you, looks at you, “Why are you being so angry? What a bully you are! You’re an idiot!” Can you feel yourself contracting with that? But when you pause and take a deep breath, you say, “Yes, I’ve been so caught in fear that I really have been bullying others, really have been caught up in my own views and not hearing others.” This person’s approach may not be skillful, but in that moment could I say, “Thank you, you’re right. I have gotten caught up in negativity. Thank you.”? I don’t have to explain myself or defend myself to this person. If I say, “Thank you, you’re right,” and he says, “Well I’m glad you see how awful you are. You’re such a stupid”— whatever—you can just reply, “I see that I’ve been unskillful. Thank you.” Eventually he’ll go away, and you can sit and reflect on the places where you were so caught up in your view that you were shoving others, unable to hear.
This loyal opposition comes as a teacher. And I can’t begin to tell you all the lessons that you may be offered. But learning the lessons begins with that simple, “Thank you.” Hard as it may be. “This is not what I wanted. It’s not what I thought was coming. Fix it! Change it!” — “Thank you.”
Bring your hands together, see how it feels. Big breath. Thank you. In this moment I will trust my life, and that the catalysts offered to me can lead me in a direction of growth, can lead all of us in a direction of growth and of love. Thank you.
Can you feel how that opens up some of the energy? I’m not saying there’s no more outrage and fear, just a little more space.
Now I want to do an exercise with you.(asks for 2 volunteers) I want you to imagine that I have a very fragile piece of crystal in here (Aaron holds a ball of thick socks) Take it carefully, but it’s well-padded— relax. Comfortable with it? It’s not that fragile, but if you drop it on a hard floor it will break. But you’re holding it, that’s fine. No problem. Two hands, two balls with crystals. Can you feel the increasing tension? Don’t drop it! (he keeps adding balls of socks)
Tension. Be careful not to drop it. I forgot to tell you: most of them have crystals in them, but one of them has a little bomb in it. If you drop it, BOOM! Breathing in, I am aware of the tension. Breathing out, I hold space for the tension.
This tension, this is the whole election result, everything involved that you really didn’t want. You wanted it to be easy. You want the next four years— “I can keep looking away. I don’t have to worry about all those people that are angry and disenfranchised. They live somewhere else. I can ignore it. I want to relax…” Can you feel the possibility to make more space? Just relax your arms. Don’t drop them, just hold them gently.
The next four years are going to ask you to hold a lot of balls. They’re going to ask you to work. But you have a choice whether you’re going to work tense or whether you’re going to work with some degree of spaciousness and ease. How am I going to do this? I do have a choice. How am I going to do it?
So now you may drop one or two balls. Not all, a few. Drop until you feel more comfortable with what you’re holding. Does it feel manageable now? All right. Manageable. Each of you will relinquish what feels unbearable to you, unmanageable to you, until you reach a point where you say yes, I can manage this much. And then when you’re carrying that much and I come along and say I’ve got one more and I really need somebody to carry it, you don’t have to volunteer. But if you feel you can do it, you do it. And then, thank you, you can put it back down, you can put them all back down. Thank you.
So part of what many of you are feeling today is a sense of, “Oh no! I can’t carry it all.” Well you don’t have to carry it all. Can you carry that one? Boom! Can you carry that one? How about you? (pause for exercise, handing out more balls?) Some explosions here! (pause) What I want you to do now is to toss them back and forth. Slowly, slow motion. Feel your capacity to take another one and hold your hands up. When you’re holding your hands up, somebody can throw you one. If you feel you can’t hold another one, don’t put your hands up. I want you to take a few minutes to practice with this just to get a sense how it feels. Remember, some have a bomb inside. You need to be careful. Even if it’s a small bomb, a firecracker, it’s still going to have a little boom! So don’t invite it unless you have the capacity to hold it.
(Inaudible sentence) And for those out there, I’m sorry I can’t include you in this— let’s see, give me one ball. You ready? (exercise; he tosses a sock ball at the camera on the screen)
Know that the coming years, just as the past years, are going to be throwing things at you, sometimes pleasant, sometimes unpleasant. You have the power to say no, I can’t take it right now. But we look around and see others also overwhelmed and you know somebody has to catch it. Okay, I’ll catch it. (exercise) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Now for two or three minutes I just want you to toss these at each other. I’m not going to speak. When somebody puts their hands up, toss it to them, but more than one may come to that person. When you catch it, don’t throw it away right away. Pause and say thank you. Especially if two come to you at once, feel the tension, pause and say thank you. Try to feel the distinction, the move to contraction, “Will too much come to me?” Ahhh…Thank you. I can hold this one. I can take care of this.
I’m enjoying the laughter, but can you also feel the small contraction as it comes to you, and then the openness, the thank you? (exercise)
Let’s move away from explosion. That’s a bit too scary. Let’s imagine each one has a beautiful Casa crystal inside and it could crack if it falls, so you want to take care of it. A little bit of tension. (exercise)
Catch it, pause, and say thank you… (exercise)
Thank you. Two hands— what happens if another one comes? Thank you. You know how in life, often once you’ve got two, the third and fourth come flying. Not, “AHHH!” But, “Thank you. This has been entrusted to me, and I will take care of it until I can pass it on in an appropriate way. (exercise for a while)
So this is what I want you to aspire to develop in yourselves. This ability, when everything starts to feel like it’s pressing you down, to take a deep breath and say thank you. What am I being offered to learn here? What am I being offered to practice? In what way can my opening from this contracted state into the uncontracted, support me and support all beings? Notice how I phrase it: opening from the contracted into the uncontracted. Not getting the uncontracted, it’s already there. Opening into the uncontracted, and remembering: Contracted. Opening…
I can guarantee that you’re going to feel a lot of catalyst in the coming weeks. People with different views. This president-elect and his team may make statements with which you disagree, even try to dissolve policies and ways of being in this country that have been part of your heart. Each one is just, “Thank you,” but then you put it down. You don’t have to carry it. But you can listen to the one who threw it at you and say, where is this coming from? What is this about? Do not attack the other, but question why the other is sending this message, this policy and so forth. What is it about? In what way is this emerging from this other person or group of people’s fear? From their not having felt heard? What can I do to help create a climate in this country so that others do feel heard, and at the same time, that those who are attacked feel safe? We don’t hate the bully, but we don’t let the bully attack. How do we do that? How do we open our hearts to the bully, not diminishing the bully but also not letting them do damage?
You’re coming into the season where you celebrate Thanksgiving, and it’s very easy for you to reflect on things in your life for which you truly are thankful— your friends, your homes, your families, the dharma. Maybe the fire burning in your fireplace, or the washing machine that works. Whatever it is you’re thankful for. I would ask you to spend equal time reflecting on the things that look like very negative visitors and ask, what is there here which may come as a teacher for me, as a gift for me? In what way can I be thankful for this?
Try writing down a few of them, one a day, maybe. An unwelcome visitor today, something I didn’t want. Maybe something you heard on the news, or a person that confronted you in an angry way. Thank you. Feel how a genuine “thank you” can soften the heart, open your energy field and really change the way you address that situation. It’s contagious. The more you’re able to meet challenging catalyst with spaciousness, the more powerful that spaciousness becomes. The more it spreads out as energy. It’s very hard to stay angry at somebody who won’t stay angry at you. As in the situation I described earlier, Barbara’s brother disarming the man in a clear but compassionate way, and the offering him a hamburger. So he sat down at the table and did not eat the hamburger but felt welcomes and not chased away, and then he got onto his bike and rode off. Give the loyal opposition hamburgers and then send them off on their bikes.
“Hate only engenders hate. Only love dispels hate.” And the immense learning opportunity for all of you is to begin to understand that you do have the capability to return love to hate. Still to say no to negative catalyst and make it very clear that nobody may harm or bully or diminish another. But to say it with love. It is the learning of this that you have the opportunity for in the coming four years. It’s going to deeply support the shift in earth consciousness, for which all of you have incarnated. Just think about it as a tough practice. You’ve got a tough game coming up and the coach sends you out there to practice— bigger and bigger opposition. Practice. Because you are infinite, and your hearts are infinite, and you do have the capacity for infinite love, infinite wisdom. Not only the capacity, but it’s already there in all of you. The question is not where do I find it, but where has it been hiding? What invites it out? What actions, thoughts, and presence of mind invite it out so that others may see it reflected and begin to disarm themselves a bit and come forth with their already present but hidden loving hearts?
This man you have elected for your president, can you picture him as a one-year-old baby waking up from his nap, standing up in his crib and saying, “Mama! Mama!” And the loving mama coming in, picking him up, kissing him? One of you is shaking a head no. One-month old baby? How old a baby? This is your homework! We’re going to get you each a one-year-old Trump doll! You can give him a bottle and burp him.
Picture this person not as a personification of negativity but as someone who does already have an awakened, radiant loving heart, which has been so covered with clouds that it’s not had the opportunity to emerge. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of your love can really transform this man in four years? Some of you are saying, impossible. Why impossible? You’d be surprised what’s possible if you know it’s possible and trust.
Fortunately you’re not going to run into him, you’re going to run into his supporters, so those will be the ones with whom you work. They all were once one-year-old babies too, waking up hungry or wet, crying, “Mama! Mama! Dada! Help me.” Can you love them? Because perhaps some of their negativity comes from the fact that the parent said, “Naw, I’m not coming in there. Take care of yourself, kid.” So they learned to be brusque and armored. How do we open that armor? By hearing, by loving. And also by a clear compassionate no when anyone tries to harm or diminish another in any way.
And how do you say no? You can write letters where it’s appropriate. I noticed on Facebook before the election that all of the supporters from one side were talking to each other and the other side were talking to each other, but there was no dialogue between them. How do you get involved in truly compassionate dialogue? I don’t know where, maybe somewhere in your communities, maybe in your local library. Possibly in your places of worship— I don’t know. Places where people who are willing to get involved in a compassionate dialogue, not trying to bully each other and convince each other that they are right, but where people who are willing to really hear each other can come forth and try to hear. Remember, oi side is absolutely right or wrong.
This is an unprecedented opportunity for communication, and for healing to take place there must be communication. Look at the side of you that says, “I don’t want to communicate. I don’t like them. I don’t want to communicate.” Go and sit with that loud woman with the bright orange hair, go and sit at her table.” I probably should have said green hair, so as not to draw comparisons. But that woman with the hairdo you don’t like and the perfume that’s odorous, go and sit at her table. Who is she?
Barbara’s grandson recommended to her a book last month called Wonder. Have any of you read Wonder? I deeply recommend this book. It’s perhaps written aimed at— well he is 10, perhaps a little younger than it’s aimed for, but junior high/high school youth. But it’s a book that any adult would love, also, a very beautiful book. A book about fear, prejudice and breaking through prejudice, holding the heart open. A very beautiful book, and easy to read, though also challenging to read, but easy reading. I recommend it.
So now we have half an hour, I’d like to open the floor to questions.
This following section of the transcript has not been reviewed by Aaron or Barbara
Hal (Barbara’s husband): Aaron, you stated and said that we should learn to love. As a background, I am a collector of something called bobbleheads. I have athletes, political people, former presidents. So I have Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump bobbleheads. So my question to Aaron is, Barbara has forbidden me to display the Trump bobblehead on our mantel, which I had there. So the question to Aaron, can Barbara learn to love the bobblehead, first, and the president-elect, second? Or something like that.
Aaron: I think you better ask Barbara about that, But I think part of her refusal to have them on the living room fireplace mantel is simply that she does not want that kind of trivia displayed in the living room. The living room is a place where she has things that are peaceful and lovely to look at, and even the Bernie Sanders bobblehead that you gave her as a gift she would not want on the mantel.
Hal: So the bigger question is, can I put them somewhere in which she might see them sometime?
Aaron: I think this is between you and Barbara, and I cannot answer it. However, forcing an image on somebody is not a way of getting them to open their hearts to that being.
There’s a distinction here. One is who is represented in the image, and one is the whole question of bobbleheads, which is something that Barbara has always really felt negative about. Taking these sports figures, political figures, actors and whatever and making images of them, putting them in places where people will look at them— she just doesn’t want anything to do with that. I think if you took a small photograph each of several different political figures— Trump, Obama, Clinton, Sanders, whoever, Abraham Lincoln, put a few pictures like that together as a little collage, put it in a place where it can be seen, so that you can begin to look at them and not see it as, “this one’s good and this one’s bad”, but how can I open my heart to all of these? This might be a fruitful means of opening your heart. Not creating distinctions of good and bad, like and don’t like. But bringing the bobbleheads into it, for Barbara brings in a completely different issue.
Q: My personal recommendation is to put them in a bobble room.
Aaron: Do you understand my answer?
Hal: I understand but I don’t agree.
Aaron: Can you tell me why you don’t agree?
Hal: You were talking about love, Aaron, and the solution you proposed of photographs to me just evades the whole question. It’s like, here’s what you want to do, but take a different approach. And maybe like you said, it’s more personal with Barbara.
Aaron: The challenge here is that you’re confusing two issues. If you want Barbara to accustom herself to bobbleheads, take that Bernie Sanders bobblehead and put it on the kitchen windowsill, and ask her to watch the negativity that comes up in her, not because it’s Bernie Sanders, whom she highly admires, but because it’s a bobblehead. That’s a whole different issue. But when you force the two issues together it’s much harder to go through the contraction around it. So simplify. What is the real issue here? Trying to open your heart to Trump? Then fine, put a picture of Trump and a picture of somebody you deeply admire, maybe the two presidents, Obama and Trump, side by side. And both you and Barbara, and anyone else who wants to try this, practice looking at the two without comparing, without opinions. Really opening your heart to them both. But don’t bring in another completely different issue, which is the bobblehead dolls, which some people really dislike because of the culture they represent.
Q: I’m bringing this up regarding the bobbleheads, because this issue is mine, also. My comment is that it’s Hal’s house, or my house, also. And my request to have something is equally important as (his spouse’s) or Barbara’s. I’m just being honest.
Aaron: I think in any home, all the people living in the home need to have a right to say, “This is something that’s really offensive to me, so I don’t want it to be in a public room because I can’t be at ease in that room.” If you wanted to hang a picture of Hitler in that room, or a pornographic photo, it would make some people very uncomfortable to be in that room. If somebody wants a picture or image or any object that’s very offensive to the other person, then it needs to go in a more private space where that person can enjoy it, but not force it on the other person. So no matter how many people are living in the home, the common areas of the home need to be free of anything that is truly offensive to anyone. There will be private areas where people may put up what they want. And it could be, even if there’s a bedroom shared by two people and one person really doesn’t want to see this, but one person wants it on their dresser where they can see it.
Q: So could another approach be, two weeks the bobblehead is there and two weeks it’s gone? I”m being trite, but it’s a real issue. It’s just another possibility.
Aaron: I think that’s one approach, but I can imagine for Barbara the way it would work is if the bobblehead of Trump was on the living room mantel, she would simply not go into the living room for two weeks, because it would be offensive enough to her— it’s not just Trump, it’s the bobblehead. And it’s the fact that the living room is the place where she can open her energy field completely and relax, let down all the armoring and relax. And when there’s something that feels threatening in there, it’s uncomfortable.
Now I’m sure Barbara could learn to live with a bobblehead of Trump in the living room. Another part of it for her, and I don’t really want to speak for her, she should speak for herself, but another part of it for Barbara is that bobbleheads are not really works of art. They’re fads. And she has strived to create an atmosphere in the living room of beauty, not of junk. So it’s not so much that it’s Trump; it’s more that it’s a bobblehead.
Q: My comments aren’t specifically about bobbleheads. It’s about hearing each other and honoring each other’s tastes or preferences in a fair manner. It’s not about bobbleheads.
Hal: You need to clarify that I have a Hillary Clinton one, too.
Aaron: Which I would state pretty certainly Barbara would not want in the living room, and not the Bernie Sanders one, and not the man who won the Heisman trophy, or whatever. So people communicate, “This collection is important to me. I love it.” Okay, let’s find a shelf in a room that you frequent more and that I don’t frequent much where you can put these things. Let’s put in this room the things that we can both say we really love and resonate with. But never forcing it on the other. Really hearing, if the other says, “This really bothers me. I can’t live with this.”, trying to hear that and understand why. But also to say, okay, where can I put it where I’ll be able to enjoy it? If one person loved orange and hated purple, and the other had the opposite tastes, you woukld want to avoid decorating the living room with those colors, so both could feel at ease.
In Barbara and Hal’s house, Barbara has many spiritual items on the wall in her office that Hal would not really want to live with in the living room. I don’t think he’d find them objectionable, but they would just not be his choice of living room decor. So there’s respect there.
May we hear from others?
Q: I just have this sinking suspicion that (inaudible sentence). I know people have problems with one spouse’s active in a spiritual path and the other one isn’t, and one spouse wants to place an article, perhaps a statue of the Buddha, in the living room. And the other spouse is offended by that and doesn’t want that. And it creates a tension because it’s very important for Spouse #1 to be able to express their spirituality (inaudible) in their own home. That was my intuition as to what Q was really sharing. Maybe I’m wrong.
Q: No, you’re not. Thank you.
Q: So what do you do? Do you hide your spirituality so you don’t offend your spouse? Or how do you come to grips with that?
Aaron: I think the two people involved need to speak very honestly to each other. What does it mean to me to have this statue in there? A statue of the Buddha or a crucifix or any religious symbol of any religion. What does it mean to you? Who are you trying to speak to through this? Is it just an object of beauty for you? How do you feel if it’s not there? Really explaining to each other why it’s uncomfortable for you. For example, if the spouses are of two different religions, the symbol of one religion may create discomfort. But it’s an opportunity for growth for both of them. So maybe each can choose something that expresses their own, not necessarily their spirituality but something deeply meaningful to them. Perhaps there can be a small alcove or place on a shelf in the living room where each can put something that’s very personally meaningful, that they want to have on display, and agree to share those. But with the requisite that the object that one spouse chooses must not be something that’s deeply offensive to the other.
I’m thinking here if one spouse said, “Well, I just am deeply attached to shit, and I want to go out to the back yard and take this pile of dog shit and put it on a plate and put it in the living room.” The other spouse has a right to say, “I really don’t think I can live with that.” There doesn’t have to be a reason. You don’t have to say, “It stinks.” Just, “I really don’t think I can live with that. Is there a different object you could choose that would symbolize the same thing for you (laughter), and which I could possibly be comfortable with?”
Q: Back to the bobblehead of Trump!
Aaron: It’s the learning of respect, the deepening of respect. Deeply cherishing each other so that you don’t want to make the other person so uncomfortable. And yet being willing to challenge them, to ask them, “Why does this make you feel so uncomfortable?”
Barbara grew up in a Jewish home. When she began to work with me and to teach, her parents were a little bit uncomfortable at first. “Buddhism? What are you doing with Buddhism?” But then her mother came forth, and for a holiday gift one year she painted a beautiful picture, that some of you have seen in Barbara’s home, a still life of a Buddha statue and flowers. Barbara’s mother was an artist. The painting is beautiful, but what really touched Barbara was her mother being able to say, “I see how important this has become for you. I really respect this.” Now, her mother didn’t have it hanging in her home, she gave it to Barbara to hang in Barbara and Hal’s home. And fortunately Hal liked it. It is a beautiful painting. But the love and respect— her mother spent weeks painting this. Really looking carefully at the still life scene before her— at the Buddha, at the flowers. You can tell it’s not just a quick drawing, but the Buddha really worked its way into her heart. It’s sensitively and beautifully painted. What does it mean to hear another person to that depth, that you can share with them something that is so meaningful to them?
Let’s hear from others.
Q: Can you speak more about how we can work on raising the consciousness while at the same time working with the difficult emotions of sadness and fear around the election?
Aaron: They are the teachers. Instead of saying, “I can only work on raising consciousness when I’m feeling happy and joyful and lighthearted,” know that the primary way of raising consciousness is to find the love that’s there in your heart right there with sadness, anger, pain and confusion. When you don’t have to get rid of that in order to be loving, but find that right there with anger is love.
Reflect on something for a moment, each of you. Bring into your heart and mind a person who you love. Really think about that person. Your joy in knowing that person. How much you love them. Think of some sweet little personality traits that they have, little ways of expressing kindness, a sense of humor, and so forth. Reflect on this until your heart is really open and connected to that person. Nod if you have somebody in mind and feel the heart open to them.
Now without leaving that person at all, feel how open your heart feels to them. And then remember back sometime in the past day or week or month to a moment in which you felt anger toward this person. Can you feel that moment of anger? Now, holding the anger in one hand and the love in the other hand, try to bring them together, both to your heart. Not abandoning the anger to get back to the love, but right there with the anger, can you feel the love? The rest of you, can you feel that possibility? Right there with the anger is the love.
This is what is asked of you. We do not abandon negativity, push it away or deny it, to get to love. Really we use the energy of it and transmute it. The energy of anger is an energy. Right there within the anger, the love can deepen. But it’s a very hard job because the mind keeps catching itself up in the stories of anger. This is why the vipassana practice is so helpful. We practice simply by sitting, breathing in, and there’s this pesky fly, bzzzzz! “But I’m trying to meditate.” Anger coming up. One minute ago you were so peaceful, truly in a blissful place. And then buzz, buzz, buzz. Anger. “I’m trying to meditate.” Where did the love go? Where did the spaciousness go? But with the vipassana practice we note hearing, hearing. Hearing a fly. What’s it doing? It’s just being a fly. It’s not even landing on you, it’s just going bzzz, bzzz, then flying off and coming back, bzzz, hearing, hearing. Is the fly buzz really unpleasant? Or is it because it brings fly and dirt or whatever into your consciousness? The fly buzz is just a fly buzz.
Let’s not even use a fly. Let’s use your dear cat who has come into the room and is walking across the floor. Tap, tap, tap. You hear its sweet little feet on the floor. “It’s disturbing my meditation!” It’s just being a cat. There’s nothing wrong or bad about the sound. It’s not even unpleasant, but it’s not what you want.
We note the experience first of hearing, then unpleasant because I don’t want it here right now, and the aversion. Breathing in, I am aware of aversion. Breathing out, I hold space for aversion. In this moment can I have compassion for myself that this aversion has arisen? Not condemn myself, not get caught up in the stories of who let the cat in or the fly in, just compassion for this human being who feels like it’s being asked to hold too many balls. I don’t want this. Compassion. And when we practice in that way then the compassionate heart that’s always been there bursts open again. And there’s just the fly buzzing and just the kitten walking across the floor. Just the angry person shouting in the next room or on television. The voice you don’t want to hear, the president addressing you on television. Ahh… Breathing in, I am aware of anger. Breathing out, I hold space for the anger, or fear, or sadness. This practice is so powerful, so healing. This is the path.
Let us end here because we do have a commitment to stop at 9pm.
I invite all of you to go home and work with whatever image most troubles you, here. This human being as president. The policies you are afraid are going to come out. The helplessness you feel. The anger you feel. The sadness. Whatever it is. See what happens as you hold compassionate space for this in your heart.
Then try literally picturing this man and all the new group of people he will draw around him to run the government, all of them, each with some degree of trust: I may not agree with them, but they are trying to do their best. Instead of hating them, I hold a commitment to deeply hear and understand, and at the same time to develop the capacity to say that compassionate no when something emerges which really feels unwholesome to me and needs that no. How do I say it with love?
How do I develop meaningful dialogue so that I can begin to understand others’ fears that have led to policies that I consider to be unwholesome or unskillful? How can I develop deeper hearing that can lead to healing?
You have a challenging four years coming up, but it need not be impossible. And it can be a period of immense growth— personal growth, and national growth, and universal growth— if you will trust your capacity to allow this to happen. To let go of some of the armor, acknowledge the fear, and make the statement, “Just because there is fear doesn’t mean I have to stay armored. As openly as I can, I invite deep communication, sharing of energy, giving of love. And I hold the intention to not allow any other being to harm any other being or diminish any other being. I will hold to my own truth, but with an open heart. I do this in the name of raising consciousness throughout the world, of bringing light throughout the world, of healing. Of helping to support the possibility, the true possibility, of a vast emergence of higher consciousness in these four years.” If those of you who are committed to this handle this challenge skillfully, you can do it. The line from the sutra that I so love: “If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it.” You can do it. Remember how much help you have. Invite your guides to help you. Remember, beyond anything else you are love. And you have the capacity to express that love in any situation.
So here we are, wandering on these paths. We’re still trying to get to the beach and save the refugees. He’s saying this way, she’s saying that way. (breathing) Abandoning attachment to views, I simply move forward. I am willing to hear this and that possibility without fear, knowing that we’re all headed in the same direction. Everybody in this country wants happiness. Everybody wants peace. There are simply different ideas of how that is attained. If you’re going to get to the beach and save the refugees, you’re going to have to be willing to meander a little and explore, not to hold onto, “It has to be this way.” Work with each other with love.
Thank you all, and know how much you are loved. I release the body to Barbara.