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Dharma Journal | October 2018 | Co-Creation, Opposition and the 2018 Mid-Term Election

Recorded at Evenings with Aaron, October 24, 2018.

Video and Transcript, the video is also closed captioned.


Aaron: It has been such a joy to share these thoughts with you and to see you really taking them to heart, growing, learning— very special. You are very special. I honor you and the fact that you came into this heavy density earth plane to learn, to grow, to co-create the Eden that earth is envisioned to have the potential to be. You were willing to step back from a much higher vibrational level, let’s call it the Garden of Eden, and move into a heavier density to practice free will, to raise your own vibration and that of the world around you, to teach love.

We cannot teach love unless we do it consciously. There needs to be a catalyst that introduces contraction, discomfort, and then the free will choice is made, to deal with that catalyst either with anger and pulling everything to a lower vibration, or love and raising the vibration. You chose love. You didn’t have to do this work; you chose to.

There are many ways to evolve, and this earth plane is both one of the most powerful, for yourself and for the universe, and also one of the most challenging. You didn’t have to come here, but you allowed yourself to do so, chose to do so. And, of course, once you came you became caught up in the earth’s karmic field. Then, you were pulled along with karma, though even then, with free will. You are never forced, but karma can be resolved in different ways. Staying with it on the earth plane, you were working, not just to resolve the karma, but truly to live with and emit a vibration of love. It takes a lot of courage.

For many years I have been hearing one or another of you saying, “Aaron, it’s too hard. Why did I come?” You knew it was going to be hard. The beautiful thing for me is how well you are succeeding at what you are doing; so beautifully.

I want to speak in general terms tonight and also of a smaller picture. In the United States you have your midterm elections in two weeks. I hear many of you expressing fear, concern, and anger about what has happened politically. Many of you are getting out there to do work for the party of your choice, but so many of you are doing that work from an oppositional stance.  “We are right; they are wrong. We’re going to beat them!” I don’t see a lot of deep listening. I don’t see a lot of trying to understand how others are thinking, so much as trying to push your viewpoint on others. Nothing is ever manifest in that way. You hit a dead end.  So, you try very hard to make this happen, or that happen, but, you create an oppositional energy, two waves blocking each other.  If you can picture two tidal waves flowing at each other, neither one has the power to push things in their direction, so they just explode.

My talk tonight isn’t just about the midterm election, but about the whole of co-creation and manifestation, how you came into the earth plane, literally, to co-create.  And, what supports that co-creation, whether it’s in politics, relationships, work, livelihood, or health? What supports it? I suggest you start by looking at your body energy. I want you to think of— let’s use the present United States election.  And, for those of you who are on-line here, out of the United States, think of somebody in your own country, a political leader who brings up discomfort in you.

First, think of that political leader of whatever party, that person’s policies that alienate you and what you would like to see happen politically in your country, or city, or state. Come back then to the image of this person, who is not the person who you want to see in charge, and the anger that his or her statements bring up.  Allow the thought, “I want this person out of office.” There has to be intention. That intention is fine. But, can you see, as you are going along with me here, the contraction of energy in your body?  Can you feel that?

Now let’s try it from a different perspective. Make this political leader, whoever he or she may be, as a one year old, just beginning to toddle around the room to find his or her balance. But see your him or her accidentally falling into a table and a lamp falling off and shattering.  The angry parent saying, “Look what you did!” And you feel him or her recoil with shame and blame. Now apply that one hundred times through the first three years of this child’s life. First, a person starting out, truly wanting to please others, having certain values which may not coincide with your values, pushed on him or her in those early years, and strong messages of shame and badness. See this now three-year-old having knocked over another lamp, sitting and sobbing. Feel your desire to hold that baby, to draw him or her to you and let him or her know, “You are not bad.”

Now we have a different viewpoint, that it’s important to be a little bit careful around furniture, and you keep on doing it.  Help this child to find his or her strength, his or her beautiful attributes and to feel truly happy about him or herself. It’s hard to be angry at that baby, isn’t it? He or she is trying so hard. But we do have different viewpoints, and it’s fine that we have different viewpoints.

Each human that you meet in your life has their own karma, their own life experiences that shape them. People who are prideful, stubborn, confused, angry, sad, with feelings of shame or unworthiness, or ones who must be dominant and in control; as soon as we meet such a person with oppositionality, it’s just two tidal waves. But when we can meet such a person and truly listen and find out who they are we begin to understand what shaped them. I’m not talking about becoming a therapist, here; simply one human heart to another, able to look at this person free of judgment. You still have the right to say no. But that which says no is not another tidal wave. It’s a very different kind of force. The tidal wave will generally keep going until it plays itself out. If you dissipate your energy, as a second tidal wave, you may temporarily stop the opposing tidal wave, but you lose all your energy, too. And nothing happens; just CRASH!  And then the energy feeds away to pick up again, and to come back and crash again.

How can this tidal wave be stopped without you turning yourself into an opposing tidal wave? The tidal wave is consumed with power and it’s working on old energy, building up, building up. Love is very different. Love is not a tidal wave. Clearly, if you have a wall of water, many small points can’t stop that wall of water, but— and it may be hard to understand this at first— if you break into that wall of water with ten thousand points of light, picture the wall of water broken up. It’s no longer solid. It loses its cohesiveness. You, all of you together and even you personally, are ten thousand points of light. You have the ability to address the tidal waves that come at you, whether it’s in politics, or in relationship, or in work. With light, knowing yourselves as light, manifesting that light; from my perspective, it potently reduces the power of the tidal wave. Yes, it will still sweep up onto the shore, but it doesn’t have that power behind it; it, more or less, it just comes up and drops down. It’s a very different kind of movement.

In order to greet catalyst in this way, as the ten thousand points of light, it is very important for you, number one, to know yourself as ten thousand points of light, to know that this is the essence of you.  And second, to know that the opposition is also light. No matter how much darkness there may be in that opposition, it is equally light. Which are you going to speak to— the darkness, hitting at the darkness, or the light, really seeing it, knowing it as light and addressing the light? You may try, thusly, to address the light and feel you have not succeeded, and, that you simply cannot find anything of light in that other being. I beg of you to trust: no matter how dark the other being, light is there. This is the heart of my experience. Light is always there. This is no denial of the darkness, only a deep knowing of the beauty and radiance of the light and the choice to speak to that light.

So, you may address the situation from your own fear, and it is your fear that sees only the darkness; or you may address it from the light that is within you, that can see that very distant and diminished light, inviting it forward.

We have only a few in the room here tonight. I was going to try an exercise and we won’t be able to do it, but I want to share it with you just in words. I was going to have one person be the invitee and three, or four, or five people be the inviters, with the invitee on one side of the room and the inviters on the other side of the room. I was going to ask the inviters to each take a place, and then to close their eyes, so that they could not see what the other inviters were doing.  They could not look with their eyes at the invitee, but they knew where that person would be sitting or standing. Your job is to get the invitee to come to you, as opposed to one of the other inviters. How are you going to do that? I suppose you could dangle candy or a delicious cup of tea. You could stand up and adamantly say, “Come!” You could stand and vigorously ask the person that way. You could threaten, “If you don’t come to me, you’re going to be in trouble.” You could simply sit on the floor and smile. You could think loving thoughts.

Now, suppose you were a shy giant and these people were sitting across the room, speaking to you in these ways. Now, which one of these do you think you would go to?  Maybe you would go to the one holding candy, maybe not.  Do you think you would go to the one who was yelling at you adamantly saying that, “You must come!”? Would you go to the one who just sits on the floor and doesn’t pay too much attention to you, but pulls out a toy, opens their heart and is involved in their own project, but looks up occasionally and smiles, “You’re welcome.”? But not, “You must join me.”

When we offer an invitation in this way, from an open-hearted place, without grasping and need, we experience results. The ability to do that takes your deep knowing of yourself and the place of fear in you that says, “What if I don’t succeed?”

Coming back, then, to the elections, briefly, do you see the fear in yourself, as you campaign for your candidates? “What if I don’t succeed? What if the other side wins?”  It’s not very enticing to the other side, inviting them to come and look at what you offer.  There’s so much fear. When you can truly trust your own vision, what you want to co-create, and simply unfold it and say, “Here it is. If you would like to participate, you are welcome,” then people don’t feel threatened and they’re able to come and look and see what you are offering. It all comes back to watching the arising of fear, grasping, need to control in yourself and finding the simultaneity, that which is not afraid, that which is deeply loving and able to offer without need for the other to participate.

I understand that the way the politics works in this country is that only one candidate will win and carry out his or her policies, but if enough of you envision the beautiful world of light, of well-being for all, free of fear, then that is what you will manifest. And, if enough of you envision a world where you must control and force others and win, then that is what you will manifest. It really is as simple as that.

My blessings and love to you all and thank you for being with us tonight.

Dharma Journal | August 2018 | Angels in Earthsuits — Spirits Having a Human Experience

Recorded in Barbara Brodsky’s backyard in June 2018.

Video and Transcript, the video is also closed captioned.

 

Aaron: My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron. I’m sitting here sheltered by a beautiful old apple tree. Everything arises from conditions. Barbara and Hal planted this tree over 40 years ago, just a little sprig of wood. And here it is, giving dense shade on a hot day.

Everything emerges, expresses, and then passes away. Someday in the future this tree will no longer exist. Someday in the future you will no longer exist as you are now. What will the tree have become? Undoubtedly it will have dropped seeds, and perhaps there will be a new apple tree growing. Is it separate from the original tree? It bears the seed from that tree, and yet it expresses as something different.

For you, I’m not only speaking about a transition from this life and rebirth, but moment by moment, day by day, you express as something different. Sometimes you express as the one who is frightened, angry, controlling, or confused. Sometimes you express as the one who is joyful, confident, and at ease. These are all aspects of your being.

The human has the tendency to try to get rid of that which it deems unwholesome, the angry or confused aspects of the self, and to build up what it sees as beautiful aspects of the self. That’s fine, for a while. But after a while, be it years or lifetimes, you do come to understand that you cannot get rid of anything or create anything for the characteristic will continue until the conditions for it are purified. You must go into the core of your being and begin to know who and what you originally were and still are. Zen Buddhism sometimes calls it “knowing your true face”; knowing your true essence.

Last month, I spoke of the dharma path, based on the Buddha’s idea of sila (moral awareness), pañña (wisdom), and samadhi (presence). These are a beautiful path and will lead you to awakening. But some of you have been walking this path for over 2,000 years, and there is still a somebody there trying to fix, to get rid of, or to create.

The teachings do support this idea. “Abandon the unwholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. If such abandonment created harm, I would not ask you to abandon it. But as it creates happiness, I ask you, abandon the unwholesome.” The scripture goes on to say, “Cultivate the wholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. If such cultivation created suffering, I would not ask you to cultivate it. But as it creates happiness and good for all beings, cultivate the wholesome.” This is a beautiful teaching. But, if you have been abandoning the unwholesome and cultivating the wholesome for a thousand or two thousand years, and you’re still doing it, something is a bit off balance. Perhaps there is too much of an idea of a central self who must abandon and cultivate.

We cannot get rid of that self— that’s just more abandoning. We cannot create the true self— that’s just more doing. Rather, we begin to use our practice, all of it— the sila, the pañña, and the samadhi, all together— to rest more firmly in — Ajahn Chah, a beloved Thai meditation master, called it “the one who knows”. In the Thai language, pu-ru. To rest fully in the one who knows, first you must acquaint yourself with the one who knows. And so many of you are reluctant to do that, for various reasons; perhaps afraid of failure. But I think for the most part it’s because to open fully to the one who knows means you must release at least some identification with the ego self.

You are ready to do that, or you would not be listening to this talk. But again, I don’t want to suggest a doing, to say “release identification.” Pass through the various identifications you have, that the ego has, and through meditation, open to the fullness of what you are. I have called you “angels in earthsuits”. Sometime this fall, I don’t know the date, (Sat. Oct. 27)  I will be giving an “Angels in Earthsuits” workshop, both live and online, and we’ll go deeper into this idea and into the experience of being the angel in the earthsuit. For now, I just want to remind you, you are not here as humans that occasionally have a spiritual experience but as spirit having a human experience. This line has been tossed around often in the past decade or two. I believe I first said this 30 years ago. You are spirit having a human experience. And you are here to understand the importance of this human experience and to use it, not only for the highest good of yourself, releasing and balancing old karma, not only for the highest good of all sentient beings, but literally to bring this whole Earth on which you live into transition to a higher vibrational planet; to come to know yourselves as the high vibrational being that is the essence of who and what you are. You are love, high vibration, spirit, AND you are here in human form, which must be met compassionately and tenderly.

Are you ready to let go of the myriad stories? “Poor me, why did this happen to me?” “I’m not good enough. I should have done it better. They shouldn’t blame me.” I should, they should, I want, I don’t want. Fine. What has all of that thinking gained you? Anything? The harder you try to push away the human in which you have expressed, to deny it in some way, the less you can ground yourself in the angel. That may sound odd, but only by opening to the fullness of your being can you truly come face to face with this one who knows; and learn to rest in the experience of the one who knows. Emotions will still arise— grief, confusion, anger, denial, grasping, hatred. They will still arise. You’re still here in a human body. If you step on a nail, your foot is going to bleed. You are here in a human body.

But, as I see it, the vital focus of this lifetime is to come to know yourself and all beings as part of each other, and as expression of the one who knows. Let’s call it The One Who Knows, in capital letters, and the one who thinks she knows, in small letters. But where do they merge? At a certain point you stop being the small-letter one who strives after certainty and simply are The One Who Knows.

Here is a leaf from the tree above me. Is it separate from the tree in any way? It has drifted down. I’m going to crumble it up and grind it into the dirt. It will decay there. Its energy will seep into the earth, feed the roots of this tree. Is it separate from the tree? Can anything ever be separate? What do you gain by living with this illusion of separation?

So, you are angels in earthsuits, each come into the incarnation to truly know this angel aspect of yourself; to take care of the human; to use the wisdom and power and the body of the human to co-create what is for the highest good of all on this Earth, without fear of the enormity of the power you have. I think this is the key to it, that at some level many of you, as you grow, have become aware of the enormity of power, but you have not yet fully resolved the ego and the negative emotions. So, there is fear that if you own this power, you could do harm, because you know you have not resolved the negative emotions. This is also a vital part of the dharma path.

In order to fully resolve the negative emotions, we must be willing to acknowledge. We cannot transcend what we do not accept. You must also be willing to acknowledge your power in order to transcend it as personal power and offer it as THE power, the power that can fully transmute negativity on this Earth, and fully transform this Earth, and assist its transition to a higher density planet.

Why do you want it to be a higher density planet? Each of you has been in situations where there was a lot of negativity and fear, a lot of darkness. Was it pleasant? Each of you has been in situations where there was a lot of love, laughter, joy, high vibration, ease. And yes, it was pleasant. The more you open into that high vibrational space, the more you can support that for yourself and others.

Last month you had a glimpse of Barbara’s very small garden here. You saw the high energy of the plants, so surrounded with love. Some of you may have read the book Findhorn, or read about the Findhorn experiment, in which plants were nurtured with love and grew beautifully. Well, this is Barbara’s own small Findhorn. All of you have the opportunity to truly create a Garden of Eden here on Earth. And I’m not just talking about flowers and trees and vegetables.

Recently, a dozen boys and their soccer coach were trapped in a cave, deep underground in Thailand. It was a situation  from which it was almost impossible to envision that they could be released. Rains were flowing, monsoon rains. The only way out was by swimming underground, underwater, through narrow passages. I saw something beautiful happen on the Earth. So often the news shows the negative and plays out the negative. But in this situation, the news demonstrated the love and courage. And around the Earth, literally hundreds of thousands of people came together energetically, envisioning these boys released, offering their energy and love and courage to the boys and to the rescuers. And they were all freed, one man having lost his life. While we lament that one death, it’s quite amazing what this whole world was able to do because they came together with love. If there had been several hundred thousand people saying, “It can’t be done. It can’t be done. They’re as good as dead,” they would never have gotten out. Your energy carried them through.

You have some very unpleasant situations on your Earth, places of terrorism, places where harm is being done. Are you ready to move into knowing yourself as The One Who Knows, and claiming your power, so that all together you can transmit love around the whole Earth? Can transform the Earth and bring it into the higher vibration that is your birthright? This Earth is the Eden that you were promised. But it’s up to you personally to co-create that Eden, starting from within the self.

If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. Thank you.

Dharma Journal | July 2018 | The Dharma Path — Resting in Your Presence

Recorded in Barbara Brodsky’s backyard in June 2018.

Video and Transcript, the video is also closed captioned.

 

 

Aaron: My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron. Welcome to our summer garden, where Barbara has enjoyed some hours meditating, reading, and relaxing this summer, and contemplating dharma truths such as impermanence.

My topic today is the path of the dharma, dharma path, which is the title of the new two-year class that we will begin in the fall. Many of watching this are already registered. Registration is full. There is a waitlist. We’re trying to understand how we can bring everyone in who wishes to participate, so if interested, please simply sign on to the waitlist. Then hold your heart open with the possibility.

What is this “dharma path”? I want to begin by reading you one verse from the Dhammapada, a beautiful Buddhist scripture, Dhammapada— dharma and dhamma being equal terms in two different languages.

Dhammapada, verse 178:

Better than ruling the whole world, better than going to heaven, better than lordship over the universe, is an irreversible commitment to the Way.

The way of what? To what are you committing? You are committing to know who you are beyond this human body and the small ego. To know the deepest truth of yourself and hold your heart open to that truth. To live that truth, not just think about it.

Twenty-five hundred years ago the Buddha suggested the idea of three segments to practice: sila (moral awareness), pañña (wisdom or more accurately, insight), samadhi (mindfulness, presence, concentration). I cannot improve on that. But I can bring it into this century. What do these teachings mean today, and how can we find true liberation through these teachings?

What I teach, and what I will be teaching in this class, is grounded in Buddhism but I am not teaching it as Buddhism. No ‘isms’ here; just bringing the deepest aspect of yourself into practice and into your pure being.

Let’s unfold this sila/ pañña /samadhi, starting with sila, moral awareness. On a relative level this means to honor the commitment to do no harm to others or to yourself. Notice there is still the word “other”. There is still a thinking from the relative plane of self and other, of doing no harm. Once we are well-grounded in sila, and most of you watching this already are, we move out of the relative and onto the ultimate. But you cannot reach the ultimate level of understanding without the wisdom and presence parts of this tripod.

When we come to a place of knowing that everything is part of the self, there is no longer a self or other. No one to do harm, no one to be harmed. And yet, we must understand that harm still does happen, because you are not completely free, because most of you, at least, still move into the ego self at times and oppose it to the will of others rather than resting in compassion and saying no from that compassionate heart. As long as there’s an ego there, there’s going to be harm.

To find the egoless place you must meditate, which is still a relative practice, a doing, until you come to the place of resting in pure presence, resting in spaciousness, resting in love. Resting in that pure presence, you directly experience that no-self, no-other, and then move out of the karmic field in which harming can happen. But of course, being humans, you slip back into it again.

Then we work with the wisdom practices. At first these are the early teachings. Every conditioned thing is impermanent. Whatever has the nature to arise has the nature to cease and is not me or mine. You begin to see how objects arise out of conditions and pass away; how the impulse to harm something arises out of conditions and passes away. With a strong commitment to do no harm— I’m smiling at the butterflies clustered over the lavender!— with a strong commitment to do no harm, as presence, mindfulness meditation, concentration, as these deepen, you begin to find that which is empty of a self, right there with the ego itself, and to begin to act more from that place; to speak, to think more from that egoless core of being. You begin to know this is who you are.

Then sila deepens. We enter the shift of moving from the relative, heavy vibration human into the true high vibrational spirit cloaked in flesh. That is what you truly are. The identification shifts.

Last week Barbara had a beautiful meditation, and she has given me permission to share it with you. She had an appointment with a well-trusted acupuncturist and was lying on his table, with needles at the various points on her body, knowing she had perhaps an hour just to be there, present, and to meditate. She had been feeling quite overwhelmed with many things in her life. Of course, with Hal, whose condition, a stroke— leads to the need to help him have the proper care; to organize the proper care. Then there is her own time spent with him. She is very busy with the remodeling she is just beginning in the house; the previous weeks, spending many hours a day, with some support, clearing out endless boxes of old books, old things, finding homes for that which needed homes. Recycling the rest. Fifty years of accumulation; a huge task. Hours are spent with trying to understand the home finances and paying Hal’s now $12,000 a month nursing home bill. Worrying, where the money will come from, month after month? She seeks to support her own health, trying to get the proper exercise, to eat properly; failing a good part of the time but not condemning herself, just persisting.

So she was feeling overwhelmed. As she lay on the table, she could feel the places where the body was holding all of this sense of being overwhelmed, all of the contraction. She asked for help. At least she’s getting that much of it; she remembers that she can ask for help! Jeshua came in very quickly. He invited her, “You are still here in the human body, and at the end of this session you will return to the human body. But for now, come with me. Come through this transition portal.”

He took her hand—energetically, I should say— and literally led her— not pulled her but invited her through what would be the transition experience, a simple transition experience. Moving from the heavy density plane into a plane of light. There was briefly a period of fear and of darkness, for Barbara. Then, sensing Jeshua’s touch and presence, and mine also, holding the commitment to move beyond the edges of that darkness and into the place where light and darkness become one, – not separate, no duality – moving into the light. Her energy field expanded, opened; joy arose. Where she rested was so flooded with light, with happiness.

After a few minutes resting there, Jeshua invited her to turn around, literally, and look back at the Barbara lying on the table, filled with feelings of being overwhelmed, with contraction, with fear, with worry, with doubt. As she looked at that Barbara, she saw that all of these myriad contractions, all of these thoughts, that these were all simply conditioned objects, arisen from conditions, impermanent, not of the nature of a self, and that she did not need to identify with them. But she knew that she would need to return to the body and take care of these fear-based contractions held in that body.

She rested there in the spaciousness for about 10 or 15 minutes. And then Jeshua invited her, “Now it is time to return to the body. Look at each piece of contraction literally as a conditioned object, and know it to be impermanent. Right there with that particular contraction, where is spaciousness? Right there with grief, where is love? Right there with fear, where is the one who knows the deep inner clarity and love?

So, she spent the rest of the hour lying on the table, back in the body, looking at each place where the body had contracted with this or that catalyst, and holding the intention, I should not say to release it, that’s too much a doing, but to move into the place where contraction was not. To move into the innate spaciousness of being.

By the end of the hour she had let go of all — let phrase that differently; that’s also too much of a doing— the identification had shifted itself to the spacious awakened spirit that she is, able to approach with compassion the human that she also is right now, and to touch the places of fear with loving compassion, with patience.

Lying there, she recited to herself again St. Theresa’s prayer, that I’ve shared with you before.

Be not perplexed.
Be not afraid.
Everything passes.
God does not change.
Patience wins all things.
She who has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Each of you, as for Barbara, must explore what God means in this context. For Barbara, God is Love. It’s as simple as that. Love wins all things. Love alone suffices. The power of love suffices.

She emerged from that room feeling infinitely lighter and more at ease, with readiness to return to the work of her current life; not viewing it as burden but as teacher. How do I bring love more to this, and to that, and to that? Where is the love that is already there? How do I bring the already awake self to this challenge that life presents me now? This, my dear ones, is the dharma path.

For those who are not in the class, and as I said, registration is quite limited, my talks every other week will be available in some way. Not yet understood how, but they will become available. I hope that many of you will choose to follow these talks and join us on this two year journey.

My blessings and love to you. Thank you for being with me today.

One Year Anniversary of Sunday Online Meditation

The One Year Anniversary of WHAT?
by Celeste Zygmont
DSC newsletter, Aug. 7, 2018

My name is Celeste Zygmont, and I’m living way out here near Austin, Texas (Deep Spring Center is located in Ann Arbor, MI). It’s been 105 degrees (Fahrenheit!) the past few days. You can’t touch the metal of cars with your hand, and you can’t walk barefoot on the street. Who would have thought I’d end up here? Not me, but here I am.

I met Deep Spring Center for Meditation and Spirituality in the early ‘90s and right away knew I wanted more. Aaron would give his talks, and something inside of me would say, “I know this.” But search as I might through my own memories, I could find nothing related to what I was hearing. So listen I did and practiced and started going to retreats. It’s been an adventuresome road through life and into mind, continually re-applying the teachings I’ve learned these past 25 years.

So now I’m in Texas. Although I go on weeklong retreats twice a year, I yearn for my Deep Spring Sangha to be closer. But how? Then one day I was at a Deep Spring Board meeting. We were all gathered together through the online conferencing program called Zoom. That’s when it hit me. What if we had an online meditation group and meditated using Zoom every Sunday morning?!

I got help setting it up, and – Shazam! – the first-ever Sunday Online Meditation was born. I am happy to announce that this first online meditation took place one year ago. Since then, we’ve met week after week. And now it’s been one year, one year of my heart feeling humanly connected to my dear ones all over the U.S. and sometimes even farther.

We chant and feel the togetherness of our energies. I like reaching out, way out, energetically, and offering any benefit that might come as a result of our meditation to be for the good of all beings. Ah. Then we begin an hour of meditation. Except for meditation at retreats, it’s the deepest meditation I know. For the most part, my family respects this time.

Over the course of this year, it has worked out that a core group of us has formed to meditate this way. We represent the states of Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. What a bond we’ve created between us, just by silently meditating together. We all look forward to it each week. And we say goodbye with smiles and warm hearts.

Now here’s the good part. You are invited to meditate, too! How beneficial it can be for you. Imagine the growth of the heart that is possible! Especially if you feel isolated where you live, please consider committing to this heart time with us.

To sign up, go to the Deep Spring website on the Sunday Online Meditation page. Or try this link: https://www.deepspring.org/sunday-online-meditation-from-anywhere. Thank you so very much. I look forward to meditating with you soon!

Lovingly,
Celeste

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.

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
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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
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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

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 | November 2017 | The Deeper Gift of Vipassana is Freedom

Vipassana meditation leads to a deeper, clearer seeing. Aaron discusses how Vipassana meditation moves you into responding from your heart.

Video and transcript, the video is also closed captioned.

 

Transcript, there are a few edits in the transcript that are not on the video.

November 2017 – Dharma Journal
The Deeper Gift of Vipassana is Freedom

My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron. It is a privilege to be with you in this way. You know that these are not recorded the month that you see them but pre-recorded. Right now it’s a beautiful October afternoon. You will be hearing this in November. In between, we are headed to Oakwood Retreat Center in Indiana for a week of Vipassana meditation.

People often ask Barbara and me, “Why do we practice? What is Vipassana meditation? What are we trying to gain from meditation?” Such questions! Let’s start at the beginning. You are a beautiful and radiant spirit here in this incarnation to learn to respond with loving kindness to the earth plane catalysts that come your way. Sometimes it’s easy. People are loving you, praising you. Your body feels strong and healthy. The sun is shining! But if that’s the total of your experience on this earth plane, how would you learn to deepen in a loving, spacious response, when something is painful?

The past months I’ve read some to you from my new book. We hope that book will be published and available to you by early December. I made the decision not to share more directly from the book now but rather to go into something that is the ground for the book and without which you could not do the practices in the book.

First, what is meditation? You are meditation. It is your natural state – stillness, spaciousness. The sky’s natural state is spaciousness, but when certain conditions are present it fills with clouds and looks very busy. Water has fluidity, so it can move. But when no conditions are pushing it into movement it is still.

Your natural state is spaciousness and stillness when no conditions are pushing you into agitation. Without the conditions, however, you could not learn. So, there will always be that which pushes at you on the earth plane, giving you the opportunity to respond to that push – either with anger, with contraction, with agitation, or with spaciousness, letting your own unique light shine forth.

I said there are certain things that will help you to do the practices in the book, and one is to be able to discern the places where you’re contracted or agitated, where you are pulling window shades down over your light. And to discern the places where you are open – heart open, light pouring out. Vipassana meditation … this is not the only use of Vipassana, but it is an excellent practice for doing this work with such quality.

Present with breathing … the first two or three breaths may be very easy. Then there’s an itch. Attention is no longer with the breath. Itching … Which is predominant, the sensation of the itch or wanting to scratch the itch? You don’t have to figure out which is predominant. Your attention is immediately pulled to whatever is predominant. So first the itching sensation, and then wanting to scratch. It’s not the itch itself that is predominant. It’s tension. It doesn’t matter what’s holding your attention – the itching sensation or the tension. The focus is simply, “This has arisen into my experience. It is unpleasant. How will I relate to it? I can relate with kindness or with anger and tension. If I relate with anger and hostility, I create more separation from the experience and from myself, from my heart.”  This is vipassana!

When I note the intention to want to push it away, and instead of blaming myself for that intention, I breathe with kindness for myself – breathing in I am aware of the tension. Breathing out I hold space for the tension. I smile into the tension.  – then, and this is what I highlight in the book – then I begin to find the simultaneity of the tension, hostility, fear, discomfort, and aversion and the spaciousness.

You are all so deeply conditioned. When something pushes a button, you react. That’s how the human mind works. You’re a mammal. This is how the mammal is wired. But you are not an alligator, a wolf or a bird of prey. You are human. You may have been all of those in the past. Now in this precious lifetime you are human, and you have the opportunity not to be reactive. but to move into experiences and respond from your heart.

Vipassana – the word in Pali, passana, means to see. Vipassana means a deeper, clearer seeing. It gives you the opportunity to observe the habitual responses – the mosquito tickling the arm.  Impulse to slap. If I slap the mosquito and kill it, and then my neighbor’s dog comes into my yard and damages plants in my garden, am I going to poison him? When my neighbor’s child comes into my yard with his friends, making a lot of noise, am I going to shoot them? Habit depends upon habit.

When we watch the small habit to slap at the mosquito, we can note “intention to slap, aversion to the mosquito,” and then gently brush it away. We don’t have to kill it. This heightens the habitual tendency. We also don’t have to permit it to bite. When the dog is in the yard, go outside and say, “Go. That’s my garden.” You can even yell at him to make him run away – not harming him but making it clear. “No, you may not dig in my garden. No, you may not suck on my blood.” In this way, we can learn to respond compassionately and wisely to the physical, mental and emotional catalysts of everyday life.

But everyday life is busy. It’s hard to pay attention to everything. When you’re sitting in meditation there’s nothing you have to attend to, except what is arising in this moment, in this mind and body. We start with the intention to respond with love, with kindness and with harm to none but also with a compassionate “no” when appropriate.

If you’re sitting on the cushion in your living room or at the retreat in the meditation hall, and suddenly a flock of chickens runs through, you don’t have to grit your teeth and say, “I shouldn’t mind this.” (Inaudible) The chickens are in the house. Their droppings will be all over your carpet. Get up and escort them out and close the door. Kindness does this. Stillness does this. Not, “Get out of here chickens,” said with frantic screaming; just “Chickens, out you go.” Pick this one up and put it out. Pick that one up and put it out. Close the door.

You have many flocks of chickens running through your house every day, running through your human mind-house. How are you going to attend to them? With Vipassana we’re sitting still, and we see the thought come and then the intention to enact the thought, or to stop the thought. We may say, “No, no thinking.” But the conditions were present, and the thought arose. As soon as I noticed it, the thought has stopped. I just come back to my breath. The body is a different set of chickens:  neck pain, wanting to move the neck, pain, pain, unpleasant, tension. We feel the body closing up and creating more pain in the neck. Ahh compassion for this human. “Breathing in I am aware of the tension, aware of the pain. Breathing out I hold space for the pain.” Give it a minute or two to resolve a bit. If it’s still there, and it feels important to do so, gently turn the head a bit to release the tension. And then, as you close your eyes and come back to your breath, also become aware of tension that you habitually hold in the shoulders and the neck.

Thus, we return to the innate tension-free state of being, the place of spaciousness, of light, of awakeness, right there with the tension. The more you try to get rid of the tension, the more you may contract around the tension and create more tension. Vipassana practice leads us to freedom, first with these mundane reactions we have established for one or many lifetimes, such as an habitual way you hold the body. If there’s tension do you hunch your shoulders and clench? I doubt if you relax unless you have done a lot of practice. But right there with the tension is spaciousness. Where is it? Can you feel it?

The deeper gift of Vipassana, beyond responding increasingly kindly and wisely to catalysts in this way is what I would literally call freedom. We no longer find ourselves so deeply triggered by the annoying or painful circumstances of everyday life. We begin to know who we are, beyond those habitual energies, and to trust the world, to trust that you are already an awakened being, to trust that alive, radiant, awakeness of yourself and of everyone. You begin to speak to others – speaking more to that awakeness in the others – not to the personality so much as the spirit. You, yourself, begin to speak from this place of spaciousness. You begin to wake up, to know the truth of who you are. You are Buddhas. You are the Christ. You are the awakened one. You. And now with your Vipassana practice you have the opportunity to practice as is needed, in order to move into that awakeness and know it for certain. It is a beautiful practice.

I hope you will look at my instructions on the website, that you will try to attend Vipassana classes and retreats and practice, practice, practice, practice, because it’s the only way you’ll learn – with daily practice.

Thank you for this opportunity to talk to you. My blessings and love.

Daily Aaron Quote – Oct. 27, 2017

Life is inconvenient! Not finding liberation is going to be inconvenient. It’s okay, you’ll have another chance, no big deal. But here you are, why waste the opportunity? It’s important that there not be an ‘I should,’ or any kind of guilt approach here; just, here is a good opportunity. You can use it if you wish.

To receive daily Aaron Quotes: http://archives.deepspring.org/dailyquote/

To see more quotes: https://deepspring.org/aaron-quotes/

Dharma Journal | August 2017

Knowing the Ever Healed

Dharma Journal teachings from Aaron channeled by Barbara Brodsky.

Video is closed captioned.
Aaron channeled by Barbara Brodsky: ,June 6, 2017.
Monthly Dharma Talk

Transcription

My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. We are actually recording August right after July so the allergy symptoms are still here. I wish I could report to you it’s a month later and it’s all healed. You’ll have to wait until next month for that. But it will happen.

Last month I spoke about the relationship between contraction and body diminishment, illness, aging, and so forth. When I say contraction, I mean held contraction, not the balanced contraction with which the body must live. Once the body ceases to lodge itself regularly in unbalanced contraction, it can not only heal back to where it was before the present distortion occurred, but it can heal beyond that back approaching its wholeness.

There’s so much that your bodies can do; you have no idea. If you’re not able to heal in that way, you are not a failure. The original intention was only to use these challenging catalysts as learning experiences.

But the body can heal. I want to use Barbara as an example, here. I don’t want to bring her back into the body to talk, so I will talk for her, for a few minutes. When she first lost her hearing, the nerves that were damaged were the nerve from the ear to the brain that carries sound impulses, and also nerves in the semicircular canal in the ear that control balance. Since those nerves were destroyed she had no balance.

For those first months in the beginning, she literally had to crawl from one room to another in her house. She could not stand for the first several weeks. Then she got to a point where she could stand up and hold onto something. Eventually she developed a very stiff-legged gait, like you see sometimes in a toddler who is just learning to walk. Body tense. You can’t see my feet here, but the feet pointed out, with(demonstrates) a lot of tension with each step. This is 45 years ago. The body had decades to move into this unbalanced distortion, and I’d really say, fear of falling. So she developed a habitual mode of walking that held the pelvis locked in, the knees locked in. She turned her feet outward, what you might call a duck walk, so she wobbled from side to side when she walked. This was her way of coping with imbalance.

It did not occur to her to relax and find the balance right there with the imbalance. This is true whether we’re talking about balance or lack of congestion in the sinuses, or finding the freedom from allergy right there with the allergy. Whether we’re talking about grief and finding that which is not filled with grief right there with the grief; that which is not afraid right there with fear. We are not getting rid of anything. To get rid of something carries aversion and contraction. Rather, when we note with real honesty and compassion, here is fear, here is grief, here is anger, here is lack of balance, here is body pain, and then we ask the question, right here with the pain, where is that which is not in pain? Right here with imbalance, where is that which is balanced?

Some of you have read in Barbara’s book Cosmic Healing her story of being on retreat in Canada, at a place where there was a lot of snow. During the night I asked her to dress warmly and go outside with her walking sticks to help her balance. Then to lay her walking sticks aside and stand. Her balance is from her eyes and from her feet on a firm surface. With the snow, there was no firm surface. In the middle of the night with thick snow falling, there was no visual balance. She said, “Aaron, I’ll fall.” I said, yes.

She accepted my suggestion; went out into the snow, and put her walking sticks aside. Snow about thigh deep. She plowed through 10 feet of snow from her door into the trees, laid her walking sticks aside, and fell. Of course, it was soft. I knew she would not hurt herself. She picked up the walking sticks, got herself standing again. I said, “Now do it again.” Falling, falling.

She began to see, after some repetitions of this, that falling was not the problem but letting herself fall. What does it mean to fall? To let go of control? To simply allow the body to be as it is? Falling. She knew she was not going to hurt herself. She knew she could get up okay. The fear, as she started to see it, was a very old fear of needing the be the one who was upright, who kept control of things, who could handle things. She saw that the deafness and the lack of balance led her to a place where there was fear, “I won’t be able to handle things. I won’t hear what’s said. I won’t have balance. I won’t be able to walk.” And that rigidity impaired her ability to truly listen. The deafness was not important. To truly listen. To move freely, relaxing the contraction.

As she lay there in the snow after the 6th or 7th fall, just crying for a while with compassion for this human, who had found it so hard to be a human who could fall, who had to remain upright, to take care of herself and others, with that realization, two things happened. She began to hear people in a new way, lip-reading as she had before but without the contraction that said, “Am I getting it all?” Just hearing, just present. She was more able to be present with herself, too, and with her emotions. Her balance began to improve because she was no longer afraid, “What if I fall?” It wasn’t a fear based on fear of physical injury but on concept; not being the one who would fall.

Fast forward, now, perhaps 30 years. Again, practicing being present in the already perfect body, and looking at the stiff, awkward gait that she had, how much body pain it brought. She had the good fortune to connect with a very skillful teacher of Feldenkrais method, but he goes way beyond that. His name is Dale Jenson, and I mention his name because with joy I share with you that Barbara, Dale and I will be co-creating a workshop through Deep Spring on September 23 on just the topic I’m talking about today. Coming to know the inner balance and perfection; to allow the body to recognize and rest in that which is ever-healed. And then to allow that inner, ever-healed to teach the outer body to live the ever-healed. I’m very much looking forward to the workshop, but I will not talk further about that today. I want to stay with this topic, knowing the ever-healed.

So, Barbara began to see the ways she was habitually, unmindfully self-correcting the lack of balance with tension, and to ask, how else can I invite balance? With our friend’s guidance, she began to see the ways the body could move more skillfully. To begin to find the innate balance in the body. Certainly, having Dale there was helpful. It’s very helpful to have such a skilled guide with whom to walk this path. But for those lacking such guidance, mindfulness is your guide. Become mindful of the contractions in the body. Begin to ask – whether it’s imbalance or chronic body pain in some part of the body, or whatever the ailment may be – right here with this particular ailment, this pain in my neck, shoulders, back, this lack of balance, this anger, right here with this, where is that which is free of this distortion? How can I more fully center and rest in that which is free without so much identification with that which is caught?

You can do it. I promise you, you can do it. There’s a beautiful quote form the Buddha, from a sutra in which he’s addressing some monks. He says, “Abandon the unwholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. Cultivate the wholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it.”

Please take that into your hearts. Begin in this next month to look at some area of the body or mind which is caught in some unwholesome habitual pattern that causes pain for you and others, without trying to fix it. No fix-it; no fix-it! Just heart open to it. Right here with this chronic pain, where is that which is not in pain? Right here with this ongoing impatience, where is that which is patient? Right here with anger, where is that which is not angry? I’m not saying get rid of the impatience, get rid of the anger, get rid of the pain. No. Hold space with compassion for these, and instead of focusing only on this discomfort, while it is here, where is that which is not in pain? Turn your head from staring at the pain and anger to looking at that which is free of pain, free of anger, which is joyful and openhearted. Even just for a moment, begin to see how it feels.

The second part of my instruction today, and I think we’ve covered this in a past dharma dialogue but I’ll touch on it again, the beautiful practice of clear comprehension. I’ll introduce only the first parts of this practice.

Clear comprehension of purpose. Ask yourself, “What is my highest purpose?” Here is the anger and here’s that which is free of anger. Is my highest purpose here to perpetuate this anger, or to begin to open to that which is not angry? Is my highest purpose to perpetuate this terrible pain in my body, or to open to that which is free of pain?

Be honest with yourself. Sometimes there is an intention to hold onto the anger because it seems to give you power. Sometimes there is an intention to hold onto pain, for whatever reasons. But once you know your highest purpose is to release these, then the second step is clear comprehension of suitability. Ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say or do resonant with that highest purpose?” If it’s impatience and I’m building on the story, my mind repeating over and over, impatience or anger, and my highest purpose is to be more loving, to open my heart, then repeating the stories is not conducive to opening to the highest purpose. It’s as simple as that. If the highest purpose is to be free of body pain, then contracting the body in this way is not conducive to releasing the pain in the body.

Clear comprehension of purpose. Clear comprehension of suitability. And then we look at what choices we have. Remember, you can stay fixated on this, even trying to fix it as a way of being fixated on it, or you can change your focus to that which is innately whole and radiant and say, “I choose this.”

Then ask for help. You may ask your guides for help. You may ask your friends. You may ask those who you see for different kinds of emotional or body healing. “Help to support me in releasing that which I know is negative.” But at this point you’ve made a clear decision, “I’m ready to release it,” or at least I’m beginning to be ready to release it, rather than, “No, I need to hold onto it.” It’s that “I need to hold onto it” that holds you back from opening to the innate healing and the experiencing of wholeness, which is your birthright. And I wish this for you, to know your wholeness. You are love. You can do it. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak with you today. I hope to see some of you at our live  and on-line workshop on Sept. 23.

Forty Seven Stories of Jesus

Forty Seven Stories of Jesus
You probably have never heard
by Aaron, channeled by Barbara Brodsky
edited and arranged by William Atork

$12.00 + $4.00 shipping
(US shipping, contact Deep Spring office for international shipping)
Place Your Order

 

For everyone who has ever said or wondered, “What wold Jesus do?”, here is your answer. Pure and unblemished true-life examples of how Jesus felt about and treated other people, exactly as He encountered them during His time spent living among us.

These stories offer insight into the purity, love and selflessness with which Christ lived. As you read, you can easily plant yourself into each story, and you will be asking yourself not what Jesus would do, but what would YOU do in that situation. You will be awakened to your own divinity and challenged to treat all people with greater understanding, love and compassion.

William Atork

Barbara Brodsky is a dharma teacher who leads meditation retreats and spiritual inquiry workshops worldwide. In Ann Arbor, Barbara is the founder and guiding teacher of Deep Spring Center for Meditation and Spiritual Inquiry which offers non-denominational spiritual teachings and practice. She has been practicing meditation since 1960 and teaching since 1989. Her teaching draws from dual roots in the Buddhist and Quaker traditions. Her Buddhist training is in the Theravadin and Dzogchen traditions. She became totally deaf in 1972; living with silence has greatly influenced her life and teaching, as have years of active involvement in nonviolent action for social change. Since a surfing accident in 2004, Barbara is blind in one eye.  Barbara is also the channel for the spirit, Aaron, and, with him, offers personal spiritual direction sessions and group workshops. Eight books of Aaron’s teachings have been published. The newest is, The Aaron/Q’uo Dialogues: An Extraordinary Conversation between Two Spiritual Guides.

Barbara has been featured in two episodes of the NPR radio show, This American Life Miracle Cures, episode 262 and The Other Man, episode 212 . She is a contributor to numerous anthologies and journals. She was also one of the featured teachers in the internationally acclaimed documentary, One, the Movie, directed by Ward Powers, 2005.

Dharma Journal | July 2017

Healing

Dharma Journal teachings from Aaron channeled by Barbara Brodsky.

Video is closed captioned.
Aaron channeled by Barbara Brodsky: ,June 6, 2017.
Monthly Dharma Talk

Transcription

Barbara: Hello to you all. For something different today, we’re starting with me, Barbara. I guess I could say, “My blessings and love to you all.” Aaron will say it later. We want to continue with the theme of healing. What is healing? Who heals? If everything is already perfect, why do we need to heal? This touches the whole combination of relative and ultimate.

Aaron asked me to start today because I’ve been sick for the past month with very bad hay fever— allergy, eyes weeping, nose congested, coughing. You can hear it in my voice. Anyone who’s been there will recognize the feeling. It’s a first for me, and I can say I really have sympathy for people who experience allergies regularly.

For some reason this spring season, my body was much more susceptible to the allergens in the air. I became very sick with it; not sick in the way of life-threatening; just very uncomfortable, very unpleasant. A lot of “how do I fix this” thinking. So, it’s been an excellent, though uncomfortable and unloved, teacher. Aaron has been saying that which is unloved comes as teacher; well, this certainly did.

My first experience with it, for 2 or 3 weeks I just kind of left it alone and tried to ignore it. But it kept getting worse, beyond the point where it could be ignored. Finally, a week ago I went to a doctor. This is a month into this allergy. I was pretty sure it was allergy and not a cold, but the doctor confirmed it. She gave me some medicines, which have not done anything. So, 2 days pass, 3 days pass— when is this medicine going to kick in? Healer, heal yourself.

You can hear that my voice is very raspy. I have big circles under my eyes, which are watering. This is how the body is. Sometimes it’s functioning perfectly; sometimes it’s not functioning so well.

I am choosing to work with it with a combination of allopathic medicine and spirit and homeopathic medicine. With spirit’s guidance this week, I’ve been doing several things. Spirit asked me to picture myself under a waterfall. Clear, pure water pouring over my body and in through my head, washing out the sinuses, washing out the eyes, washing all the congestion away, washing all the allergens away. After 10 or 15 minutes doing that, the head is clear. The next suggestion came from my friend Tavis, whom many of you saw with me in the last workshop. Filling these sinus cavities with light, just drawing it up. Now that they’re cleansed, bringing light in. Filling my eyes, all the sinuses, everything, with light.

Then Stage III: Spirit asked me to imagine a veil of mist surrounding me, very radiant, really brilliant, almost light-like mist. Aaron has talked a lot recently to you and to me about the distinction between armoring and shielding. I’ve been watching how I was armoring myself by tensing against the very unpleasant physical symptoms, trying to hold space for them and be stoic. Ignore them; eventually they’ll go away. I saw that I was armoring myself because I was contracting. One cannot ignore something without contracting. When we’re not willing to be present with it, we contract. Staying open, shielding, not armoring, from a very loving place. Shielding myself against these allergies, so that when they hit this fine radiant mist shield they are repelled and go away.

So, Parts I and II are cleansing and healing the symptoms that are there. Part III is not drawing more allergies into the body. Well I’m happy to say finally that for the past three days it seems to be working. It’s helping. We’ll see where it goes.

At this point Aaron will come in and talk. He wanted me to provide you with some background. Thank you for hearing me. I’ll pause and Aaron will come in…

Aaron:

My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron. Barbara has given you the background. Yes, it was a perfect teacher because there was no need for fear. It was unpleasant but she was not going to end up in the hospital with some serious ailment. She’s not going to die from this. She was just uncomfortable. When I say, “just uncomfortable”, I say it with compassion. Uncomfortable is uncomfortable. We don’t want people to be uncomfortable. I don’t want Barbara to be uncomfortable. Nevertheless, she is in a physical body and sometimes there will be discomfort.

I want to start today with one primary idea about healing and wholeness, and about one of the causes for illness. As soon as something hurts, there will be fear and aversion. As soon as there are aversion and fear, there will be contraction. When there is contraction, everything closes down. The whole system closes down.

Picture, I’m trying to think of something that works smoothly with gears… just a wheel. If you put the brake on, the wheel can’t turn anymore. If you force that turning, it grinds as it turns. This is what happens in your bodies when you contract. And all of you constantly contract. Let me clarify this. When I say, “when you contract,” I don’t mean the kind of contraction such as the opening and closing of a hand to lift an object. If I want to put something in my hand, the hand will then contract around it. When it comes in, then the contraction will release. With your breath, there is constant opening and closing of the lungs in contraction. This is what allows the breathing. But it’s a balanced contraction. This is very different than clenching.

As humans, you have the habitual pattern to clench, and that clenching wears down the gears, if I may speak of them that way, wears down all the parts of the body so they age. I’ve mentioned to you that in my lifetime as Aaron, 2500 years ago, I lived over 500 years. The body parts did not age drastically. They aged a bit. I was constantly able to rejuvenate them because I did not pass my time in a contracted state. When something arose that was unpleasant, I knew it as unpleasant. I opened my heart to it. I held spaciousness for it and eventually it would pass. I’m not saying I never contracted and held that contraction, but such was rare.

This is what enabled me and many others like me to live such long lives. Such practice was well-known back in those times. It’s something some of you, at least, learned in Lemurian times. Uncontracted; spacious; to rest in your innate spaciousness, not only of the mind but of the body.

When there is some physical discomfort, the predominant reaction for the human is to contract. Try this. Take your finger and push. Can you push with your finger without contracting? I don’t think so. Now do it again. Breathe and feel the pressure, hard pressure with the finger. Breathing in, I am aware of the pressure. Breathing out, I hold space for the pressure. Feel two different forces; the body pushing, like lungs expanding, and the ego behind the push. See how after maybe 30 seconds or so the pressure shifts to just be pressure. Maybe a little bit uncomfortable and painful, but just pressure. Then let it go.

One can learn to experience discomfort of the body, of the emotions, of the mind. One can learn to feel the original contraction, note the contraction, and come back into the uncontracted, resting in awareness, resting in spaciousness.

Living in this way, the body is less likely to pick up physical ailments. The mind is less likely to go into extreme negative and fear-based stories. This is something you not only can do but most of you came into the incarnation to learn to do this. Why? Why bother to learn it? Because you are here in incarnation to learn kindness and compassion, to learn unconditional love, and that includes love for the being that’s feeling discomfort from this finger-pressing life-style. Uncomfortable. Discomfort from the runny eyes or congested nose. Discomfort from the sadness, or even grief, from fear.

You learn this first with yourself, and then you are able to extend it out into the world. Thus, the ailments of the physical body, and the uncomfortable emotions, these are not so terrible that we seek to get rid of them. They are teachers. Thank you, teacher. (hands drawn together, palms touching) Some of these ailments can be devastating. The loss of a loved one. The being told that you have a probably fatal illness. The extreme fear if you feel your life is threatened, or the lives of your loved ones. We are here to learn to keep the heart open when these objects arise. To note the original contraction and not hold the contraction but invite spaciousness and the loving heart. To invite the return to unconditional love, and trust of your path. I’ll talk more about that in another session. Today I just want to stick with contraction and spaciousness.

When Barbara was first armoring herself, being stoic, it created contraction in such a way that she became increasingly vulnerable to the allergies. So, instead of reducing the number of symptoms of discomfort, it built up on itself. Healing began as soon as she was able to just relax and say, “This is how it is. Thank you, teacher. What have you come to teach me? I open my heart to you,” and to do this without fear, trusting the experience. She was not inviting the experience; not saying, “Sure, come on— more and more allergens.” Just, “I trust the experience and I will learn from it.” Opening. Once she was able to be more open, she able to do the exercises that she described to you. Literally washing out the body. Inviting light to fill the sinus cavities. And probably most important, the shielding. Not inviting more allergens into the system. You can’t shield this way, (demonstrating great tension of the body); immediately you’re armored. Shielding. “I release this. I do not choose to bring this into my body. I release it.”

This is the most important point I want to make with you today. You are not here in a physical incarnation to avoid catalyst but to learn from catalyst. Sometimes it will be joyful catalyst, sometimes painful catalyst. Whatever it is, invite it in.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you.
I will close with a beautiful poem by Rumi, The Guest House.

The Guest House by Rumi
translated by Coleman Barks, from The Essential Rumi,
(San Francisco, Harper SanFrancisco) 1995, p. 109

This human being 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’re 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 whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

 

 

 

Dharma Journal | June 2017

Dharma Journal teachings from Aaron channeled by Barbara Brodsky.

Transcription and closed captioned.

The Three Kayas: Part 3

June 2017 Dharma Talk

My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. Thank you for joining me today. I left you all last month flowing out with the divine breath and flowing in with the inhale; feeling that no matter where you go, you can never lose that resting place, the Divine within you and you within the Divine. I promised last month to talk more this time about what helps us come back, to re-center ourselves in the divine heart.

My first suggestion is the power of intention. When you first awaken in the morning, before you even open your eyes, stop. Lying there in your bed, say, “Thank you for this new day. Today may I be of the deepest service to others. May I live my life free of harm. I consecrate this mind, body, and spirit to the light and to the power of love.” Just rest in that intention for a minute.

Out of what belief do you hold that you can do this? You might say, “Me? How can I be of service? How can I be loving? If such thoughts appear, we don’t want to be dismissive of them, but simply to note: there is fear here but my intention is not to become caught in the fear.

Then stop and say thank you. Thank you for the gift of life I have been given. Thank you for having heard the teachings of love, and the power to enact these teachings in the world. Thank you for the kindness within my heart. Begin to reflect on that for which you feel grateful that morning. Perhaps it’s the sun shining out your window, or perhaps the rain that will water the flowers, trees, and crops. What is it for which I feel truly grateful? Not just what is out there, although that too, but for the power of love within myself. The power to truly make a difference in this world where there is suffering, for this I am grateful. Thank you. Can you feel how just “Thank you” re-centers you, pulls you back into the divine heart?

We have stated the intention to offer oneself lovingly today, in the highest service of beings and without harm. The human can so easily become caught up in fear and anger, so it’s valuable to remember the non-duality of anger, of fear, and of love. Put in the simplest way I can phrase it, that which is aware of fear is not afraid. Saying that again: that which is aware of fear is not afraid. That which is aware of anger is not angry. That which is aware of grasping and need is not needy.

What is this That-which-is-aware? This profound awareness that rests in the heart of love, before the breath emerges. In the beginning there was Love, that’s it. You are that.

I am not suggesting that you always feel loving or never feel needy or afraid. But let’s ground in the ultimate reality of love. I am that, I am love, I am light, and conditions will arise that bring up anger and fear, confusion. I am not what arises out of those conditions. I am this essence. I am light, I am love.

So we keep returning to that in the self, and this is the primary intention, not to lose touch with that which is love. You must take the time to see it in your world. Yesterday, Barbara was swimming at the pool in the gym. There’s a bank of windows perhaps 20 feet high, the whole length of two pools, and there were hundreds of small birds flying everywhere, doing a dance. She was swimming on her back, turning her head that way, and they caught her attention, until she had to stop swimming and just look out the window. Is there a little voice that says, “Oh, no, I’m here to swim my laps.”? I’m here to be alive, to feel joy and wonder. It’s so easy to miss it. If your life is filled with, “First I should do this and then I should do that.” Stop and smell the flowers, as the saying goes. This is about your physical world, literally stopping to smell the flowers, now that spring is here. Have you stopped to look at them today? Are there butterflies out there? Birds nesting? Grass growing? Beautiful new scents of spring, so sweet? Are you aware of it? Come home to it. Let it bring you back into the open heart.

The power of intention. I spoke about this a bit last month, and I started this talk with it. What is my intention today? To be loving. Now take that out of your bed and into the day. When something pushes you and you want to push back, and you contract, hold the power of that intention. I’m not speaking about not contracting. The body will contract. But then, breathing in, I am aware of the contraction. Breathing out, I hold space for the contraction. Do I contract further, saying, “No! No contraction!”? Or do I relax and say, “Oh, there was a push and now there is contraction. I choose not to perpetuate this contraction.”

One of the things that helps most, from my perspective, is the simple thank you. Thank you to the push. The traffic jam; “Oh no, I’ll be late! —I shouldn’t be worried about being late. I should be relaxed.” How will that work? Thank you. Thank you to the traffic jam. Thank you to this or that angry person. Thank you to the splinter in my finger that reminds me to open my heart to myself. Thank you. If you will try this with me (pressing palms together) you’ll note that it’s very hard to hold anger and contraction with your palms held together in this way, saying thank you. It’s truly hard.

Begin to find the myriad ways you may return home to this center of your being, to what you truly are, and that you have the ability to rest there for longer periods. It really is mindfulness and the power of intention that allow this.

You took initial birth as expression of the Divine. If you hold a flower in your hands and smell the sweet smell, it comes from the flower. When you smell the rose, you know the flower is there. You are the scent of the Divine, expressing out into the world. And yes, eventually the rose may die and not smell so sweet. But there’s always another rose, because you are not one rose, you are the perpetuation of roses, a billion roses, each one expressing beauty. Each smile that you offer to the world, that is another rose. Each kind word, that is another rose.

Of course, there will be anger. Of course, there will be confusion and fear. The question is not if these will arise but how you will relate to them. When you learn to relate by saying thank you for this catalyst, this teacher, which is bringing me back home, and then if you can, experience the divine breath, drawing you back into the divine heart. What does it feel like to rest in that divine heart? Can you imagine? It is the most precious experience. Embraced by the beloved and knowing I am that. I have always been that. Increasingly, as the world pummels me with its occasional harshness, I can trust myself to return love.

Sometimes you won’t be able to do it. That’s okay, too. If you were already perfect at this work you would not have come into the incarnation. You are here to learn. But I would not ask you to do something that is beyond you, and each of you has the capacity to extend yourself further and further out from that divine heart to touch the world of suffering, even stepping off the bridge, still knowing that bridge is behind you, to attend to what needs attendance. And then to come back home.

I would leave you with one last image. Imagine a very pure underground spring. It bubbles up from the surface through the rocks and pours down the hill, a very small stream of absolutely pure water from a deeper underground source. You watch it flowing down the hillside. A hundred yards down it’s gathered into a pool, and the cattle are there drinking and wading in the pool. You think to yourself, “I want some water. I’m thirsty.” You go down where the cattle are, thinking, “Well, this was from the pure spring.” But it’s no longer pure, is it? Very muddy from the cattle. You go back up the hill, perplexed. “I can’t get my cup in between the rocks. I know the pure spring is under there, but how do I access it?“

I’ll leave you with a simple question: are you going to drink right there, to hold your cup close to the rocks, gather the purest water that’s emerging from the spring, and drink? Or are you going to say, “No, it’s too hard to gather it that way. I’ll go downstream a ways where it’s easier to get at but it’s muddy.” Which do you choose?

The metaphor is not perfect because while there is that pure spring, the pure heart from which we express, you also are that. You are that pure spring, that pure heart. The source is within you also, and it cannot become muddy, as you take care of it with love. And then you have the capacity to give the overflow out into the world. The pure water of love.

Thank you for this opportunity to share with you. This has been a three-part series, and for those of you who have just heard Part 3, I hope you will go back to April and May and hear parts 1 and 2 as well. Thank you.

Evenings with Aaron – March 15, 2017

An open session with Aaron channeled by Barbara Brodsky

For the complete archives go to archives.deepspring.org

Transcript:

(Barbara begins by reading the following text, which was dictated to her by Aaron earlier. The recording began after several paragraphs.)

Aaron:  All aware of what we call physical and emotional distortions. We try to “fix” them.

Let’s begin with, “What is a distortion?” To know “distortion”, we must ask, distorted from what?

It’s hard for most humans to visualize the “ever-perfect”. What is perfect weather for you? Warm sun, fresh snow, breeze for your sailboat, stillness. Perhaps the ever-perfect in terms of weather is the infinite possibility. What is the perfect place for you? Seashore, garden, mountains, river, desert, rainforest. Would you want any one place forever with no change? Again, perhaps the ever-perfect expresses in infinite possibilities.

There is Ground of Being, Source, Divine, God, Goddess, Unconditioned. In Buddhism, we have the term Dharmakaya, with “kaya” meaning “body.” Dharma is that which is, so we have the expression of that which is, Divine Body.

This Divine Body expresses in myriad ways. Think of the fresh, underground spring. It is pure from deep in the earth. There is no outer soil in it, no pollution of it. The moment it expresses out of the underground source, it is touched by a thousand things: air, soil, life forms of all sizes brought directly or by the breeze, and more. That ever-perfect pure spring is now changed. Does the sun upon it distort it? If we consider change as distortion, then yes, the sun distorts it., The freezing temperature that creates ice distorts it. The soil of the earth 10 feet from the entrance changes it. The child’s hand reaching in to scoop a drink changes it.

Is the pure water still there? Of course, and also something has been added or changed.

Let us call that change a distortion. It is not good or bad; it simply is changed in some surface ways, while still retaining its innate perfection. That innate perfection cannot be lost.

But 100 yards downstream, where cattle wade into the stream to drink, there are impurities mixed with the water from the spring, so you would not choose to drink there without first filtering the water, to return to the pure spring water. We would say that water is distorted, while remembering that the pure spring water is still there. You do not run around in a frenzy screaming at the cattle. You simply reach for your water filter.

Let us return to the Dharmakaya, as there are two other terms here that will aid your understanding.

Nirmanakaya means form body. It can be considered as the outer expressions of Dharmakaya. This Divine essence is constantly expressing in infinite ways.

“Let there be Light.”

“Let there be water.”

“Let there be earth.”

“Let there be man…”

Light, water, earth, human are all nirmanakaya expressions of the Divine. The rainbow as distortion of light; the wave growing out of the sea as distortion of water; the plant growing from the earth as expression of, or distortion of earth, sun and water; the thought expressing from the human; all are nirmanakaya expressions of the Divine.

Everything is expression of the One; everything.

Your Bible offers the idea that first came “the Word”.

In the beginning was the Word, and the

Word was with God, and the Word was God.

What is this Word? What is the first breath, the first expression of the Divine?

Buddhism offers us the term Sambhogakaya or “wealth body”. Everything expressing from The One is wealth, is riches beyond belief.

What about deadly tornadoes? What about cancer? What about the viper and other poisonous life forms? What about toxic hatred and prejudice?

Everything arises from conditions and passes away when the conditions cease. If these objects have arisen, it is because the conditions exist for them. When the conditions are purified, they will cease to arise.

Right now you think of these not only as distortions but as negative distortions, to be gotten rid of or fixed.

Watch a toddler attempt to build a tower of blocks. It is unbalanced and quickly topples. She tries again, and again. By trial and error, she learns what allows her to build higher, how to center the blocks. But if she has a tantrum and throws the blocks, weeps herself into exhaustion believing she is deficient in some way and cannot do it, then she cannot do it.

Watch the ballerina attempt a difficult move and stumble. She perseveres and learns what balance allows her to gracefully complete the movement. If she becomes angry, says “What’s wrong with me?” or “I must do this.”, tenses the body and exhausts herself, she cannot master the move.

Are these distortions – the toppling blocks, the temporary imbalance – negative, or are they teachers?  The blocks and ballerina fall because of conditions. When the conditions change, the falling ceases. If it were not so, no learning would be possible.

So we return to the question, what is a distortion? Yes, sometimes it leads to real discomfort, but can we relate to it as an expression of conditions of which we are a part, and aim our efforts to understand, balance, and release the conditions while giving thanks for the learning, rather than as something imposed from without that is terrible and must be fixed.

I promised a talk tonight on healing. All that I have said is background.

(end of reading)

Barbara: Thank you for your patience. And with that I’m going to give you Aaron directly. What was remarkable about what I read was that he said, “Please simply sit at your computer and type.” There was absolutely no editing in that. He just said it and I typed it. I corrected typos, but that’s it. Thank you, Aaron. I will be glad to email that bit out to everybody who’s listening tonight.

Aaron will incorporate.

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. Thank you for your patience, as Barbara read those introductory words. I simply wanted to be in her body a shorter amount of time, to spare her body from too much high energy in it. And all of you out there, there’s nobody out there listening who is less than 8 days from their latest surgery (referring to surgery at the Casa in Brazil), am I correct? All right. So my energy is safe to let out yet I would still quiet my energy.

It’s a joy to be with you, and after a month of being muzzled at the Casa, so to speak— it’s not that they disrespect me or my energy or my thoughts, it’s simply that my energy can interfere with the energy of the Casa entities. The healing that you are doing down there is profound, and it is important for me not to interfere with that energy, for any of you, and also for Barbara.

In our group together we spent a lot of time with Barbara, not with me, talking about “what is healing?” What heals? Who heals? Emotional and physical distortions do arise. These have a relative reality, and yet we also recognize the ever-perfect.

We come back to that clear spring. The pure water is there, and the distortions are there. We don’t throw out the water; we filter it. When emotional and physical distortions arise in the human or on the earth, in terms of the environment, for example, we need to take care of the distortions. But so often the response to distortion is a held contraction.

Let me explain what I mean by “held contraction”. When I open the hand in response to something offered, the hand closes around it and brings it in; it has to contract to do this. But it doesn’t squeeze and tense up. It simply brings it in. It lays it back down. The hand opens again. When you breathe, the lungs contract and expand, contract and expand. This balanced contraction is part of living. Even your earth contracts and expands, contracts and expands.

But if you contract and then hold a contraction around that contraction, what happens? (Demonstrating, throwing balls of socks) Q, tell me what happens for you. (inaudible) And where is the contraction now? Is it still in your body or is it released? (inaudible) Wonderful. Is it still there or is it released? Released. Can you feel, both of you, the slight reverberations of it even though it’s mostly released? Q is saying she feels it even though she’s not had a ball of socks thrown at her. Released… reverberating.

My original intention was to throw it at the camera so pour internet friends could have the same experience, but I’m told it would damage the camera, so I’m going to ask you to run at the camera with this. Just run at the camera with it… (she does so). Again.  I don’t think they can see you running so much as… come right up at the camera. You don’t have to come with a ball of socks. But run right up so you’re filling the camera… Friends on the internet, can you feel that?

I remember some years ago at Deep Spring when we had a glass window going directly to the outside. We had some people go outside and throw snowballs at the window while others stood right inside with their faces against the glass. What happens when somebody throws a snowball and your face is right here? You know it’s not going to hit you. We’re not talking about ice balls. The snow is soft. It hits the glass and it dissolves. But you startle. You contract. Does it release?

Contraction is a normal human experience. When we hold a contraction around the contraction, building stories, “What if it was something solid? What if it hit me? What if it damaged me?”, then we create stories and contraction around the contraction. (demonstration with socks)

Can you feel that? Now hold the intention for spaciousness. These contractions are part of the human experience. There are constantly things coming into your energy field. Physical objects, energy objects, emotional objects, they’re constantly coming and going. What are the stories that you hold about these?

I’d like you to try something, here. Throw some socks at me… Do you see any contraction in me at all? No. Throw some hard at me… There’s no contraction because there’s no self. There are no stories. The socks and I are one, I could put it that way. Nothing external to me is hitting me, so I don’t have to create any history or stories. These are just socks, or they’re just bacteria, or they’re just angry words, or whatever it may be that’s striking me. On the one level I am a separate, unique entity, and on another level, nothing is ever separate. How could anything be separate? So how could there be anything outside of me that would hurt me? If I believe there is something that can damage me, then I’m going to react and try to push it away, fix it, change it.

I do need to attend to it. If instead of socks there was rain dripping on my head, I would put up an umbrella. This is kindness to myself. I am not armoring myself with the umbrella, I am shielding myself temporarily. There are no fear-based stories. I am taking care of myself. But there’s no contraction to it, I simply put up the umbrella. No harm in the rain.

Can you feel the difference between armoring and shielding? Armoring carries multiple layers of contraction, and because it carries contraction and repetitive contraction, it becomes a karmic movement that literally embeds itself in the cells of the physical, emotional and energetic bodies.

When there is this kind of repetitive reaction to contraction held in the body, the body forms what we call dis-ease, that is, a lack of ease with the experience. When there is such lack of ease and it’s repeated over and over, well, what happens if I were to do this (squeezing  the hand)? Eventually I’d injure the fingers, yes? Could I do that for hours without creating bruising? Would there be changes in the cellular tissue? Of course.

If I recognize that this is happening and say, “Ah, I do not intend to cause damage. I release it.”… (demonstrating)  So the socks come. They hit me on the forehead. “Oh, socks!” Maybe it’s rocks instead of socks. Then I will want to shield. But there are no stories.

I want to be careful, here. You do not create disease in yourself, so don’t get caught up in a story, “Oh, look what I’ve done. I’ve created cancer,” or depression or whatever else. Any physical, emotional, or other ailment has a multitude of causes— genetic, biological, environmental. You did not create that ailment. However, whatever you are given, you respond to it in certain ways that either compound it or invite it to not stick.

If I covered myself in Velcro and you threw these socks at me, I’d be covered with socks. When you are Teflon, it all falls off. So how do we become Teflon? By mindfulness of the accumulation of stories. A familiar one: I’m unworthy, or I should be more loving, or I should be more capable. Another kind of familiar story: My immune system is weak, I am prone to sickness. These are stories. They can become self-fulfilling prophecy.

Why would you want to that to happen? So much of this is simply karma. You’ve built up these stories repeatedly through eons, and built up a self-identity with them. Who are you without them? Who is Barbara without her deafness? Well, she’s worked for years with this question and has completely released the stories, but it was not easy. Who are you without your feelings of unworthiness? If you were truly not unworthy, what might be asked of you? If you were truly strong and vibrant, what might be asked of you? If you were whole, what might be asked of you? What might you ask of yourself? What impossible things beyond what a human can do? To be perfect. You are perfect. And yet in the human form you can never be completely perfect, except that the imperfection is perfect. You don’t realize that. You are beautiful just as you are. So many of you move into stories of unworthiness because you see yourselves as imperfect!

We look at the seeming distortions, the physical, the emotional, and we either contract around them, creating ripples and more ripples and still more ripples, or we notice the ripples and let them go. A favorite image of mine is this. If I had a big bowl of water sitting on the table, filled to the top; if I shake the table a bit, the water will slosh over the side. “Oh, it’s spilling! Stop it!” And I put my hand down on the top to try to still the water. Can I still the water in that way? Of course not. Let it be and it will become still, because stillness and movement are the nature of everything. Everything has the nature of fluidity and movement, even a rock, and everything has the possibility of stillness.

When anger arises in you and you say, “No, I won’t be angry,” can you feel how those ripples create more anger? “Ah, anger has arisen in this mind and body. Try this: Breathing in, I am aware of the anger. Breathing out, I hold space for the anger.” It grew out of conditions, and it will pass. I don’t have to be afraid of it, and I don’t have to enact it. It’s just energy. An itch has arisen. “What bit me? What am I going to do about it?” I can scratch it until I bleed. Or I can just note, “Here is an itching sensation. Ahh, this is part of the human experience, that there may be some kind of itching. This is how the skin is. If necessary I’ll wash it off with something appropriate.” Or simply remember the perfect skin that is free of itching right there with the itching. There’s nothing to fix. When I release the idea that I must fix something because something is wrong, distorted, or bad, I can come back to the ever-perfect. It still may feel better with some treatment though, and that is fine; the relative experience right there with the ultimate.

Barbara has been working a lot the past 6 months, with skin cancer in the face. There were 2 surgeries here in the United States, both fairly extensive, maybe 40 stitches with each surgery, pulling the face back together, and after each one they felt all the cancer was removed. She went down to the Casa asking, what is the nature of the ever-perfect skin and what is this distortion we call cancer?

The distortion arose because of endless hours  through decades, sitting on her sailboat in the sun with no skin protection. This is how the skin is. It will react. Human skin is like that. She did nothing bad; simply, this is how the skin is. But as long as she was tensing around it, she was blocking the possibility of the skin’s completely releasing all the cancer tissue.

At the Casa they did two fairly extensive invisible surgeries on her face. Lying in bed after the first surgery, Barbara asked me, “What do I do?” And I said, why do you feel you must do anything? Trust it is gone. But there was more than one surgery. With the second surgery, she said, “if it was gone, what brought it back?” I said, there was more they were not able to get out the first time. Trust it is gone. There is nothing you need to do to fix it. Trust the ever-perfect nature of the cells here. Her primary work with the skin cancer now was to simply relax and know the ever-perfect skin; to see the perfect skin, free of any malignant tissue in it. I asked her to invite the body to release anything that was not needed, and to know it was already so. Also to thank the Casa entities for the surgeries they did to remove any remaining malignancies.

As soon as you believe, “I’m doing something wrong. I need to fix this.”, you’re returning energy to the “distortion”. If you say, oh, there’s no distortion, there’s no cancer, there’s no sadness or grief or fear, likewise you’re giving energy to it because you are denying it, and that denial is a form of giving energy. But when you can recognize this distortion has arisen out of conditions, it’s impermanent, it’s not of the nature of a separate self (that means it’s not me, it’s simply something that has touched me temporarily and I release it). I will not even think about it again, I release it. But if it’s necessary to take care of it, I’ll take care of it, which is putting up the umbrella to shield from the rain. I release it. Can you feel how there’s no energy contraction in that? There’s no fear in that. There are no stories, “What if it doesn’t get better? How do I fix it?” There is just, “Ahhh, I release.”

In some ways it’s easier to see this with emotions. I’d like you all to think of something that has happened to you in the past week and out of which anger has arisen. Think of the incident and how it felt. Perhaps you were afraid or sad or felt vulnerable or hopeless. How did the anger feel? Can you feel the tension of it in the body?

Now think the compounding thought, “I shouldn’t be angry.” Can you feel how that escalates the anger? “I won’t be angry.” Can you feel the continuation of the tension? Or let’s try denial. “No, I am not angry. I am assuredly not angry.” Can you feel the tension in that? It’s like a thousand little bits of energy bouncing around inside of you. Let us call this experience of anger a “distortion”.

That which is aware of anger is not angry. What is this awareness? Right there with that denial of the anger, can you re-open to that which is not angry? Think of the situation in which anger arose, perhaps an encounter with another person. Think of the person around whom that anger arose, and what you love about that person. Say, “Thank you,” to the other person. “Thank you even for being in my face and awakening the feeling of anger in me. Thank you for reminding me of what an open heart I have, the possibility of joy and forgiveness. Thank you for being you, who sometimes shakes me to anger.”

When you offer real gratitude— bring your hands together this way— can you maintain the anger when the hands are together? Say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Can you feel yourself coming back to the true self, back to love? For love is the true self. Feel yourself returning to that truth. Thank you, thank you. Where is the anger now? Where did it go? There may still be reverberations of it, but it’s not sticky anymore. You’ve made yourself Teflon. The anger is pouring off.

Because the emotional body is a bit more fluid than the physical body, it’s easier to see it and do it with emotions. But the same principle applies with the physical body. Certain things seem to attack the physical body, and we see it as a solid distortion and take it into ourselves with the idea, “I must fix this. I must change this. This is bad.” Rather than, “Oh, thank you. Here is a teacher.”

We don’t want the broken bone, the cancer, the deafness. We don’t want these things; of course not. And I’m not saying that you have created or are holding onto them. But what happens when you relax and begin to go to the place where the cancer is not? Where the broken bone is not?

T had an experience at the Casa that some of you heard directly from her. She had arrived at the Casa with a broken toe, and it seems that it healed within a week, not the 6 weeks that were determined it would need to heal. How does this happen? There were no stories about it. There was nothing to perpetuate it.

Picture the cells, the ends of the broken bone. They want to merge back together. But your doubt, your fear, keep them shaking. They can’t really meet each other. They can’t really merge because they’re bouncing around. But when you say, “Thank you. I feel the wholeness.” and allow them, then they will heal. When Barbara relaxed and said, “This release of cancer cells is complete; the skin is whole.”, then it can heal. Nobody can heal you without your permission. Actually nobody can heal you, you heal yourself. But nobody can support that healing for you without your permission. And if there is somebody inside trying to fix, you’re giving energy to the distortion rather than knowing the perfection.

There is so much more to this. It relates both to the emotional, mental, and also the physical “distortions”. There is no such thing as a distortion. Let me rephrase that. There is no such thing as a bad distortion. Yes, there are distortions. But what is a distortion? If I am walking and I want to go from A to B, a distance of a few miles, and there’s a trail that goes straight; a boring road, just through grasslands, straight from Point A to Point B. Somebody says to me, “Do you know there’s a high peak over here. We can climb this mountain, have a beautiful view, and then come back to Point B. And there’s a river over here that’s beautiful. We can go down by the river.” You might say, “Oh, but that’s a distortion of the path.” Well, what is a distortion? If I choose to climb the hill, if I choose to see and wade in the river, is that a distortion? I am simply following a different path.

The body moves into what we think of as physical distortions because at some level you’ve chosen to climb the mountain or to wade in the river, to have the experience of that. Once you have the experience of it, you can come back to the original path. Are you going to stay on that high hill or with your feet in the river forever? Let it go. You still want to get to Point B. And what is Point B? Point B is the knowing of your wholeness, fullest expression of that wholeness, the knowing of you power, of your radiance, of your beauty. It is the knowing of your truth, that you are divine and have never been apart from that divine for even a moment. The illusion that you were separate from it is simply illusion held in the mind and has no ultimate reality. Awakening to this truth of your being is the fullest healing, to awaken to knowing who and what you are. To awaken to your innate perfection. Simply to awaken.

A favorite sutra of mine: the Buddha is addressing a group of monks. He says, “Abandon the unwholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. If such abandoning led to pain, to suffering, I would not ask you to abandon the unwholesome. But it leads to goodness, to joy. Abandon the unwholesome. Cultivate the wholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. If such cultivation led to suffering, I would not ask you to cultivate the wholesome. But it leads to joy, to peace. Cultivate the wholesome.”

Why would you do anything but that? To cultivate the wholesome is not to contract. Such cultivation comes from the place in the heart that aspires to. “I choose.” You as humans have been given free will. “I choose.” I choose love, or I choose fear. Which one will you choose? Will you continue to immerse yourself repeatedly in the stories of fear, or are you ready to choose love?

Barbara read from my notes at the beginning. I spoke of the child building with blocks. What if there was a parent sitting next to the child and each time the child put a block on a bit out of center, the parent quickly adjusted it? The child would never experience the frustration of the blocks toppling. The child would never have the opportunity to learn how to balance things. How about the dancer? If somehow she was on puppet strings and a master hand was adjusting her every move so she did a perfect pirouette and perfect balance, she would never learn how to adjust to imbalance.

This takes the whole picture one step bigger. Why are you here in incarnation? I tell you, you are perfect, you are already perfect. Are you here simply to enact that perfection and never make a slip? You might say, “Oh yes, I’d like to do that.” Are you here to learn compassion? When challenging mind and body states arise, they can help you to learn compassion, compassion for the human in whom these have arisen. That does not mean we want to perpetuate the challenging mind and body states. Rather, we want to learn the compassion so that the challenging mind and body states become unnecessary because the innate compassion is shining through.

You are compassion. You are love. You are light. You are beauty. You are perfection. You continue to doubt it, and you keep the cycle going. Doubt, fear, anger, all creating  more and more challenges, like the child building with the blocks who finally slaps the whole thing across the room. But the child has courage. After a while she goes and picks up the blocks and she starts to build again.

Most of you do that. If the child believed, “I can never build a pile of blocks,” would she try to build again? And yet some of you believe, “I will never learn to love. I will never truly shine out my radiance. I can’t do it.” If you believe you can’t do it, you can’t do it. Are you ready, I will not say to believe, but to know otherwise? To know if it were not possible you would not be invited to do it? If you were not already love, you would not be asked to be love. It would be impossible. But you are already love. You are simply letting it come forth. You plant the little seeds for flowers in your garden in the spring. Do you say it’s impossible that a rose or a zinnia will grow out of the seed? It’s just a tiny little seed— how could a flower grow out of it? You trust, “Inherent in this little seed is that radiant beauty, and if I water it, give it sunshine and fertile soil, it will grow.” Why do you think less of yourselves? Your innate perfection is already there.

So what, then, is healing? I’m not sure I can answer that for you. As soon as we talk about healing we are caught in the distortion rather than the innate perfection. So maybe we need to change the terminology. How about if instead of saying, “I choose to heal”, we say, “I choose to open to the ever-healed. I trust the ever-healed. This is my free will choice. I choose to express my innate perfection because this is the gift that has been given me. And as I express that perfection and model it in the world, I make the possibility of such expression possible for others. I pass on the gift. To know that within me which is love, even when anger or fear arise. To know that which is strong and healthy, even when the body seems broken or damaged.

I choose to express the ever-healed. I choose to know that that seed is what I am.” You’re not surprised when you plant the rose seed and it grows into a rose. Why should you be surprised when you water this radiance that you are and self expresses as a radiant and beautiful being? You are whole.

I want to leave us plenty of time for questions. There is so much more I could talk about here, perhaps to be saved for another time. Let me add one thought here. We talked about the three kayas, and the sambhogakaya which emerges from the Dharmakaya. That very first expression, the Word, could be known as the first expression of the Dharmakaya. Sometimes when you’re caught way out in left field, as it were, spinning in circles around the seeming distortions, the first step is to come back to the ever-perfect. To know that which is not distorted in the self right there with the seeming distortions. It may be hard to find that ever-perfect within the Ever-Perfect, within the Unconditioned, within God, because you feel you cannot get there. But can you see yourself shining out from this ever-perfect? Here is a poem that Barbara shared in class 10 days ago:

I am the place where God shines through

For God and I are one, not two.

I need not fret nor will nor plan,

God wants me where and as I am.

If I’ll just be relaxed and free,

She’ll carry out her plan through me.

You are the place where God shines through. Trust that so that you don’t become so lost in the idea of brokenness.

So what do we need to do now to allow people to ask questions?

the Q & A section is only very lightly reviewed.

(question not taped)

So the question, if I am understanding it correctly: an illness will be in part karmic, environment, physical, mental, emotional. How do we know what part it is, what it is?

Why do you need to know?

Q: I think some of it is maybe to release the guilt that we feel, that maybe we caused it. So that when we’re healing, it may be when releasing the karma— this is a difficult question. I hope that Aaron can sort through this.

Aaron: Let me use an illustration here. We have a very pure stream, water pouring out from an underground spring, and from various mountain streams pouring into a wider stream. The water still is clear and pure. As it moves downstream, it goes through a city in which there are sewers dropping cleansed but still distorted water into the river. There are factories putting water into the river. The end result is that 20 miles beyond the city the water is quite toxic.

We want pure water. Several things are necessary. To identify the sources of the toxin, and here, using Barbara,  we need to know there were certain causes that resulted in skin cancer. There was certain karma that resulted in certain changes. There were certain beliefs. It’s helpful to understand the various things that have a part of the distortion. And yet, if we approach it with, “I’ll fix this one, and I’ll fix that one, and I’ll fix that one,” can you feel the contraction, the tension?

What if we start with knowing the ever-perfect water, or the ever-perfect healthy body, is here? I choose to know and magnify this ever-perfect body, to appreciate it. If you picture a dark stream with much pollution coming into it, water darkened; how can you know what comes from where? Look instead at the innate radiance of the water; then you see a little bit of darkness coming in. Against the radiance you can see the darkness and you can attend to it. Oh, here is a place where this factory is sending pollution into the river. We’ll attend to that. We’ll have the factory clean up what it sends into the river. It cannot send pollution in. Here is a place where farmers are treating the soil with various chemicals and it’s running off the banks and into the river. We need to attend to that. Can you feel the difference between knowing the perfect river and then attending to the sources of distortion, vs. thinking of the whole river as damaged, and that only if we repair all the damage can we get the river back in good form again? There’s more tension in that mode. You’re starting with the darkness rather than the light.

When you know the body as perfect then you begin to experience the causes of the distortion. I want to use Barbara’s back as an example. I think a personal example is helpful, and I don’t want to use anybody else here as example. Barbara was in a severe accident 13 years ago and there was bad damage to the spine. Whatever karma, it helped create that accident, but we don’t have to address that right away. Where is the perfect spine?

If we think of the various physical or emotional distortions as a problem, become immersed in them and start to think about what’s causing the damage, and how do I fix it, we become more and more contracted into it, giving actually negative energy into it. Using Barbara’s back as example, there’s no denying that there were severe spinal problems. They were causing a lot of pain. It was increasingly hard, almost impossible, for her to walk. The doctors at the university wanted to do some very serious surgery, which might or might not cure the problem.

I asked Barbara to start with knowing the ever-perfect spine. The spine had been perfect before the accident. For a period of 10 years it kept getting worse and worse after the accident. But if the spine was perfect 15 years ago, it was still perfect at one level. I asked her to imagine walking, climbing mountains. I asked her to watch the places where fear contracted in her spine, the places where when there was contraction, the lower spine closed in, pressing more on the nerves. I asked her, every time she felt that, to expand with mind and breath.

At the same time, in meditation she reflected on karma, different kinds of karma. Ancient karma in which there were injuries to the spine, and the anger she held. Just offering forgiveness. Knowing that she also had injured others, and asking forgiveness. Doing the things that help release the karma. So, addressing it on that level not as a fix-it but openheartedly. To attend to the karma. To attend to the physical causes. And third, simply to know this back is perfect. To know, really know and feel the place that’s free of distortion in the back, where she can dance, where she can move freely, where there’s no pain. Not to stand up and say, “What if it hurts?”, but, “Of course the spine is perfect.” To say it even if there was pain.,

She had to take these pieces together, to attend to the karma and to be willing to look. She didn’t see all the specific areas of karma, but each of you has injured others and been injured. Forgiveness heals karma. “Whoever has harmed me in these ways, I offer forgiveness. Whoever I have harmed, I ask forgiveness.” Really feeling that forgiveness coming to you is powerful. Also, watching the subtle karmic tendencies with imbalance. For Barbara, when the body felt imbalanced, she would close in like that and then hold tension in that part of the spine. So she spent 2 years learning how, when she felt imbalanced, to breathe and open the back. And again, when she walked and there was imbalance, feeling the body close in, do it again. Mindfulness. Opening the back.

Because of her deafness she has no inner ear balance, so she walks without balance. For 45 years she has had no inner ear balance. When you don’t have balance, you tense up. The body doesn’t trust itself. Part of the karma for her was needing to learn, “I am balanced. I am perfectly balanced. Right here with the imbalance is perfect balance, and thus I don’t have to hunch the body over, bringing pressure in the places in the spine that are damaged.” And certainly those 50 years of hunching also added to the spinal problems.

She needed to release those distortions, attending to the karma, knowing the ever-perfect back. Then at the Casa they were able to literally repair the places where the spine was closing in and pinching the nerves. But they could not do that, let’s say they could not expect to hold it in place, until she did her own work. At the Casa they say, “We’ll do 50%; you do 50%.” Her 50% was to recognize the karma, although in this case not specifically in detail, and to recognize the habitual tendency.

For Barbara, this work involved coming back to imbalance. Standing erect, trusting the body. In her book Cosmic Healing, she speaks about a part of this exploration with me during a retreat 20 years ago. I sent her out into a snowstorm. I asked her to close her eyes. She said, “I’ll fall.” I said, “That’s fine, fall. The snow is 2 feet deep.” It was midnight. She went out in the snow. She fell. She got up, closed her eyes, and fell again. Falling, landing, was not hard; the snow was soft. Letting herself fall. What does it mean to be the one who must be upright?

So the karma, being upright, the lifelong habit of being the one who is upright. Can you feel the tension, “I must be upright.”, both in the physical meaning of that and the broader meaning? The one who takes care of others, the one who must stand tall. The one who takes care of everything. Upright. What does it mean to let yourself fall?

This was a beginning of the healing. Each step of the healing was necessary to the further steps. The important thing was to hold the intention, “I come to know myself, the wholeness of myself, and to express this wholeness in the broadest sense I can. I choose to express the wholeness of myself. I choose to release whatever negates that knowing of wholeness.” If you work with it in this way, knowing of the karma will come genuinely, a little at a time, as is necessary and useful to see it. Not, “I need to fix it,” but insight, and then a new insight, and a new insight. And trusting the insights. Knowing the wholeness of the body and trusting the wholeness of the body so that the body can walk, can dance, can do whatever you wish it to do.

I’m not sure if that answers your question.

Q: It helps a lot.

Aaron: Let us go on, then, and hear other questions.

(They pause for technical issues.)

Aaron: The wonder for me is most of the time it works. So we can be patient. Do we have another question?

Q: I’d like to know how to protect one’s body from EMF (electromagnetic frequency) radiation.

Aaron: I would suggest, I cannot say you can absolutely protect, but envision a shield— not an armor. Armor will not allow loving energy in. Armor blocks everything. Envision that which you do not want to penetrate the body, whether it’s electromagnetic radiation or somebody’s anger or anything, just imagine a gentle shield saying, “No, not that. Not that.” It’s pouring rain; put up the umbrella. Do it with love, with spaciousness. Hold the intention, “I bring into this body all that is wholesome, and I say no to that which is not wholesome,” whether it is electromagnetic radiation or anything else. Simply that.

If you hold this intention, you’ll find ways that you can do this. You know how to do it, many of you, when there’s angry energy around you. It’s the same thing. Thank you. Other questions?

Q: What is our role for or with others? Does seeing the ever-perfect in another help this?

Aaron: Absolutely. And if you see only evil in another, that is a way of harming another. When you recognize the ever-perfect in the other, it’s very supportive. Many of you have had darshan with the Mother. You know how the experience of her unconditional opens your heart and changes you and allows you to be what she sees in you. But if somebody looks at you with hatred, despises you, it closes you in and you cannot trust that you are radiant and beautiful. When you see the beauty in others, it helps them.

Part of your work is to understand what blocks you from seeing that innate perfection in others. Perhaps it is partially because you are afraid to see it in yourselves? And this doesn’t mean everything the other does is wholesome. Sometimes another may attack you, throw anger at you, throw socks at you. You learn how to say no with compassion and still find that which is beautiful in others.

This to me is perhaps the most important thing that I learned from Jeshua, and it’s a whole different talk. But for Jeshua, what was so inspiring was that no matter how negatively a person acted, he knew how to get past the negativity and open into that which is beautiful. Because he saw that which was beautiful in the other, the other would often bring forth that which was beautiful, dropping away the negativity. Whereas if he had attacked that person, they would have brought up more negativity as defense.

Other questions?

Q: When I feel light and love pouring through me, it is much easier to relate with catalyst. I’m paying attention to certain kinds of fear that arise and I shut down. The perspective shifts into a more contracted state. I reflect on my intention and feel the heaviness, and it’s hard to know the ever-perfect. What is resting in the ever-perfect? Do you experience the energy in the body? Because in that moment my predominant experience….

Aaron: …I am trying to understand your meaning:  “It’s hard to rest in that ever-perfect.”

Q: Or Barbara. When you say, “rest in the ever-perfect or know it”, what is the experience of knowing, when I am so strongly feeling fear?

Aaron: This is the fruit of meditation. You do practice, all of you do, but with repeated practice, it’s like, I spoke of Barbara’s balance. With repeated practice you become more balanced. One doesn’t climb up on a tightrope and immediately walk across. One must practice.

In meditation one finds oneself at times in a spaciousness, a light openness, uncontracted. The Casa is especially helpful because the energy is so high, and you’ve all experienced the transformation of that high energy. You really feel the ever-perfect when you’re there. But you don’t have to be there to feel it.

In meditation, objects arise and pass away. What remains? We keep coming back to, what remains? What is the center from which objects arise and into which they pass away? What remains?

It’s experienced as sound, as light, as energy, as joy. For each of you there may be a different predominant piece of it, but each of you will find something into which you can tune to remember, “This is it. I come home. I come home.” Chanting, OM…. Bringing the hands together and helping to bring up that energy. Feel yourself in a cylinder of light. Simply hold something that’s deeply loved in the heart. These are all ways of bringing yourself home. Whenever you’re pulled out of that space by anger, by fear, when there is mindfulness that says, “I choose to come home.”— not “I must come home,” but “I choose, I invite,”— reach out your hands and find the guides who will support you, whatever speaks to you of love. Hold a lovely crystal. Look at a beautiful picture. Look at a picture of a great Master; look in those eyes. Whatever will help to lead you home. Begin to find the devices that do help to bring you home. And it will differ for each of you.

Remember it is possible to come home. Not being home is a matter of habit. Like Barbara’s contracting her spine, it’s a place where you go because it’s habit. “I choose to come back, again and again, until it becomes stable.” If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it.

Q: With the vipassana practice, when I am feeling fear, and I feel some right now, and I want to run away from it, in that moment, do I come home or sit with that experience of contraction?

Aaron: That which is aware of fear is not afraid. You rest in the simultaneity, knowing, and with compassion and so much tenderness for this human that is afraid. No trying to get rid of the fear, no denial of the fear. “Breathing in, I am aware of the fear. Breathing out, I hold space for the fear.” Right there with fear, where is love? In this moment, where is love? Invite yourself into something that speaks of the heart of love. The mother’s embrace, the Mother or your human mother. The love of a friend. Some generous thought or act. Something that opens the heart. Right there with fear, so that without trying to get rid of the fear you say, “I choose not to be focused into fear; not to give so much energy to the fear, not even by trying to get rid of the fear, which is another way of giving energy to it. I choose to rest more in that spaciousness and light.”

And this is really the heart of my talk tonight: resting in that ever-perfect which is accessible to all of you. Each of you knows how to find that space. If you are not there, simply be mindful: I am not there. I feel locked out of it. I choose not to feel locked out of it. Help me. OM…. What do I love? Look at a flower. Look at a picture of a beloved face. What do I love? What in this moment will bring me home? Practice the Tonglen or Metta with the self to gently draw yourself back.

Know that you have a choice. Don’t force it. In other words, don’t try to force away the fear, the negativity, the contraction, but right there with contraction, where is spaciousness? Breathe, right now… Feel the spaciousness. Can you feel the potential for spaciousness?

Q: Yes. My habit is to breathe in fear!

Aaron: Look in my eyes. Right here, looking in each other’s eyes… I am fully accepting of your fear. I am not afraid of your fear. I have space for your fear. Join me in that space…

We are not getting rid of the fear. We are breaking through the fear to the space beyond. The fear is just fear…

Can you feel that? Can you feel that? Look into my eyes. Feel my love. We could try to bring me up closer so you can look into my eyes…

Can you feel how much I love you? (yes) Even if there is fear, even if there is contraction, allow yourself to feel how much I love you. And let that love become a resting space wherein all healing can happen…

You are so beautiful, and I love you…

Let that be the greater reality without trying to fix or get rid of anything. You are love. That’s all you need to know. You are love.

This is the only reality; all the rest is illusion. You are love. But the illusion comes as a teacher. We’re not trying to destroy the illusion, only not to be so caught up in it. To trust the greater reality. You are love…

Thank you all for your presence tonight.

Q, I see you are limping. You were limping a bit when you walked in.

Q: If you say so. I don’t feel like I am limping.

Aaron: May Father John look at you a moment? Will you like to come up? We can continue this and others can watch or not. Father John is going to incorporate.

You are welcome to stay online and watch. Father John is going to incorporate and look at something that he sees askew with Q. I believe a month or two ago there was some pain and he attended to it, am I correct?

Q: Yes.

Father John: Blessings to you, son. Come, please stand up, let me see. Turn around, turn sideways a bit, turn this way, come this way to the side please. Just letting the curious out there see what I’m doing.

Son, I want you to bend the body, keep the back straight and simply shift the body that way, now the other way. Can you feel the tension in here, as you shift? Do you feel that? Do it again, please. This side of the body is longer than this side. The hip is tightening up on this side.

Q: There is an artificial hip.

Father John: On that side. Your body is reacting to the artificial hip, I think favoring it, afraid of trusting it.

Q: I dislocated it right after the surgery.

Father John: I am taking care of you, but what I want you to do is this. Stand on this leg, lift the other leg. Now put your foot down again. Now the other way. Can you feel how much surer you feel? (yes) So I want you to practice at home holding on to something, a counter or whatever. Simply putting weight on the leg that feels stronger, then shifting to the other leg. And remembering that this hip is strong. Don’t try to bend your leg or push in any way, just let it bear your weight. And watch the trusting or not trusting of it. And then let me take care of it physically.

Anyone else who needs some help here before I leave the body? Please come.

Several more people come up to Father John. Then Aaron returns to the body, says good night, and the session ends.

(recording ends)

Casa Journal – Part 2, March 2, 2017

2017 Casa group – missing 4.

I’m sitting at my table, a Chocolate Acai smoothie beside me; my writing fuel.

I was in the revision line yesterday morning, waiting on the side with the wheelchairs, when the Entity came out to do visible surgery. The Casa surgery line had just entered. He looked up at the 8 or so wheelchairs there, (my scooter is considered a wheelchair at the Casa) and said, “All wheelchairs to operation now”.  It’s Thursday afternoon now and I’m just getting out of bed. After the surgery I immediately felt shaky, and wondered if I could ride back safely. Some talk about maturity and responsibility. We must ask for the help we need; to pass out is an inconvenience to others. But we also need to truly know what we can do and do it. Aaron agreed yes I was stable enough to ride, so I picked up my herbs, signed the slip of where I will be for next week’s revision, and rode back, and straight to bed, and into a deep sleep, but also with dreams and awareness that the surgery continued; shoulders, back, legs, eyes. Seems like they were working everywhere. Then into oblivion for a few hours. Someone woke me with lunch. I ate and went right back to sleep. But about 3, I woke up, used the bathroom, then lay in bed with eyes closed, not asleep or awake, an in-between state, somewhat of an altered consciousness.

Aaron began to talk about a topic that has been ongoing all month, about which I’ve written only a little.  Several related topics really: co-creation; surrender; power; humility and pride. It wasn’t so much talk as, that in this altered state of consciousness, I was being shown things that we had talked about previously and of which I had intellectual understanding. This went much deeper.

In meditation, all month I have found myself sometimes resting in a cylinder of radiant light. I’ve also been watching even subtle held contractions (as opposed to those that arise and release, as does the heartbeat). When I rest in the Light, in Awareness, the contractions simply release, with nothing to hold them. There are no stories about a contraction when it arises, just awareness that it arose out of conditions and will pass; there is no “self” to it, just the outplay of conditions. I put Light and Awareness together here, as when resting in Awareness, the primary experience for me is intense and radiant Light or Luminosity.  Awareness is citta (consciousness) and Light is an object of that consciousness. It’s not the Unconditioned itself but is what we call a direct expression of the Unconditioned. It’s always there so Awareness can touch on it when Awareness itself is open and able to connect.

I don’t want to get too technical here; I’m simply differentiating between mundane consciousness and Pure Awareness. Mundane consciousness can only perceive mundane light and not Luminosity. Much more about this on the Deep Spring Center archives. Look up “citta”.

So this past month there has been much resting in Pure Awareness, and the sign of Luminosity has been strong. I experience it energetically and visually, just fully resting in Light, Light everywhere; and with the high energy of that Light. When I contract back into the small self, I lose the Light, and become aware of a “somebody” pushing and pulling, trying to do and fix and control. It may be subtle but still there. This is NOT our natural state, but is our (or at least my) habitual state!

The habit is so deep. On Tuesday I observed myself trying to figure out how to “do” this week, to have surgery if it was recommended and to also sit in Current. I would go to revision (surgery review) Wednesday morning, one week from the past surgery. I would sit in Current Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. Then I would go through the line Thursday afternoon and if he sent me to surgery Friday morning, I’d still be okay for my flight Saturday night! Ha! Aaron asked me teasingly if I had it all figured out? Yes, actually! Then he asked me what I wished most to co-create. The deepest possible healing of this body, mind and spirit. Could I feel the contraction as I shaped a plan and tried to push it forward? Yes.

He suggested to just state my intention for healing and trust that this is also the Entities’ plan, and Divine will. How it happens is not yet known. Send forth the intention and let go. And, of course, at 8AM Wednesday he came out to the Main Hall and said, all wheelchairs to surgery. This is just one example.

Through these weeks, the planning mind/ controlling mind jumps in. But how do we co-create? How do we offer our intention and trust that the Universe WILL support it if it is for the highest good? This ability seems to be at the core of healing. It’s not even an “ability” but a “non-ability”, a profound trust and letting go that is only possible from Pure Awareness. Ability is a learned skill; this “knowing” is the fruit of being, innate to us. This is not to say there is no ego presenting, but it is seen for what it is, just arisen from conditions and empty. When this is deeply recognized, it no longer has power. It keeps returning and Love keeps saying to it (to contraction), “sit by my fire and have tea”. It does release as the heart invites opening; kindness asks the question; it doesn’t try to chase away the contraction or its causes. Eventually the energy winds down. It just consumes itself and goes.

So I have been watching these patterns for months (for decades!) but they came into special focus at the Casa this month as Aaron and other Entities spoke about held contraction as a source of physical distortion/ illness. For several months, they have been asking me to watch the spine and the ways subtle contraction is held there. When observed, there is deep breathing into the spine, contraction releases, and pain resolves. I don’t want to oversimplify; there are many causes of illness. This is just one.

I could write for pages on this and will not. Tomorrow is a Casa day. I just want to get the basics written.

Lying in bed yesterday afternoon, I was offered an image of many little tornadoes, each spinning along in their own path, battering into each other, each pushing their own agenda.  Embracing all this chaos, there was an all-encompassing cylinder of radiance. The tornadoes have free will, to continue to spin out in their own paths, or to rest in the core energy that enfolds them and allows them to co-create with each other and the Core. When they know themselves as part of each other and of the Core, they have the power (not their own power but the shared power, of co-creation for the highest good and harm to none. Unbalanced contraction ceases. Everything flows. As soon as one tornado contracts and wants its own way, it throws the whole system into temporary imbalance. But the system is greater than any part and rebalances. The renegade has a choice, to spin into its own orbit or to release self and rejoin the flow. There is no pressure on it to do so. It has free will. It loses nothing to join the flow; only gains in power and luminosity.

It moves into contraction when it opposes the highest good to separate and support only or primarily the self. This seems like an expression of fear. Aaron, is this the beginning of negative polarity?

Aaron: We cannot name an original cause. This separation of the self from the divine is an expression of negative polarity and enhances it. It takes the entity further from knowing its true self. That means it takes it further into isolation and fear.

BB: thank you. So this distortion, for lack of a better name, then further manifests as dis-ease in the body?

Aaron Yes. Please use the word distortion with care. As we have discussed, a distortion is not negative, just a “bend” in the flow.

BB: Thank you for that reminder.

And an essence of healing is in simply resting in the Light, the energy, the flow of creation and destruction in which nothing can ever truly be destroyed?

Aaron: and nothing created; it already is. If it did not exist, it could not become.

BB: So in this way, when you say that what we seek is already there, just to rest and allow it, this is your meaning?

Aaron: yes. And yet you do have free will, and are Creators. You co-create, from this space of divine energy and love, holding forth that which is for the highest good, always willing to release the fear based contractions that spin into distortion.

BB: But we can also create from fear?

Aaron: Yes, but not co-create with the Infinite Creator, which only creates from the Love vibration.

BB: But fear does co-create within itself, from a much lower vibration.

Aaron: yes, and this is what you are seeing in the world today. The Love vibration simply offers to hold the space for fear until it changes its polarity. But if you apply force, fear/contraction uses that energy to enhance negative polarity.

This is enough for tonight. Please rest, and reflect further on this tomorrow, not with the mind but with the heart.

 

March 3, 2017: Friday morning: I sat by the triangle outside the surgery room for an hour, had a double crystal bath, sat at the overlook, and am back in my room, It is an exquisite Brazil day, maybe 80 degrees but with a breeze, clear sky with small puffs of clouds. The foliage seems illuminated from within and without, radiating light.

A lot of information came through this morning and a suggestion I might write about it if I choose; it’s partly related to what I wrote above, but also moving in a different direction. It was all so clear during meditation and crystal bed. Now I can’t remember any of it!

Surrender: let’s start with that word and see where it takes me. To surrender is an act, doing. It involves a “somebody” surrendering, and someone, a more powerful being, perhaps, to which we surrender. This is the conventional view. What is really occuring?

From an ego’s perspective, we all want control, and feel that to surrender is to give away our power. This is our conditioning. As third density beings, we believe we do need to develop an ego to survive. It is part of the whole path of awakening we’ve agreed to enter, evolving from lower to higher consciousness. (or awakening to the already present awakened consciousness that always was!)

We teach children to have a strong sense of self. But here we’re already creating a duality, because that “self” is perceived to be separate from everything else. Then we wonder why we, as humans, feel alienated and alone.

In my teaching, unworthiness is a constant theme for students. Feelings of unworthiness come with human experiences of abuse and neglect. Not feeling loved by the parents, there is a cry, “how do I get back into God’s good graces?” But it also comes from people who had loving parents and stable homes, yet still feel unworthy. It seems really to be an existential issue. Perhaps we have not lost the God out there, but the Divine within the self.

Instead of considering feelings of unworthiness and alienation to be a problem, we can recognize it as a teacher. Assuming we never were unworthy (and of course, no one ever was unworthy; it’s just a concept) can these feelings of isolation, aloneness, estrangement from the Divine, lead us back into the direct experience of the Divine so we know we have never been separate?

We must be willing to ask, what does holding this idea of “wrongness’ protect me from?” Then we may begin to understand how attachment to such an idea was our way of allowing ourselves to hold on to negative thoughts, pulling ourselves further away from the Light, from our true being. What if we come to know that we ARE that Light we seek? It becomes a vicious circle. We’re afraid to know ourselves as that Light because of the fears that we are flawed, or will fail, so we set ourselves up to fail by enacting the negative emotions, or chastising ourselves that they have arisen, or just denying that we are essentially Light.

Increasingly, I find that all the manifestations of distortion of mind and body at least have some roots in this conundrum. I cannot be what I truly am because i don’t believe it’s what I am, and because i won’t let myself experience self as that divinity, I cannot transcend the pain of not being that. Which way out?

Here at the Casa that veil between planes is so thin. There is so much high energy, Light, and love. People do experience it, even those with little prior meditation experience.

March 11 now, back home. Today marks a week since I returned. Hard to believe. Days have flown past.

It’s much harder to rest in awareness within that cylinder of light from the heavier vibration of the non-Casa world. Sometimes there is the full experience, more often just memory of the experience.

Distortion is the word of the week.

Aaron: May 27, 1998 excerpt: Please note that when I use the word distortion, I do not use it in a negative sense. If you have a straight line upon the paper and then create waves in that line where it goes up above the line and dips below, and above and below, each dip up and down is a distortion (of the line). There’s nothing bad about these distortions. If you have water in the sea, and the force of tide and wind and current push the sea as waves against the shore, the force of the wave building up and crashing down upon the shore is a distortion. And (gravity) pulling it back into the sea is another distortion. There’s nothing bad about distortion.

Aaron has also used the illustration of a flashlight hitting water at night, the way the light beam seems to bend because of the density of the water. This is a distortion. It’s also an illusion. The light does not actually bend.  Such a seeming bend is an example of a distortion.

Sept. 3, 1995 Barbara’s private journals

Aaron: The Unconditioned is the intrinsic core of everything. Its Unconditioned core does not cease to exist when that phenomena enters the realm of conditioned. Both exist simultaneously. The Unconditioned does not create the conditioned, but invites the conditioned as expression of itself. The conditioned is simply voice or manifestation of the Unconditioned.

Barbara: How does the conditioned begin? …

Aaron: The entire conditioned realm is illusion arisen from a distortion of the Unconditioned.

Barbara: Then we’re at the same place. What gave rise to the first distortion?

Aaron: Here is where we must move into your understandings of Light. Think of that pure heart/mind, or Pure Awareness if you prefer. This is the primordially perfect light, and is the essence of everything that later is “arisen.” It is the deathless core. Within that light, there is nothing to arise or cease. When pure awareness first becomes aware of itself, it creates self and other. Perhaps this is the primary distortion. It is not useful to ask what served as catalyst for its arising, but at that moment where awareness looks in at itself, it sees duality for the first time. If the potential for that expression of illusory duality were not part of the nature of the non-dual, it could not be experienced. It is inaccurate to say that non-duality created duality. Rather, you see that duality and non-duality MUST reside together within non-duality. They are two different expressions of the Non-dual. Thus, the Unconditioned does not create duality nor serve as condition for its arising but allows the expression of that which was already intrinsic to its nature. Do you understand?

Barbara: Yes. This is the meaning of “everything that manifests is expression of Rigpa (or pure heart/mind).

Continuing today March 12.

        When I am in that cylinder of light, there’s no possibility of distortion. In class Tuesday night we spoke of the three kayas, and the place where the sambhogakaya emerges from the Dharmakaya. We have to emerge to be part of this relative reality, one foot resting in Dharmakaya, yet active in the world. When we move too far out and lose touch with Dharmakaya, we easily lose our center.

I think of a pure spring. We can’t go into the spring to get the pure water or we pollute the spring. We take the water just as it emerges, where it is still very pure, not a half mile downstream where the cattle are wading in the stream. So I find that when I can rest in that place of emergence from the ever-perfect, I’m best able to carry that high vibration, uncontractedness, and Light into daily life. The further out I go, the more I carry “distortion.

The reverse is true too. When I‘m caught inn distortion and recognize that I’ve been swept downstream, so to speak, and in meditation, return to source, then the distortions release. It’s much easier for me with emotional and mental distortions because the physical body is heavier and releases the contractions slower. But looking at my leg and veins, for example, fear and distrust on their ability to heal keeps them distorted. When I KNOW the ever-perfect right there with the distortion, and relax, “surrender” the fear (going back to earlier in this journal for ‘surrender’) and rest just at the space of emergence from the ever perfect, I can see/ feel/ know both the ever-perfect and the distortions and relax back into the ever-perfect. Then the heavier physical body can begin to move in that direction.

I’ve been doing this all month, practicing with guidance from Aaron and the Casa Entities. There is such a strong habit to contract, without mindfulness. I find the easiest path is to remember to stay connected to Rigpa, to keep up that inquiry, “where is Rigpa in this moment?” In past years, this has been more cerebral. Now it is becoming more organic, really feeling it not thinking about it.

I’ve noticed that when I do the Feldenkrais movements from this organic resting in awareness, there is very little tension anywhere. When there is a Barbara who tries to do anything, even just to be present, then contraction returns.

Dharma Journal | March 2017

You are Love; We Are Love

Video is closed captioned.
Aaron channeled by Barbara Brodsky: March 5, 2017.
Monthly Dharma Talk (Not yet reviewed by Barbara and Aaron)

Transcription

Aaron: My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron. Thank you for joining me today. People look at me and say, “Well, you’re a spirit. What does that mean?” I look back at them and say, you are also a spirit. What does that mean? You are incarnated now, that spirit essence of you, in a physical body. I am presently not incarnated in a body, nor have I need to come back in human form; the karma is resolved. So I use this instrument, this human telephone whom I cherish named Barbara, as a way to make direct contact with you. So we have a body; we don’t have a body. We are all spirit. We share that.

Then people ask me, “Well, why do you come back? Why are you here?” I am here to teach love. It’s as simple as that. To teach you that you ARE love. Not even teach, so much as remind you that you are love and to remind you that you have the ability to live that essence of love that you are.

What else do I teach, people ask. What else is there but love? Love in all its voices, in all its expressions. To look deeply at what blocks the deepest expression of love.

I often call what I teach “dharma”. Perhaps I call it that because in my final human lifetime I was a Buddhist meditation master in Thailand, so the word dharma is a familiar one for me. But when you understand what dharma means, you understand it’s not a Buddhist term, it’s just a very clear word. It means the deepest truth of things as they are. I am not a Buddhist. I am not a Jew, a Muslim. I am not a member of any specific religious tradition. All the great Masters convey the same truth: you are love. We are love. There are many paths to understanding that love. So when I use the word dharma, I’m not inviting you to be a Buddhist. I’m just inviting you to look deeply at how things really are. And because the Buddha gave such a clear enunciation, I often borrow his vocabulary.

Everything in this mundane world of ours arises from conditions, ceases when the conditions cease. If certain atmospheric conditions are present, rain will fall. When the conditions cease, the sun will come back out. Sometimes you can affect the conditions; sometimes you cannot. You can’t stop the clouds from gathering or the rain from falling. You can affect how you relate to it.

So objects arise into our experience of our minds and our bodies because the conditions are present. And when they cease to be present, when those conditions have passed, then the object passes.

Some objects that come to us are pleasant and some are unpleasant. You’re sitting in your backyard enjoying a picnic. Birds arrive. They’re beautiful. There are hummingbirds on the flowers, a cardinal sitting in the bushes. Beautiful songs filling the air. Ahh, I love the nature of this backyard! It’s so beautiful. I am so grateful for this backyard.

And then the skunk comes across. He sees you, and in his moment of fear, he lets out his smell. That pungency fills the yard. Unpleasant. You didn’t move. The birds are still singing. You didn’t cause the skunk to let loose its smell. It did it because it saw you and it had a certain fear. It was protecting itself.

Do you then hate your backyard? Of course not. And yet the thought might arise, “I hate that skunks have access. I’m going to build a barbed wire fence all the way around my yard.” You do that, and then you notice that the chipmunks and the deer and the rabbits, none of them are in your backyard anymore. Your yard used to be like a nature preserve; suddenly the birds are there but there are no more animals.

Objects will arise out of conditions and they will pass away when the conditions cease. And yet we do have some power over this whole cycle in how we react to what has arisen. If I put up the fence around my yard to keep the skunk out, I’m keeping the deer and rabbits out. If I can refrain from that reactivity and just note occasionally there will be a skunk, I make my peace with that. I have a choice. I don’t have a choice about what comes but how I will relate to it.

Now we are moving into a period where your new president has taken office. For some of you, it was as if the deer had come into the yard, and for others as if the skunk had come in. The question from me is, how do you relate to it? You do not have a choice about whether the skunk will arrive, but you have a choice about whether you will suffer when he comes in, or whether there can be equanimity. And, to take this a step further, and a vital step, whether that equanimity brings spaciousness, or whether instead there is contraction and anger that perpetuates the karma. In a sense, the more angry energy you send out, the more stinky skunks you invite into your yard.

If you don’t want the stinky skunks in your yard, can you instead just hold spaciousness around the occasional one that comes in and say, “Not in my yard, please. But if you must come into my  yard, please don’t let out your smell. You are safe here. You will not be attacked here. I send you light, my brother, and I let you be.” You’ll find that fewer skunks come in, and those that do come in are not frightened and so they don’t send out their scent. That’s just a protective device.

Of course I have a metaphor here. Whether your skunk is a political official, or a neighbor with whom you have some arguments, or your boss at work, or your parent or child, who is the figurative skunk in your life right now and how do you relate to that skunk? There are always going to be skunks. You have the choice about how you relate to it.

Now, taking this one step further, you might ask me, why should there be skunks in the world? Why can’t I have a life of joy and peace and ease? I am sorry, dear one, but you did not come into the incarnation as R&R. You came in to work, to learn, to grow. I hope you have great periods of joy and ease, of true delight and love. But there is also going to be some challenging catalyst. And you have invited that because of your intention to growth and to learning. If nothing ever pushes you, how can you learn how to respond skillfully to push? Why not just stay on the higher planes? Why take birth, if you’re not going to invite in some catalyst that will teach you?

Imagine the school child. He or she has learned to read “The cat sat in the hat” and to add 2+2. And then the teacher adds a next level book. The teacher adds two-figure, 47+43.

“I can’t do that! No, I won’t even try. I only want 2+2 and ‘cat in the hat’.”

Fine. This child is now 17. “Can you read?”

“Oh yes, ‘The cat has a hat.’”

“Can you add?”

“Yes. 1+1=2. 2+2=4. I can do that.” There’s no challenge. It’s easy.

 

Someone might finally say to this child, this now-17-year-old, “Would you like to learn to read more, to do greater figures?”

“Well yes, I see people around me that can do that. But I don’t believe that I can learn that. It’s too hard.”

“Are you willing to push yourself a little bit?”

“Yes.” And suddenly this teenager learns that he can do calculus. He can read encyclopedias. He always had that capacity, but he did not believe in that capacity. He was not willing to test himself.

 

You have come into the incarnation to grow and to learn. Not to learn calculus and challenging reading; to learn love. So here you are in the incarnation and you say, “Oh, nothing heavy! Nothing hard!” Or when it comes, “Oh why is this happening to me?” But my dear one, you invited challenge because of your loving intention to grow. To learn how to love more deeply. To give more graciously. To let go of the ego and know self and other as one. It’s hard work.

To go back to the beginning of my talk, everything in this conditioned world arises from conditions and passes away when the conditions cease. All of the old stories, “Why is this happening to me? Poor me, it’s not fair. I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I can’t do it.”, these are stories. They arise because the conditions are still present for them to arise, old habit that has not yet resolved itself. Everything arises from conditions, including the stories, “I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not loving enough. Poor me. I’m not wise enough. I don’t know how.” Are you ready to let go of the stories of limitation and begin to know your vastness, including your power for kindness, love, and compassion, including your infinite wisdom?

It’s your choice. You can keep living in those limiting stories, or you can make the decision, “Enough.” How many times do you have to watch it replay before you finally say, “Enough.”? And enough does not mean there will not be any more skunks sending out their fumes, only that when they do you will be able to bow to the skunk. You will be able to say, “Welcome skunk, I’ve been expecting you.” And eventually to see it coming and just hold space, and maybe it will pass through without letting off its stink. The nature of the skunk is to let off that smell. This is the way the world is. There will always be those who let off a sharp, pungent smell.

You may notice that I’m turning my head some here. I’m sitting in this room recording this and there are people coming and going. Unfortunate, but so be it. This is exactly what I’m talking about. We’re not in control of what happens but of how we relate to it. “Oh, come in. Oh, the phone is ringing.” We don’t live in a vacuum. It’s up to you whether you suffer from what arises or whether you just hold space for it and offer love.

And this is the heart of the dharma: whatever has the nature to arise has the nature to cease, and is not me or mine. That means I must attend to it, but I don’t have to create an identity with it. I don’t have to be afraid of it. I can hold space for it. I can say a compassionate no, when appropriate. And I can relax into the inevitability that sometimes the rain will fall.

Thank you for hearing me, and may there be more sunshine than rain for you. But when it rains, may you find equanimity with the rain and a lovely fire to sit by until the storm has passed.

Thank you.

Tues. Evening Class-Transcript Jan. 24, 2017

January 24, 2017 Tuesday Evening Class
Vipassana; intention; dependent origination; simultaneity or relative and ultimate; and waterfall meditation

Barbara: (apologizing that the tape was not started at the beginning) We’ve been talking about the cycle of dependent origination, which with you’re familiar, and the active moment. I began to tell a story of meditating some time in the past week, feeling some pain where my incision was, and moving into fear and feeling strong negativity. This seemed to me to be an external entity. But what difference does it make? It’s simply negativity, fear. How we relate to it is the same; we say no. What gives us the power to say no is— we go full circle— intention. What is our highest intention here? Is it to keep ourselves safe by armoring the self? Is it to strike out and feel powerful, as another way of feeling safe? Is it truly to rest in this heart of love? No matter what comes to me, to rest in this heart of love.

We develop the habitual pattern to respond to these pushes (demonstrates; someone pushes her) by not pushing back and not falling over, but absorbing the energy and sending it back. We can do it a hundred times a day, a thousand times a day. This is the power of vipassana for me, because after years, eventually, if I’m meditating and there’s a strong sense of something negative, or if I’m outside and something very negative happens, it’s not a thought, “What shall I do now?” We know what to do. And all of you have the experience; you really do know what to do.

What does it mean to respond with love? This is it. Start your sitting with, “What is my highest intention?” Rest yourself in that intention. Some people start with chanting or taking the precepts, or just offering love, grounding yourself in the light that you are. And then as challenging experiences come during the sitting, can we greet them with kindness and let go of any fear and anger? But if the fear and anger persist, can we just be with it? Whatever has the nature to arise has the nature to cease. It will go. How long can it last? Hours, you tell me. Well, maybe. Eventually it will go. Ahhh… So our choice is to go toward freedom, not toward rebirth of reaction with that same object.

Let’s sit now for 20 minutes.

(sitting)

So an illustration: You’re swimming on a beautiful day. You’re a strong swimmer, you don’t tire easily. But there are little sea creatures, snails and turtles climbing on you, and an octopus that is looping a tentacle around your neck or your leg, all slowly pulling you down. You’re swimming backstroke and a turtle climbs up and sits on your belly. He’s just sitting there, a big turtle. It happens so gradually that you don’t notice that you’re being weighed down. But at whatever point you catch it— “Oh! I am being ensnared by the turtles of old mind thinking, the octopi of old fear, of old habit. Oh! No.”  Say no, Just let them go.

You start to swim again and you feel 50 lbs. lighter. It’s easy to swim again. But then 5 minutes later a few of them have climbed up on you again. They’re weighing you down. You may have to keep releasing them over and over until you’ve sent a clear message, “No, I am not going to become a carrier for old, heavy sea life. You swim on your own. I’m not your vehicle.” Let them go. Eventually they realize that you mean it and they’ll go away. I don’t promise they’ll never come back, but you’ll be much more aware that they have come back, and you’ll catch them sooner. You’ll see it swimming toward you and know he’s about to climb up. “No, you may/ not latch on.” There’s increasing freedom.

Part of the work here is remembering you are not the swimmer burdened down with 100 lbs. of deadweight. That’s an old illusion, an old story. You are free, you are radiant, you are awake already. So you start to catch these little ensnarements faster, not with fear but with the deep loving intention, “No, I choose to be awake. For my own good and the highest good of all beings, I choose not to get trapped by this ensnarement again and again and again.” That’s really all it takes. Once you begin to remember that you are a radiant soul, that you are awake, you don’t fall into those same traps as formerly. Again, I’m not saying that nothing will ever trap you, but it has to work harder to trap you. And you are already out of it before you’re really grabbed by it.

(Someone holds onto to Barbara) Okay, so she’ll hold on. I’ll keep talking. How long will she hold on? I don’t know. I’m not really concerned. We let it go. It goes. It can’t hold on if your heart is open and bright. If you trust your radiance and the power of love within you, then this negativity cannot hold on. And I’m speaking here both about external negativity and your own habitual negative patterns. (Barbara suddenly snaps her arm free; just lifting it away) That’s all, thank you.

(tape paused)

Aaron: Once again, my blessings and love to you all. I want to tie a few loose ends together because as Dan said, we will not be here for the February classes.

There are a number of parts with which we are working. One is what I would call the mundane practice: being present in this moment, aware of what is arising, and how it passes away. What arises may be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, as relates to this whole chart. Dependent origination is real. Have any of you read my book No Chain At All? This is available on the Deep Spring website, as a free download. It was one of those spiral bound books, and I don’t think we print it anymore but it’s available for reading. These talks were given back in the 1990’s, a year series of classes, which reminded us that there is indeed a chain of dependent arising, and also there is no chain. The whole chain is an illusion. You’re either going around the wholesome or around the unwholesome circle. You believe you’re caught on this treadmill (referring to the “Life’s little Treadmill” chart). Step off from it! Are you ready to step off?

You cannot step off to avoid the unpleasantness of mundane experience, but you need to remember the simultaneity. The whole mundane realm of experience is arising on the mundane level, and yet, in this moment, you are free of it. Simultaneity: the horizontal, the long line of mundane experience rolling on, and right here, this present moment in which there is no karma, no chain, there is just freedom.

We’re working with several parts in this class. One is the power of intention. Another is my art suggestion; Dorothy Ann is working with that to help you figure out how to do it. But when it’s done well, with a thick layer of crayon,then the India ink dried, and then you scratch it off, there’s a black surface and a light shines through. I find it a very beautiful metaphor. So perhaps in the coming month you will try it. And we are reading the books Human, Flight of the Garuda, and The Defilements.

This is from Flight of the Garuda. Dorothy Ann chose this and she will email it to you, from Song 21.

Free from all reference points
Spontaneous as a madman
Without the duality of self and other
You are like a noble being
Like an echo sounding.

Whatever you say is free of fixation
Not attached to anything.

You are like a Garuda soaring in the sky
Free from fear and anxiety.

You are like a lion,
Like the sky cleared of clouds.

Everything is primordially free.

Reflect some this coming month on that stanza. What does it mean, “Everything is primordially free.”? It’s not your mundane experience in each moment, but it is the deeper reality.

And in Human:

When you acknowledge the presence of fear and its siblings and allow them much space
Then the loving heart can reassert its authority.
The love-based motivation is always present, although sometimes hidden.
To allow the light of loving kindness to shine
You must investigate the nature of the shadow.

I’m going to read that again.

To allow the light of loving kindness to shine
You must investigate the nature of the shadow.
With understanding, shadow ceases to carry authority.
The clouds thin to a mist that disappears.

So please practice with these things, tying it all together, the mundane experience and the supramundane.

Also, as part of this class, inviting your spirit guidance to support you, to work with you. You are not alone. You have all the help that you need. We’ll work more with that further on in the semester. Just remember it.

Now, briefly, a guided meditation that I have led numerous times. I’m going to shorten it here. Close your eyes and come with me.

You are floating down a river on an inner tube. You have in your hand a small paddle so you can steer a bit, but mostly you’re gliding with the current. Before you set out you were told the current will carry you safely, but about 2/3 of the way down there is a fork. You must go right, and then the current will carry you smoothly a long distance out and around and back to the pool below, with no serious rapids. But if you miss that turn, it will pull you left and over some steep waterfalls, bashing over rocks into the pool below. So pay attention. It will be very clear where the fork is.

You drift and paddle. You’re watchful for the fork. You know you’ve come about 2/3 of the way down. Where is it? Where is it? Then you see how the river branches. This is it! I’ll paddle to the right, no problem! And suddenly a big fish jumps up, startles you. “Ooh, what was that?” And suddenly it’s too late, you’re being pulled by the current to the left-hand fork, over the rapids. Bang! Crash! Ouch!

Back onto a truck that carries you up the mountain. Put your raft back down in the river. “This time I know where it is and I won’t be fooled.” Down you float. It’s beautiful. There are butterflies. There’s a beautiful mist in places where little side waterfalls drop into the river; so beautiful. And then you’re approaching that fork. Watchful, watchful. A big fly lands on your face, biting you! Slap! Ouch! Back over the left-hand fork, down the falls. Does it sound familiar?

Third time. Something else captures your attention. You know what you need to do to go the smooth route, but there’s so much old habit energy that keeps pulling you over the waterfall, bashing you into the rocks.

This next time down there is a strong intention to stay present, to pay attention. Not fear, but love. “For the highest good of myself and all beings, no matter what distraction arises, I will stay present.” And you’re able to do so. You start to paddle in time, and you go smoothly around this right-hand fork and down a lovely stretch of river that takes you gently down to the pool below.

Back up to the top of the mountain. This time you have more confidence. “I can do it. I don’t have to become ensnared in the objects that pull me off into the painful stretch of river.” You do it again and again, and each time it becomes easier, until finally you begin to wonder, “How did I ever get pulled over that waterfall in the first place?” But it takes courage and practice. That, my dear ones, is what you are doing: remembering the beauty of the wholesome stretch of river. And that you don’t have to go over the waterfalls and find yourself bashed and bleeding. Isn’t it time to make that choice? You can do it. Remember I am with you, and if you find yourself swirling around in your little craft, feeling yourself being pulled toward the strong current of the rocks and waterfalls, say, “Aaron, help me.” I’ll be there. I’ll help you. You are not alone.

I love you very much and I very much appreciate the hard work you are doing to live more fully from the light that you are. Remember that you are light; you are love. And quoting the Buddha, if it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. If it were not possible, you would not have joined this class. If it were not possible for each of you, you would not have joined this class. At some level, you know you are ready not to go over waterfalls anymore, to bash into the rocks and bleed. As each of you is able to do that, it inspires others. It’s time you see the craft pulling off to the right and down that beautiful stretch of river ahead of you. You remember, “Ah, I can do that too. I don’t have to bash my head on the rocks.” It is time. Do it.

My blessings and love to you all.

(session ends)