Living from the Awakened Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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