January 22, 2019 Tuesday Evening, Dharma Path Class #2
Thank You: Hearing Without Distortion and Contraction; Aaron’s Final Lifetime; Divine Masculine/Feminine and Kyo/Jitsu, Let Me Be a Channel for Light and Love
(SECOND SESSION OF CLASSES FOR THIS 2-YEAR PROGRAM)
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Reviewed to the end of Aaron’s opening talk and then Barbara’s words of her present experience. Remainder is not reviewed at all.
Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron… Barbara had planned to talk to me this afternoon about my plans for tonight. She became busy with this, and busy with that, as humans tend to do. Finally, about quarter of six, she left this room into a quiet room and said, “Okay, Aaron, I’m ready now to talk.”
I said, “I’m glad you have made time for me.”
She said, “Aaron, are you being sarcastic?”
I said, “What makes you think I’m being sarcastic?”
“Well, I said I’m ready, and you said, ‘Well, thank you for making time for me.’”
I said, “No, I was sincerely thanking you. If you think or hear sarcasm, that’s in your head. That’s not from me.” I asked her to reflect on what made her think I was being sarcastic.
She said, “I felt guilty because I had intended to spend a lot of time today meditating and catching up with you and where you’re going with the program. And there was this and that and that that had to be done.”
I replied to her, “Then perhaps it is your feeling of guilt or shame that hears my remark as sarcasm.”
How often does this happen to you, that you hear a certain tone or thought from another made sincerely and phrased clearly, but misheard by you because of unresolved feelings within yourself?
It is so important, as you listen to others, to listen with a clear head and heart, with love and with clarity. As soon as you jump to, “Are you being sarcastic?”, you’re screening the other person out. You can’t really hear what they’re saying. And what if they ARE being sarcastic? Let it go. Especially if somebody says, “Thank you.”
Perhaps a job long overdue and you finally get it done, and the person says, “Thank you.” You’re feeling guilt about not getting it done. “Thank you.” Can you feel the difference between hearing that thank you as honest, “Thank you,” or hearing that thank you through your own distortion of shame, hearing it as sarcastic? It’s not just “Thank you” but many phrases that you hear through your own distortion.
Somebody walking into the other room— “Please, when you come back, will you bring me this?” A person asking sincerely, “Could you do this to help me?” And shame might come up, “Oh, I’m not doing enough. I should be doing more. I’m inadequate. They are gently— or not so gently— scolding, saying, ‘Please do this.’ I should have known. I should have done it before.” It’s your distortion. It has nothing to do with the words that were said. When you can listen to the “Please can you…” free of distortion, you are free, then, to say yes or no. But as soon as shame gets in the way, then you feel contraction tightening— “I have to do it,” or, “I don’t want to do it, I’m being pushed.” When you come back to your own open heart, and simply hear, “Please, can you do this?”— “Yes, I’d be delighted,” or “No, I really can’t.” It’s fine, either way.
I know each of you could tell me a dozen situations where this kind of contraction comes up; this, let’s call it a hearing distortion. When you distort in this way, there are certain symptoms that precede or come with the distortion. Usually there’s an energy contraction.
Let’s try this. Pretend that I have asked you several times, “Please tell us your plans for the workshop.” Now I haven’t, so this is an imaginary exercise. “Please tell us your plans for the workshop as soon as possible.” But, say I’ve repeated this request 4 or 5 times. You finally have done it, the “finally” coming from you— “I finally did it.” Not from me, from you. So, I ask again because I haven’t received any reply. Or an, “I did it.” —“Thank you.”
Or a different imaginary situation. You’ve told a friend you’d be going to the store sometime this week. The friend says, “When you go, could you pick this up for me?” “Easy— I’ll pick up eggs for you,” or whatever it may be, “I’ll be happy to do that.” And then each day you get busy, so your friend says, a few times during the week, “Have you gotten to the store yet?” “No, I haven’t.” And then you show up with the eggs, and the friend says, “Oh, thank you.” But your shame hears them saying, “What took you so long?” That’s not what they said; that’s the distortion shaped by your shame.
I want you to think of an imaginary situation like this. Feel how it might be. It could be a real situation with somebody in your lives, or a situation you think could happen. Hear the person say, “Thank you,” and feel yourself contract with shame, unable to accept their thank you because your embarrassment or sense of unworthiness gets in the way.
Whatever I have asked of you, you have given to me, and I say, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” Close your eyes, now, and meditate for a minute. Hear my saying thank you and see, what is the quality of attention? What is the texture within the body— contracted or spacious? Mind agitated or quiet? How is the thank you received? Since I’m asking you to choose a situation in which there may be some tension, there’s probably going to be contraction and tension, that you hear the thank you and, instead of hearing it as a warm “Thank you!”, you hear it as, “What took you so long?”— shame arising, contraction, anger, pain.
I’m going to just say, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for doing this, thank you. Thank you for helping. Thank you for speaking. Thank you for being loving.” That’s one that has hitch, because perhaps you feel angry and not so loving— “Thank you for being loving.” “Me? I’m not loving.” “Thank you for being loving.”
Feel the contraction in the body. Let us unpack this whole process; we have hearing. Just the words “Thank you”, that have a certain meaning. In hearing, just hearing. The words “Thank you” are not inherently pleasant or unpleasant, although they are pleasant words, assuming they’re said in a pleasant tone. What arises next is the mental formation hitching onto the hearing. If they are heard through the lens of unworthiness or shame, or any other distortion, then a contraction will arise.
See if you can separate these, a bit, hearing “Thank you. Thank you.” Receiving that thank you or unable to receive it. Feel who or what can receive it; who or what cannot receive it. But don’t get too analytical about that question. Just, “Thank you,” and rejecting the “Thank you”, armoring myself, or accepting it with an open heart. If accepted with an open heart, you’re home free, for the moment. Choose a different place to hear my “Thank you,” one that would provoke distortion. “Thank you”— contracting, armoring, unable to receive the thank you. Note it as— I think armoring might be a good term. Contracting, armoring, closing the heart. Breathing in, I am aware of the closed heart. Breathing out, I hold space for the closed heart.
Let’s come back to our past few weeks’ work, then. Is it for you— and (inaudible) each of you, there’s no right or wrong answer— is it more of the divine feminine that can receive this thank you, more of the divine masculine? What receives it best? In the armoring, what creates the armor— more masculine or feminine energy? Just one small area that may be helpful to look upon.
This is just an example and will not be the same for all of you. For Barbara, when somebody says “Thank you” or compliments her, it’s very much a feminine or receptive energy that takes it in and says, “You’re welcome,” and feels the joyfulness of having given some service, and been acknowledged in that service, appreciated— the joy of giving back and forth. For Barbara, if she feels some embarrassment— for example, if it took her a very long time to finish something, and then somebody says thank you, the armoring that occurs for her— it’s hard to call it masculine or feminine, but I think it’s slightly tilted toward the masculine. There’s a rigidity.
I’m just looking in myself, trying to look in a past life in which I was a male… In a male body, I think it was still more the feminine aspect that received with joy. The giving out of the thank you— more masculine or more feminine? It’s hard to say. For Barbara, it’s more the feminine that gives it out, and I’m looking to see if it’s more because she’s in a female body… John O, I’m looking at you, now, for an example. And I see that for you, when you say thank you and give out that energy, it’s coming from a very clear masculine part of yourself, really the divine masculine, radiant strong. Very able to give and receive.
This is the point where, last week as I talked to some of the groups, we were talking about the flowing together of masculine and feminine so they become almost indistinguishable. The yang/yin symbol— everything coming together.
Taking this a step further, then. I don’t want you to spend too much time pondering whether it’s more masculine or feminine, just that it may be helpful to you to discern that, at times. We come back to seeing the habitual pattern: “Thank you,” and if you can’t receive my, “Thank you.” Pushing it away, armoring, shame unworthiness.
So, here we come to seeing an habitual pattern. That one cannot receive the generosity and love that’s being offered to you because of the old habits of shame. Mindfulness notes this, notes the regret that this is so, compassionate regret. Notes the intention to open up and truly be able to receive kindness and love. And if another says, “Thank you,” not to immediately write it off as sarcastic, which is simply a form of armoring. To say, “Oh, you’re just being sarcastic,” because then you don’t have to receive it. It’s sometimes very hard for you to receive that kind of love.
Noting with compassionate regret, move into the Seven Branch Prayer or Four Empowerments. Work with it. This practice is so beautiful for releasing very old, long-term held karma, “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” Heart to heart. “Thank you.” “Are you being sarcastic?” — No heart connection. Even if you don’t say, “Are you being sarcastic?”, you feel it. So, then, working with the Four Empowerments and Seven Branch Prayer, with a deep intention to release this armor so that you can deeply connect with others, instead of feeling yourself cut off.
These are different ways of practicing, and no one way is more effective than the other. You begin to know how best to work with what is coming up. These workmen in the next room, I was watching them working today, and they have many different power tools. They’re very experienced builders. They were moving fluidly, seamlessly, from one tool to the next. One man was putting up the? (answerer says “drywall”— Aaron, “as opposed to wet wall?”— Yes, because the wet wall was the plaster that was put on. Wet wall, drywall. Putting up the drywall. He would get it put into place, and then it had to be trimmed. And the man standing next to him reached out and picked up the right knife or saw out of the various ones that were possible. The man putting up the wall didn’t have to say, “I want this knife,” the other man knew just what tool is needed.
You know this intuitively if you let yourself know, if fear doesn’t get in the way. Imagine you standing there as the helper. He’s putting it up, he’s holding it. He needs something— a hammer? A screwdriver? A knife? A saw? “What shall I get him? What’s right? Here, here’s the whole tray— pick one!” He can’t take one— his hands are busy. Give him the right one. You know what to do.
So often you know exactly what to do; it’s getting over your fear of making a mistake that allows you to touch on that knowing what to do. “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” Or, “I’m sorry you weren’t able to get the eggs for me. I understand you’ve been busy. It’s okay. I’ll get them myself.” You: “Oh, I feel ashamed. I know I promised you.” “It’s okay. I know how busy you’ve been.” But maybe you can’t accept the forgiveness and you keep wanting to apologize. Your hearing yourself and your own shame, not the other person.
So, coming back: watching the body energy and contraction. Watching the balance of masculine and feminine and how they work in you. If it is indeed of the feminine that is receptive for you— and it may or may not be— in what way are you cutting off that feminine and building up the masculine to be the strong one? “No, I’ll get it done!” “Thank you. It’s okay. I’ll take care of it.” “I’ll get it done!”— can you feel that, that kind of contraction? Then, compassionate regret. Working with the Four Empowerments.
We bring in the different tools, the whole toolbox, and you begin to know which tool to pick up. You know how to use them. You already do know how to use them. It’s just doubt that says, “Maybe I don’t.” You do.
Taking it back into your vipassana practice. Just breathing and feeling that experience of contraction. Breathing in and aware of the contraction. Breathing out, holding space for the contraction. Right there with contraction, where is spaciousness? Can you dare to allow yourself to feel that spacious? That means letting go of some of the armor. Holding the armor is the old unwholesome habitual pattern. Touch it with compassion meditation, with the Four Empowerments. Find whatever practices work best for you— not to get rid of doubt; not to get rid of the armoring, but to allow yourself to move through it and find that which is truly open and capable of loving and being loved.
The Vision is Mind practice, in that kind of situation where you’ve seen your own feeling of shame, hearing others’ words as sarcastic because of your own feeling of unworthiness. Start working with the Vision is Mind practice, with yourself as the famous person. Or perhaps somebody else who has been a, let us say a foundation for shame responses in you. A person who always said, “You just don’t know how to do this. Can’t you get it right?”, etc. Whichever one— yourself or that person— as the famous person, and work through the practice.
We’re practicing here, on both a relative and an ultimate level. On the relative level, we keep knocking off the rough edges, seeing where there are things that need to be smoothed down a bit, because everything keeps catching on them. On the ultimate level, we gradually begin to see so clearly all of this is simply arising from conditions and passing away. I don’t have to take it so personally.
One of you sent Barbara a beautiful email today, describing this in her own words. I was very moved by it. You know who you are. If several of you think it’s you— fine! She described finally really being able to see what was happening, and to let go of it a bit, to relax into more spaciousness.
Whatever has the nature to arise will arise out of conditions and will cease when the conditions cease. Everything in the conditioned realm is impermanent, arising out of conditions and passing away. There is no solid self to receive it. That also arises out of conditions.
Who are you when you cease being that imagined self, and start to open into the deepest truth of who you are? Who are you? What are you? You are so radiant, so beautiful. There is so much love at the core of you, and so much wisdom. Please stop narrowing yourself into this tiny fictitious character, who either is not good enough or has to be better, and just be, with love. And discover who and what you truly are.
You can do it or you wouldn’t be in the class. The class would not have called to you, if you were not ready to do this. And no, it’s not going to be perfect. You keep inching it along. More and more clarity, more light.
Each of these practices that I’m dropping in your lap is a tool. I do not expect you to practice with all of them. Those that don’t fit, let them go. At least for the women in the group— maybe the men, too— you go into a big department store, and into a large department with a thousand dresses, and they’re so beautiful (or suits or shirts). You bring two dozen of them to the dressing room. You can’t help yourself; they all look so beautiful. You try some on, and they just don’t hang right on you. The color isn’t right. No— hang it on the rack, “This one doesn’t fit. This one, ahhh!— It’s perfect. This one I’ll take and wear.”
Treat these practices in this way. Don’t be afraid to return the ones that don’t fit and hang them back on the rack. And perhaps the next time you come into the store, your body will have changed a bit, and those clothes will fit. You find the same dress and say, “I loved this but it didn’t fit. Well, I’ll try it on again.” And this time it fits.
All I can give you is a number of practices that have worked for me and that I have seen work for many people. When I say “work”, have fit me, to help me out of suffering.
Eventually you do have to come to that place where the solid self disappears. I think most of you have heard from me the story of my final human lifetime. Let me ask: is there anybody here who has not heard this story? … Okay, only one, so I’m not going to tell it. (The story is appended to this transcript.)
I was fleeing— I’m not going to go into the details; you know the details- but, I was fleeing from shame, sadness, grief, anger. I wanted so badly to awaken because I was suffering so much. I had a very, very strong meditation practice, in which I was able to hold strong concentration for long periods of time, nothing to disturb me. But when I came out of that deep practice the suffering was still there. So, I was subtly misusing my practice as an escape from suffering, rather than being willing to look at the roots of suffering. My practice became an armoring from the suffering.
As I walked down the trail that rainy night, the tree fell down on me, pinning me to the ground. I called on every ounce of my practice, wanting to get free, watching the grasping. Sadness, frustration, feeling weak. Feeling ashamed, because I felt I should be okay lying here on the ground, pinned in the mud in a rainstorm with a thorn tree lying on top of me. Not breaking my skin, but if I moved, it would. So I lay there breathing, finding some space. And yet, always with the subtle background thought, “Somebody will be along soon. I won’t be here too long. I’ll be safe.” But I neglected the other side of it: what if I’m not safe? What if I die right here?
And then I heard the tiger— heard its breath, its growling, its footsteps— and I could no longer say, “I’ll be safe.” Terror arose: what’s he going to eat first? Will he bite off my leg? How painful will that be? Will he just take my foot and go away? Maybe I’ll survive, but I’ll be a cripple. What will happen to me? Pinned by these big thorns, unable to move. But of course, the thorns protected me. My tiger friend could not get in any more than I could get out.
So, he prowled and he growled; he paced, he panted. Back and forth. Actually she— it was a female tiger. (How did I know that? We tracked her afterward and found her den with her cubs. She was hungry and looking for food for her cubs.) Lying there in the mud, just me and the tiger, and the reality: there is no place for me to go. I will either live out this night, or I will not live out this night. The choice is not whether I will Iive or die but whether these last hours of my life— or this one night in my life— will be a peaceful and happy one or one filled with terror and anguish.
Now, I can’t just turn a switch and say, “No anguish here! I’m going to be happy!” Lying there in the mud that night I finally saw the reality: there is no self experiencing it, there is only the karma and unfolding of conditions. I have the opportunity to shift all of this now, in this moment, to let it go— not me but awareness, kindness, presence. So, I simply began to recite metta for myself and the tiger.
I could feel her need. I could feel her suffering. She and I were one being. Billions of sentient beings, they were all part of this, the need in all of us to survive, to be happy. And the whole sense of a solid-self dropped away. Finally, I understood who and what I was: I was awake. And it was the most joyful experience.
At that point it did not matter anymore whether I lived or died. Although, part of me could say, “I choose to live so as to be able to help other sentient beings.” But there was no grasping after that, just, “This I choose, if it is for the highest good.” Moved by love, not be fear.
The tiger eventually moved away, as you know from the story. Several more hours in the rain and the mud. And then monks walking down the trail saw me. Carefully lifted the thorn tree off me, helped me stand up, and said, “You look radiant. You’ve been lying in the mud and rain all night, and you look radiant! You look so happy!” And I said, “I am free. I am at peace.” And then, as you know, I went back to the monastery where I had abandoned my position 10 years ago because of my deep pain and sorrow, and began again to teach.
And here it continues! If I had not awakened that night, then I would still be one of you here on Earth, struggling with wanting to awaken, and not able to teach you about awakening.
What I am trying to do with this class is as the construction workers are so careful, step by step, building this room. They had to lay the foundation for the concrete. They had to put up the side foundation cinderblock walls. Then they had to frame the walls. They had to put on the roof. Each step had to come in turn to support the other steps, and no step was unnecessary. Sometimes it could have been these steps first and then those, or those steps first and then these. But it all has to come together.
It needs a floor, walls, windows, roof, insulation. Through this two year class I want to give you all the necessary components. But if you decide, “No, I don’t need windows now and I don’t want to be bothered with them,” — fine, leave them out for now. Just stick some plastic over the opening. When you’re ready for windows, you’ll put windows in.
It is up to you to practice; I cannot do that for you. Let your heart and your loving intentions suggest to you what practice would be most supportive, in which period. When there is body pain, when there is shame, or feelings of unworthiness, when there is anger, when there is pride, when there is ease and joy and gladness— what practices suggest themselves to help move you toward the fullest awakening of knowing the true self? Which is not the mind, body, ego, or emotions. Knowing this essence of, not your being but Being. If you will keep working in that direction— keep practicing those practices that support you and letting go of the others temporarily— you will keep moving yourself down the path to awakening.
When Barbara returns from Brazil we’re going to re-approach the book, Path of Clear Light. I think you all have the book, and in these few weeks I would like you to read it. We’ve touched on it before in the class and now we’re going to go back to it, to Path of Clear Light and the light practices and pure awareness practices. To the “that which is aware of fear is not afraid; that which is aware of anger is not angry.” I’ve wanted you to stabilize more with vipassana, and the practices we’ve done in the past few months, so that you do not use this “that which is aware of fear is not afraid” as a way of dissociating from fear— pushing it away with aversion— but rather, using the practice to really know that which is not afraid right there with fear and knowing, trusting your ability to hold space for fear and not be overwhelmed by it, or anger, or shame.
So, that’s where we’re going. I love you very much, and I so appreciate the sincerity and commitment you are bringing to this class and this work. I’m going to pause now and give you an opportunity to stretch, then ask some questions. And I want Barbara to share something that she’s been working, also. We’ll have a 5 minute, 6 or 7 minute break, not too long. Thank you.
Barbara: Two things we’ll cover now. One is questions related to his talk. The other is, he wants me to share something I’ve been working with in my practice the past couple of months, that he thinks will be meaningful to you. He’s suggesting to me that, while questions to him would be a logical first step, if he incorporates again, I’m not going to be able to talk after. Now I’ve had a little break, so I can talk. So, let me talk first, and then put it aside, and questions for Aaron.
We’re at 11 months post-Hal’s stroke, coming up on a year. It’s been a tough year, a challenging year, a learning-filled year. I have often felt like a swimmer caught in a riptide. And I’m a good swimmer, and I have literally been caught in riptides a couple of times in my life— not really heavy ones but heavy enough that I could not swim against them back to shore— and I know what to do: just to slowly swim across it until I’m clear of it, and the head back to shore.
So, I’ve been applying that theory: if I just let it carry me out a little and try to figure out how to cut across it, eventually I’ll get back to shore. I began to see “getting back to shore” meant getting back to life the way it had been: me and my husband of 50 years living in this house that we’ve lived in for 46 years, life going on happily and as normal.
That that’s not going to happen. I can’t get back to this shore. And, through all the stages of grief and bargaining and denial, and all of that— depression, anger. Finally letting go and beginning to turn my head and saying: well, if I can’t get back to this shore, what is the other shore? In Buddhist terms and then relative reality terms. The “other shore” began to look like getting this renovation finished. Figuring out how we were going to pick up from where we were now; but life was still going to be okay, just a different okay. Accepting a different status quo, but it will be okay. Like I did after becoming deaf.
So, finally, in the past 6 weeks or so I’ve realized that I cannot keep grasping at this other shore, either. That there was a lot of suffering for Hal and me in my trying to push. I’m not saying he’ll never come home— maybe he will; maybe he won’t. I don’t know that. I had to stop grasping at that as, “If I work hard enough, I can make it happen.” What’s left? I can’t get back to this shore; I can’t reach that shore. Where do I go?
The past month I’ve been looking at just letting the current carry me out to the middle of the ocean and literally sinking down. Now, this isn’t a death wish— I have scuba tanks and I’m all set to go down and down and down! But I have to stop trying to stay on the surface and let myself go down to see what’s there; to really look at all the old concepts of who I thought I was, related to Hal, related to being a mother, a friend, a dharma teacher— all these old self images; holding anything special as self. That I have to let go of it all and drop down.
It’s terrifying, and it’s also— it feels like freedom. It gives me joy to consider it, even while it’s terrifying. It’s perfect timing, of course, for these two weeks in Brazil. It’s a short time. It’s the shortest time ever I’ve stayed there. But, 2 weeks will be enough. I’ll be busy with my group, but I’ll also have plenty of time to meditate with the support of the entities and sitting in current, and meditating at different times of day in my room and at the Casa. To allow myself to sink down. I’ll have a lot of support to sink down in that way. And I’m just interested to see what I’m going to find. I have no idea how it’s going to be. I will let you know. I’ve got my scuba tanks packed, and my diving mask and my flippers. We’ll see what happens!
There’s a certain very real freedom in having let go of making this happen or that happen. And I’m understanding gradually that that doesn’t mean I stop inviting these things to happen, doing everything I can to support what is wholesome. But without grasping at all; inviting. It’s a different kind of energy— not grasping and pulling and pushing, but just holding space for, and inviting the conditions that will make it right. This is why I’m still working on this renovation, and visualizing me and Hal living in this space. Maybe, maybe not; we’ll see.
So, I just wanted to share that. And I’ll tell you more after Brazil. Thank you.
Barbara; reviewing, I have not read at all past here. Please let me know if you find any major errors.
So now let’s hear your questions from Hal— I mean your questions for Aaron. (smiling) Hal on my mind… I have a big meeting tomorrow morning with Neurology at U of M. The last one we had was 6 months ago. The person there is very supportive and helpful, and really on Hal’s team, and wanting to help make things happen as best as possible for him. So, I have a long list of questions, and I know she will spend an hour or more with us. And I know we’ll have some better answers as what we can best do now, at this stage, after a year, to support Hal. He lives, with his first year, against all odds. So, now what?
Q: Barbara, in December Aaron took us part of the way through this Vision is Mind practice. So, is he going to finish that? I think we did 2 out of the 5 steps.
Barbara: Later on in the class, yes, but not now. We need more preparation for that.
Q: Okay— thank you.
Barbara: The next step, Mind is Empty, is obvious, and you can work with it. The last two steps— Emptiness is Clear Light— we need to work with the clear light practice first and really establish awareness and clear light, the stability in awareness and clear light, to move on with the Vision is Mind practice. So, it will come together.
Q: Does greater balance between Divine Feminine and Masculine energy result in the resolution of a habitual karmic pattern?
Barbara: Greater balance results with resolution of the habitual karmic patterns, and the greater balance leads to the resolution of the patterns. It’s circular. So, you can’t say, “If I do this then that will happen.” When that happens, then it leads back to this. It just keeps going around, and it keeps deepening, level by level by level. So that as there’s greater balance you begin to see certain patterns resolving. As the pattern resolves, you note, ah, there’s more balance, not just in the karmic patterns but in all of the imbalances that each of us holds, each of us with our own separate series of imbalances.
Q: I have a situation where I have clients who expect me to get work done as quickly as possible. And I can’t do that! I can’t work that fast. So, when they ask me how their case has gone, I immediately feel defensive. It’s just a constant issue with me. So I always filter what they’re saying to me through my armoring because I feel I should be able to meet their needs, even if they’re unreasonable. How do I deal with this?
Barbara: Aaron is saying, let’s take this right into what he taught tonight. You tell us how you might deal with it. He says he’s sorry to put you on the spot, but, please share— given what he was teaching tonight— what do you think? What might work?
Q: Okay… the first thing I have to see is that I AM armoring myself. And then, I think I have to have compassion both for myself and my client. I have to see that my client is very anxious, and that there’s not much I can do about that anxiety, but I can understand it. And I have to have compassion for myself because I can only go at the speed I can go at. And I know my intentions are good, and generally things work out very well.
The deeper issue is this compassionate regret for the being who feels he has to be perfect and please everyone. And, just, you know, really talk to that person and say it’s great that you want to help, but you don’t have to do that.
Barbara: Aaron says, so you’ve answered your own question. Aaron will incorporate and speak.
—This is a question for me, before Aaron comes in.
Q: To Barbara: the sinking into the sea seems like an expression of feminine energy. The holding space for what might be with Hal is feminine or masculine— feminine because it’s open and receptive; masculine in that it is envisioning.
Barbara: Aaron will speak to that also.
(Additional question asked: are kyo and jitsu the same as masculine and feminine energy?)
Aaron: My blessings to you once again. I am Aaron. In the two groups with whom Barbra and I met last week, we emphasized the non-duality of feminine and masculine. We’ve asked you to look at these, acknowledging there is a more feminine and a more masculine aspect, but also the ways they come together and inter-are. That you really cannot divide them.
Neither one can exist on its own, so in effect it was not meant as a trick question, to look at what was masculine or feminine. It was meant to guide you to looking at these so you could see that they are part of each other, and not assign this as this and that as that, but allow them to come together into their full strength. I think of the yang and yin symbol.
Sinking into the sea. It has the feminine expression of being willing to put aside doing and simply rest and receive. It has the, perhaps what we might think of as the strength of the masculine— although the feminine also contains this— of being wiling to forge ahead. In other words, sinking into the sea does not mean drifting further from shore, or one shore to the other; it’s just holding the center and going deep. There’s a power to it. I don’t want to call it feminine or masculine power, but many of you ascribe that power as masculine. The sword that cuts, the sword of wisdom, slicing away that which impedes wisdom. But it’s not so active as that. It’s more just a sinking in and receiving.
As you think about these masculine and feminine, please remember to ask yourself— when you start to say, “Ah, this is feminine,”— “Okay, right here in this moment, where is the masculine?” Or vice versa.
The question about kyo and jitsu. “Are kyo and jitsu the same as masculine and feminine energy?” No. Both kyo and jitsu have feminine and masculine in them. So don’t try to make one kyo and one jitsu, one feminine and one masculine. The feminine is receptive and strong. Kyo is very quiet, and thus more able to be receptive, in common thinking. Jitsu is more agitated, but also more thrusting. But jitsu cannot be jitsu and agitated if it does not have the possibility to relax into quietness. Kyo cannot be the quiet of kyo if it does not have the potential to become active.
What I want to encourage all of you is to stop thinking in dualities. Be aware of the simultaneity of everything in yourself. Joy and sorrow, clarity and confusion, energy and lack of energy, despair and hope, playfulness and seriousness. Please stop thinking in dualities. This is a vital step. That which is aware of fear is not afraid. Where is that fearlessness? That which is sinking into the sea has no intention to remain there. It sinks into the sea so that it may come forth again. That which goes forth eventually will need to sink into the sea. The constant movement. Without creating a self-identity: I am this, I am that. I am the joyful one. I am the sad one. I am the capable one. I am the inadequate one. When these dualities arise, watch how deep a habitual pattern they are, and work with them as such. Ah, compassionate regret that I am so caught in creating dualities, and it brings suffering to myself and to others. And then begin to work with it in that way without trying to fix it. That which is aware of the one creating dualities is not creating dualities. I pause.
Q: I have a question related to something Aaron said on his November 13 talk to us about the Seven Branch Prayer. It relates to what seems to be a statement of intention. I’ll read a bit of what Aaron said. He’s talking about offering yourself to this energy. He goes on to say, “You can offer very specific aspects, such as your body, your mind, your energy, as well as the interconnected aspects, such as sunlight and laughter. There needs to be a fervent wish: ‘Whatever I have that can be used by the forces of light for the alleviation of suffering, I freely offer it. Let me be a channel for light and love. I consecrate this mind, body, and spirit to the love and light, and to service to the highest good of all beings and harm to none.’”
My question is, Aaron has talked about us selecting pieces of the things he teaches that speak to us. This intention spoke very clearly to me. And I was especially struck by the statement, “Let me be a channel for light and love.” And so, I’m just wanting Aaron to maybe comment on that, of dedicating oneself to be a channel for light and love.
Aaron: Thank you, Q, I hear your question. You are constantly growing into full awakening. None of you can say, at this point, “No matter what happens to me, to this mind and body, I put this second and fully consecrate myself to the highest good, and to love.”, because in a situation of life and death you might not be able to enact that intention— not yet.
Each time you come around, you become more and more transparent, more able to fully enact this commitment, this intention. But for those of you where you are in this class, it’s important that the intention at least be lying there as a seed in fertile soil, wanting to sprout. You cannot go any further in your practice based on an ego need, “I want to be free because I am suffering.” That’s fine— I understand that desire. But that need from the ego self for freedom will not take you any further.
You also cannot make the statement, “I hold the intention to serve the light in every way because this is going to help me get free.” You see the catch there. You just can’t do it that way. It has to be genuine. And you need to look into yourself and ask where fear is rooted for the personal self, that holds you back into the ego’s stories and prevents you from moving further into the commitment to the highest service for beings.
I think everybody in this class genuinely holds that commitment. It was part of why we invited you to participate. But, it’s not yet fully polished. So, just watch it. Pay attention to the place where there is the deep commitment to the highest good of all beings, service to all, and a little, “But, but.. I want to be safe.” And note that as a habit energy. Don’t try to chase it away. Don’t try to act upon it. Just note: this habitual pattern is still here. I have compassion for this human and all humans who are caught in service to self.
In the beautiful series of books, The Ra Material, my dear friend Ra notes, given a balance of 50% service to self, 50% service to others, in order to fully awaken one does not have to get to 100% service to all beings. One does not even have to get to 70% or 80%, just get past the 50% mark, because most sentient beings begin as strongly service to self. What you are doing in all of this work is tipping yourself over that balance and noting, “Service to self is service to all beings, and I cannot serve myself unless I serve all beings.” And then from there, noting the heart’s intention to serve all beings, and to stop criticizing the self because service to self comes up. In situations of fear, and especially survival, it will.
Here is where your vipassana practice is such a strong ally— to begin to note this kind of fear that tips you back toward service to self, and just to hold space for it. Breathing in, I am aware of the contraction. Breathing out, I hold space for the contraction. I commit and choose not to enact the contraction and the fear. But right there with fear, to find the light and love and center in it. And the more you do this, the more you tip the balance, until you do find yourself there with service to all beings. Which is part what happened to me on that muddy path under a thorn tree, aware that I would live out the night or I would not. And if I didn’t, it would mean I had fed a tiger, and that was okay. I would continue to exist within the tiger and her cubs. It’s not what the ego wanted, but at a certain level it was okay. And with that okay comes such a release of tension and a much deeper move into the commitment to service to the light and to love.
I think of beautiful models of this— the St. Francis prayer: “Lord, make me an instrument of my peace.” And so forth. Some of you might want to read and refresh some of these prayers in your mind. There’s a beautiful Christmas carol that I know Barbara loves. Let me see if I remember the words..
In that cold mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan
Earth as hard as iron
Water like a stone.
Snow is falling
Snow on snow, on snow
In that cold mid-winter, long ago.
What shall I give him,
Poor though I am?
If I were shepherd
I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man
I would do my part.
What can I give him?
Give him my heart.
So that’s another beautiful example of that, the fervent desire to serve the light. Refresh yourself on some of these inspirational songs and verses. They help to inspire and remind you you are not alone. Q, does that answer your question?
Q: Very much so.
Aaron: Let me break in here. I see that it’s 9 o’clock. If there is any more pressing question on what I’ve spoken on here tonight I’m happy to answer it. If not, perhaps we should end. Is there any pressing question on my instructions this evening? (No.)
Then I wish you all the blessings of the beautiful winter night. I hope some of you had a chance to see that amazing moon a few nights ago. Like the moon, we’re all sometimes entering into being covered by shadow and then bursting out back into the light. It was a moving example of the tenacity of light even where there is shadow.
Good night and rest well, and I will speak to you— I’m not sure in how many weeks— 3? 4? I’m not sure when it is… (February 19)… about a month. Then many blessings and love to you through this winter month… I’ll say good night.
Story of Aaron’s final lifetime:
The being that I was, was a monk, a meditation master in Thailand, much respected and loved, and I had the ignorance to believe I was fully enlightened. My life was peaceful and joyful. I loved to share the dhamma. I had equanimity about almost everything. I had the capacity to work with that which created tension and not make stories about it. So if an emotion , thought or sensation was a bit sticky, I would stop and work with presence with what had arisen, find the space around it, rest in that spaciousness and know that whatever emotion or body pain had arisen was impermanent and not self. So emotions and discomfort still arose and there was temporary aversion to discomfort. But it did not stick for long. The aversion itself was seen as just another object arising, impermanent and not self.
But then there was an event in which a beloved disciple was killed by an angry man who meant to kill me. The disciple stepped in front and intercepted the spear that was meant for me. I understood the ways that I had contributed to the anger of the one who threw the spear, that I was not blameless, but that my attachment had helped create the situation, and I saw my grief for the loss of this young man who I loved as a son.
I saw then how far I was from enlightenment. So I left the monastery where I taught and wandered in the jungle for many years, living a very solitary life. About 10 years later in a very bad storm on a dark jungle path, a large thorn tree tumbled down on top of me, pinning me to the ground, face in the mud. My skin was scratched but I was not impaled nor badly injured. There were long thorns, big thorns on both sides of me. They caught in my clothes. They were pressing and just barely breaking the surface. I could not move.
It was pouring. I was very uncomfortable, cold, wet, with a bit of pain. I was not afraid, I knew somebody would come along eventually and find me. I knew I could survive there a day or two if I needed to. So I was somewhat at peace. It was just discomfort.
I began to meditate. Then into my peace came a sound of footsteps that I immediately recognized as a tiger. She had smelled my blood. I could hear her breath. She was seeking a way to get at me. What would go first? Would she eat my foot? Would she get an ear? What would she eat? Mind started to build stories.
I could see the fear mounting in me and the sense of separation: me, tiger, tree, all separate. I determined that if I was to die that night, it would not be in fear. So I came back to my practice, just breathing, watching the experience of fear. Mind watched hearing, which was the predominant way of knowing the presence of the tiger, hearing her breath, hearing her footsteps, hearing her scratching at the tree, hearing her growl. The ear organ touching the sound, and “hearing, hearing.” There is nothing unpleasant in that hearing, just a growl, just padding footsteps. The unpleasantness was with the idea that came—she will eat me. Fear.
As I practiced, all sense of separation dissolved. Like this shell. What’s missing here is scattered on the beach, or it’s been washed back in the ocean, or it’s in the sand in your shoes, or perhaps you swallowed a piece of it. Nothing is separate. I understand I am already in the tiger and she is already in me. My face is in the mud, the mud is in me. The tree that has pierced my skin is in me. There’s nothing separate here, and nothing to be afraid of. I could hear her franticness, wanting so badly to get at me. I began to do metta for her and for myself, this human lying in discomfort, not knowing if it would live for another hour.
In that moment of lovingkindness and deep wisdom, all duality dissolved. There was such deep seeing into how we create the idea of duality and move into this dualistic fixation, move into the illusion of a separate self. And yet there was also knowing that there must be compassion for the human who was experiencing something difficult. We cannot deny the reality of the human.
At that point the mind just completely let go. There was only love. If the tiger ate me, it was just me eating myself. There was nothing to gain, nothing to lose. I relaxed completely into an infinite space of love.
I was no longer sending out the energy of a prey. There was still the blood smell, but somehow I was no longer prey and the tiger just gave up and went away. Hours passed and finally some monks came down the trail, just at dawn. They lifted the tree off. They helped to wash the scratches on my back. I walked with them on their morning alms round. We held out our bowls and received some food to eat; life went on. There was nothing remarkable, just some alms and some time to rest. Then I knew it was time to resume teaching, to resume contact with others.
So it was a profound enlightenment experience, a profound experience of release of any idea of duality. And yet, even as I returned to the places where monks gathered, was welcomed, resumed my teaching, negative thoughts still arose sometimes. It was not the complete enlightenment of the arahat. It was deep enough that there was no more karma to move me into a new life, but I still had to work with it. If there was a very foul smell, “smelling, smelling, unpleasant,” aversion would come up because it was conditioned in the mind and body. My daily practice, every moment of the day, became watching of any arising of aversion or grasping and noting the shift – as the experience of aversion arose, for example, the shift into a self, contracting energy, me and that, creating the illusion of separation. Then came a pause to note and say, “Ah, creating separation. Here is the mind. It’s just mental.” But there was no longer a separate being to be caught in the belief of that experience, just mind seeing the conditioned thought. So that was the practice thousands of times through the coming years.
Gradually there was a great diminishment of episodes where mind touched into belief in the aversion or grasping. In other words, some aversion or grasping would come but increasingly there was the ability immediately to know, “Ah, here is aversion.” See it as an object and see the immense spaciousness around it. Not get caught in it. So it didn’t happen instantly. But the power of that experience was such that each time aversion arose, for example, as aversion had arisen to being eaten by the tiger, mind would bring back the memory of the experience, and remember that this idea of “me” versus “that” is just created in the head. It wasn’t an intellectual exercise; rather, it was resting in what I knew for certain and then being able to release that which was obviously not real.