March 19, 2019, Tuesday Evening, Dharma Path Class
“Floating Non-Duality”; Q&A on Clear Light
Barbara: A number of people, both in the small group meetings and by email, said they sort of get this light practice, they sort of don’t. They’re wondering what the reason for it is. I’m kind of quoting people, “Are we expected to just walk around in a cloud of light all the time?” — It would be nice!
Last month, on February 20, Aaron gave an interesting talk in his monthly Wednesday night talk. A few of you may have heard it. I sent out an excerpt from that transcript today. I apologize for getting it to you so late. I understand that most of you will not have had time to read it, but I wanted you to at least have the transcript so you could refer to it.
In that talk, Aaron wanted to talk about non-duality. The light in itself is not non-duality, it’s an expression of non-duality. The light is not the Divine itself, it’s an expression of the Divine, like nada, which a number of you use as a meditation primary object, or any of these unconditional expressions; they are direct expressions of the Divine or of the Unconditioned. They simply tell us we’re on the right path. For me, it’s a little bit like, if I’m walking in the woods and I’m lost and there’s not a path in sight, and I keep walking and I come to a path, I know, ah, I’m still not quite sure where I am, but I’m on a clear path. And if I follow it, it’s going to take me somewhere.
When we experience strong luminosity, or when we experience nada or certain kinds of energy, we are connecting with a direct expression of the Unconditioned, and we start to learn that we can trust it.
I’m sure you’ve all had the experience of feeling off-center in some way, then suddenly things in your heart came into focus and there was a sudden knowing: okay, now I’m on the path. Now I’m going the right direction. Now I can trust this experience. It’s very hard to articulate it, but I think you all know what I’m talking about. It’s just an inner intuitive knowing; Ajahn Chah’s, the One-Who-Knows, and tuning in to that One-Who-Knows. So, I find for myself that what’s helpful for me is that direct experience of spaciousness, or of luminosity, because I know I can’t experience either of those things when I’m contracted and experiencing a lot of negativity. If I experience spaciousness and/or light, (they usually come together for me, but not always; or one may be predominant) I know, okay, I can go ahead, this is okay. And if I stop experiencing it, I know I need to pause and say, what’s going on? Where did I lose the path? Come back; just stop.
I’m going to start tonight by… Aaron says why don’t I go ahead and read it, but he may come in. I’m not going to read this whole transcript. This is already an excerpt from that Wednesday night, but I’m not going to read all 9 pages. But we’ll read some. First, I assume many of you have not had a chance to look at this transcript.
Twenty-Five or more years ago, a woman named Karen Weber was doing literally all the transcribing, way back then. The transcribing was much harder. It was from cassette tapes, tape recorder tapes. Aaron had said Deep Spring is a Center for non-duality. We began asking Aaron questions about non-duality and carried on like that for 6 or 7 years. In those years Karen developed increasingly severe cancer and finally died of it.
In the summer we would sit in my cabin and Aaron would answer Karen’s questions—not mine, because I was channeling him, so these were Karen’s questions. Karen would transcribe on the computer while he was talking. Then we would print it out and take it out on my boat. Of course, the pages blew off into the water, so we started putting each page in a Ziplock bag so that it would float. So, a friendly title of this, what eventually I hope will make its way into I think is a very profound book, is, “Floating Non-Duality in a Ziplock Bag”. Maybe we’ll change the title; maybe we won’t.
On that Wednesday, last month, Aaron began reading from the book. He is saying to me, please read the question that refers to “why do we do this practice” before I read about the book. I’m reading from page 7 of this talk… The question that was asked after his talk was how resting in clear light is useful. How is it involved in saying no to negativity and responding kindly? I’m just going to read you Aaron’s response. It’s about one page.
When you rest in clear light your whole energy field is open, with very little contraction. We know that contraction blocks energy and light. When something scares you and you close up, it’s very hard to hear the other person, if they have an opposing view. But when you rest in a spacious energy and truly listen you don’t take it so personally. Fear doesn’t come up. You’re not so quick to jump to “my opinion over your opinion” but truly can hear.
Resting in light, as we do this practice, is really resting in non-contraction. Allowing the experience of strong light opens the energy field so there is non-contraction. Energy can flow through you smoothly. You open out and embrace everything. Your energy field connects with everything. The vital word is “allowing” or choosing. It is about intention.
In this world of oppositionality, so often when somebody—even those who claim to be committed to the highest good— hear something that upsets them, they contract and say, “No!” Each time there’s that contraction it becomes a push back. How do you say no without pushing? When you ground yourself in this light, in spaciousness, state your highest value as that of the highest good of all beings and harm to none, then you are able to say a different form of no. It’s how Gandhi spoke, for example, or Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. In these non-violent movements where people were foresworn not to enact violence, for some it was easier than for others. This is why some of the movements were more successful than others. It’s one thing to sit on your hands and say, “No, I won’t fight back,” when your energy field is in a turmoil, and it’s another to truly feel open.
I don’t know if this described the actuality, but it seems to me it does to some extent. In the movie Gandhi, he looks up at the end and sees the man holding the gun toward him. He doesn’t try to throw something at the man. He knows there’s nothing he can do that will stop the gun. He just draws his palms together in prayer, says, “OMMM…” and he’s shot. He dies in peace and with non-contraction.
The one who shot him, he will have to be karmically responsible for having fired the shot. If Gandhi had reacted with violence, he probably could not have saved his life, but he would have violated everything he had been teaching. The same is true for those who, under Dr. King, worked with passive resistance and non-violence. Many of them were truly learning not to hate those who metaphorically and actually slung mud and worse at them. How do you not hate somebody who’s throwing rocks or rotten tomatoes at you? We can assume if you are in a situation of being the one who receives that violence, there are two reasons for it. One is for your own learning, to see that you CAN hold the space, can look into the other’s eyes and not react. And one is the power of what happens when you do so.
Aaron goes on to tell a story, a story of mine I think I’ll tell, rather than reading Aaron’s telling of it.
This was a sit-in in a small town in the south, maybe 1960 or 1961, at a restaurant that had been completely segregated. People had been sitting-in there for a couple of months, maybe, and each week—sometimes each week, sometimes alternate weeks—but each week they were met by violence, beaten up. So, I was not assigned to go; I offered. So did many other people. Four of us were chosen to go down: a middle-aged black couple, a white man and myself. I was probably only 20 years old, maybe only 19, so I was pretty ignorant about a lot of things. But I had done a lot of deep work and was starting to understand active non-violence.
There are two words that apply here. Satyagraha, soul force. Coming to the place in our own core that has the power of love that’s so strong and clear that we’re able to speak from that place, no matter what’s happening around us. This was the heart of Gandhi’s work. And ahimsa, also, meaning “dynamic compassion”. It’s not just compassion as compassionate thoughts, but an active compassion that’s willing to say no to somebody who is being violent because it’s the compassionate thing to do, really the only thing to do if one will not enact violence. We can’t just let people harm other people or ourselves; we have to say no. The power of both of these; satyagraha and ahimsa are very dear to my heart.
We were driven up to the restaurant. We walked in. It was about 10 in the morning. Perhaps they were expecting us because of previous weeks: there was nobody inside but one or two waiters and the manager. The waiters quickly left.
We were seated. Not served—seated. I could hear in those years, and I could hear the angry crowd gathering outside. We sat and meditated for close to an hour. Not talking, just each of us in a deep place, knowing that when we walked out the door, we had to be able to walk out from a place of love, or not do it at all. And that any contraction in us, any feeling of hatred or “I’m right and you’re wrong” was going to stir up violence; and that we were co-responsible for that violence, if it happened. This doesn’t mean that if there was violence it was my fault. We each do what we are able to do. But even if I hold a place of love, like I was just reading Aaron’s words about Gandhi— he came to it from a place of love, but he was still shot. It doesn’t guarantee you will be safe. But the only way we can heal violence and the negativity and hatred in the world is through love. Dhammapada: Hatred never resolves hatred; only love resolves hatred.” Thisn is the opening line of Dhammapada. This is from back in the Buddha’s time, and of course before that too. These teachings are not new!
This is an ideal, and we’ll never be able to do it perfectly, but we’re working toward that ideal. Fast-forwarding, and I’ll come back to my story, but I find that anchoring myself in a high vibration, in the light, the open heart, in non-contraction, gives me a way of connecting to this soul force, to living from this soul force. And it doesn’t mean there will be no fear, but as in vipassana, I can see fear as the object and choose not to be reactive to the fear. I don’t have to hate the fear, I don’t have to fix the fear, I only have to hold myself in center, watch the fear arise, and be present as long as fear is present. I hope it will pass away, but it may not.
So, as I said, I was young, 19. This was not the first such movement for me, but the first one that had this much hate-filled energy involved and had been going on for months. We all four took hands and we walked out the door. I could feel all of our— the four of us—high loving energy.
Part of these practices is that you actually forgive the person that may throw bricks at you before he does it. You can’t say, “I’m going to hate you if you do this.” In that situation, I knew that what I was doing might trigger strong anger and fear and even hatred from other people. I was choosing to do it anyhow. So I was, in a sense, choosing to stir up a hornet’s nest. I was not choosing to do it to say, “Look, I’m right and you’re wrong, and you better listen to me!” but simply, “This is my truth, and I believe so deeply in my truth that I’m willing even to risk my life to state this truth. And if you harm me or even kill me, before this happens, I forgive you.” I’m not saying this out loud; it’s what I carry in my heart. If you harm me in some way, I know that I’ve been a catalyst and you were not ready for that catalyst. I forgive you. This is the heart of ahimsa.
We walked out the door, and all of us were in this place of light, of spaciousness. I doubt if there was a contracted muscle among the four of us, although we were all afraid. But, knowing the fear, not needing to react to the fear, we walked out.
I saw shame on some faces, hatred on some faces, fear on some faces, compassion on some faces. Most people didn’t want to meet my eyes. And of course, I didn’t force it; if they turned away, I turned my eyes away. But not turning away out of fear of them, turning away out of respect that they couldn’t take that energy right then.
So we just walked out. And this crowd, maybe less than 100 people—60, 70, to 100 people, they just backed away and made and aisle for us. People dropped baseball bats and bricks and whatever they were holding, rotten fruit. They simply stepped back. As I walked through this gauntlet of faces and looked in people’s eyes, and was actually able to smile at people, to say thank-you in a soft voice and walk through. And we got in the car and drove away.
This was a profound experience, a life-changing experience for me. It taught me the power of love, not just as something we can talk about but really seeing it in action. And I realized that we could also have been killed. And that doesn’t mean that love was any less powerful, only that that day there was so much fear and hatred that love could not hold all that fear and hatred, and so, that would have been what happened.
But it was life-changing for me. And as I look back, one of the predominant experiences that morning was the light, not just that I was within it but the light that everyone was within. The experience of a whole field of light surrounding all those people with bricks and baseball bats, us, everything was just bathed in light, and I could feel the high energy.
I’ve learned since that when I meditate and invite that experience of light, and can rest in that experience of light, whatever arises at some level will be okay. When I say will be okay, would it be okay if I had died? Well, I knew that could happen. Not likely; more likely that I could have been beaten up, injured, or showered with rotten garbage. But I truly felt whatever happened would be okay. My intention, all four of our intention, was for the highest good here, to move past the bigotry and hatred that was so predominant in this kind of small southern town, to help shift it. And only light and love and an open heart can do that.
It’s hard for me to convey to you how powerful that light was. At that point, I knew nothing about light meditation, luminosity, any of these things; only that there was a radiance and a spaciousness around everything. It’s one of the things that caused me to further investigate, what is this light? Where does it come from? But then I didn’t have any theories about it, only the direct experience.
What I’ve learned since is that this light is literally our essence. But, coming into third density human form, part of the nature of the human— nature is not the right word… I’m asking Aaron… He says yes, the nature of the human is to be capable of contraction. The nature of the human is also to be capable of spaciousness, and to know our essence as spaciousness, so that we don’t necessarily have to contract, just because there’s an impulse to contract; and if we do contract, to know that contraction as arisen from conditions, impermanent, and choose to return to the essence of light and spaciousness, even through any contraction. .
If we had a full live class here, with 40 of you sitting in the room, as we’ll have in May—or, maybe not 40 but many of you, we’d do some exercises that a lot of you have done with me before. Exercises with somebody pushing at you—just a gentle push, and feeling, feeling that gentle push and the impulse to push back. Holding space around that impulse. Vipassana is basic here. The experience of being pushed. Breathing in, I am aware of being pushed, whether it’s a physical push or emotional one, a push with fear, whatever it may be. Feeling that push. Feeling the habitual response to armor myself, to contract. Noting this push has come forth, and, based on this push, an impulse.
We have the basic chain of dependent arising. Have we talked in depth about dependent arising, in this class? A number of you have worked with this with me at retreats and so forth, so I’m not going to go into it in great depth. But it’s important, and for those who have not learned much about that, I would like to recommend Aaron’s book, No Chain At All. It’s available from Deep Spring. I think it’s available in paper format and e-format, but I don’t know if there’s a paper format available still; maybe just e-format.
So, Contact. Sensation of pushing hand. Consciousness of push. Feelings of pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Then Mental Formations. What this means is when something is pleasant, mind can move into liking and then into grasping. When something is unpleasant, mind can move into disliking and then into aversion. Aversion and grasping are mental formations. They also are based in contraction. When there is aversion or grasping, we can’t help as humans but contract. That which is aware of the contraction is not contracted. We keep coming back to this place of non-contraction.
If we familiarize ourselves enough with this innate spaciousness and luminosity of being, we find it a firm resting place wherein we can relate to the challenges of the world, and to the pushes, without becoming reactive, and without getting caught up karmically. Each object is observed coming in, held, and—I don’t want to say released, that’s too much doing—space opened for it. One rests in that space until the conditions dissolve, out of which contraction arose, and then contraction fades away. Contraction is merely an object; it has no ultimate reality. But we still must hold it in awareness. Part of the condition out of which it arose is our fear and actually trying to get rid of it. The trying to get rid of it is part of what holds it to us. It creates a magnet!
So, with a combination of our vipassana practice and these clear light practices and pure awareness practices, we develop the skill to watch contraction arising without self-self-identification with the contraction; to watch unpleasant experience arise without being a somebody who has to get rid of the unpleasant experience. Wisdom deepens. We know it’s arising from conditions and one is perpetuating the conditions. And I have a choice: to keep doing that and to suffer according, or to watch myself doing that and hold the intention to not be so caught in the contractions.
The contraction will come. It is not a matter of stopping contraction but not being self-identified with it, and not trying to fix it. “ Contraction, you arose from conditions; you are impermanent; you are not self. I hold space for you. Sit by my fire, have tea. When you’re ready to go, you may go.” So, we’re not creating a stickiness for it.
The practices that I know of that help most, here, are the wisdom practices, wherein we know what it means when we say it is arisen from conditions, is impermanent, and not self; we need to really know that as a fruit of our practice. And the heart-centered practice—the Brahma Viharas: lovingkindness, compassion, and so forth.
We begin to trust our innate ability to relate lovingly to what arises, even when there’s fear. We start to deepen in the wisdom that as we do this, we start to change the world around us, maybe very gradually. But, as we relate with love to negativity around us instead of with repugnance, gradually we stop being something that’s pushing at that negativity and trying to make it conform to our way of thinking. We express unconditional love. And eventually, negativity, in my experience—eventually—responds to that kind of love.
We’re in a situation in the world, now, where there is so much negativity. We’re all saddened by the lives lost because of this kind of negativity. But hatred only creates more hatred.
As we begin to learn how to rest in spaciousness, mindfully to differentiate between spaciousness and contraction, to hold the intention to do no harm and to respond with love— sila (deep intention to non-harm), panna (wisdom), and samadhi (meditation)—as we pull these together and we hold a very clear intention to live our lives with as much spaciousness and light and compassion as possible, and then we work on our meditation practice to deepen in the wisdom, to establish the ability to sit with things that are painful, and not to run from them, not to try to fix them, just to hold presence, gradually we experience that presence opening out with more and more spaciousness.
Many of you have been practicing for many years, and I know that what I’m describing is very familiar to you. So many of you tell me, “My life is a lot better now than it was 10 years ago because of my daily meditation practice, and because I’ve learned how to hold space for unpleasant mental formations, body sensations, and so forth.”
So, why light? For me, because it’s a clear object. When I sit with agitation, agitated body, agitated mind—breathing in, I am aware of the agitation. Breathing out, I choose to hold space for the agitation—I don’t have to destroy the agitation, which is just more agitation. I sit with it. Obviously, this happens, over and over again to us all in sittings. Suddenly, one day there’s a point where you’re sitting in a field of spaciousness watching the agitated body or mind, but there’s no self there, no one to be agitated. It’s just the agitation of—of the mammal, I guess.
We can consciously deepen this – both spaciousness and light. In my experience they come together. I can only describe my experience to you; I can’t tell you what you should experience. But in my experience, when there is spaciousness, there is light. When there is more light, there is more spaciousness. Through the years, I began to explore, why is there more light when there’s spaciousness? Simply because the chakras are open. The body energy is open. The light has always been there, but when everything is closed up, the light can’t go through. There’s no experience of that light. So, the more I experience spaciousness, the more likely I am to experience light, and vice versa.
If you do not experience spaciousness or light, there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s okay. Aaron and I will help you find other pathways to finding this place of the clear heart, of your own innate radiance. So, it doesn’t have to be spaciousness and light, but for many of you, this will be supportive. Gratitude is another open doorway. When you experience deep gratitude, there is already spaciousness and light. They may not be predominant; the experience of gratitude may be predominant. But if you then take a minute to look around—what is this gratitude; what are the expressions of gratitude that I can feel, the open heart, joy, spaciousness become apparent—full circle.
So, this is in response to why we are offering this practice of pure light. I find it helps. And Aaron’s book, Path of Clear Light, is a clear delineation of this. It helps.
So, that’s part 1 of tonight. Before we go on, are there any questions about what I have said?
John Orr: Hello, everyone; hello, Barbara and Aaron. So, Barbara has spoken about light, spaciousness as being direct experiences of the Unconditioned. Can we include energy as also something that people might experience, if they don’t experience light and radiance?
Barbara: Absolutely, including energy. And that’s actually, John, where we’re going to go next. Talking about working with the chakras and the elements as ways of helping to experience energy and light and spaciousness.
John: Thank you.
Barbara: We’re each different, and each of us will experience different parts of these expressions of the Unconditioned more strongly. Some, more the luminosity; some, more energy; some, sound— ooo, high sound. Some, body energy movement, chi. They are all expressions of the same source, and we’re each unique. Whatever you experience, your path is your path, and it’s always perfect. So, there’s no right or wrong way to experience it. I tend to teach what I experience because it’s what I’m familiar with. But I think it’s important—and I thank you, John, for bringing it up—that we each follow our own path, and our own path is exactly what we need.
John: So, spaciousness, energy, light, radiance, nada: these are all direct expressions of the Unconditioned. How can we discern the difference between these direct expressions of the Unconditioned, which we are able to experience because of supramundane consciousness—how can we discern what these are in relationship to more mundane consciousness and mundane expressions? How does one discern if one is experiencing these direct experiences of the Unconditioned—like you’ve been talking about, versus expressions that are more of mundane consciousness?
Barbara: I can only tell you how I discern it. Mundane experience—there’s light, a lamp, the sun. There’s space—a big room. They can exist simultaneously. One leads me to the other. When I sit in a place where there’s sunlight, for example, or a beautiful sunset, I often start to experience simultaneously this inner radiance. I think the inner radiance happens when there’s no more armoring; when the sunset is so beautiful, and ahh, there’s just a sense of wonder and joy, and I feel my heart opening. Mundane mind stops chattering. There’s a sense of peacefulness. The body may start to dissolve. There are no stories, no talking in the mind, no chattering.
So, it’s like a great overlay: the mundane experience as very superficial, and the supramundane experience as so vast and so powerful. But, this is how I experience it. John, how do you experience it? Can you share that with us?
John: Sure. The mundane consciousness experience is more the senses, of the senses of seeing something, or hearing something, or smelling something, or tasting something. They’re expressions of the aggregates of self, of the body receiving (inaudible— senses?) and mind and thought, those are all experiences of mundane consciousness. Whereas, the supramundane consciousness experiences of the radiance or clear light or spaciousness are as you describe, which is, there is an opening to something that we don’t normally experience with mundane consciousness, just through the sense doors and the body and the mind. So that opening to the radiance, to energy, to an inner sound, divine sound, that, it’s distinctly different than mundane consciousness and it’s expressions.
Barbara: Thank you, John. If we sit regularly and do a formal meditation practice, and pay attention, asking, “What is the mundane experience? What is the experience of this mind and body right now? And what transcends this experience of mind and body?” One way of asking that is, who is experiencing it? For me, that “who is experiencing” tends to begin to knock out the mundane experience, so that suddenly there’s this vast opening into the supramundane “no-self” .
It’s hard to have some of these experiences in a half hour sitting. Sitting a number of hours a day, sitting long retreats, this is when these profound experiences of resting in the Unconditioned more often will arise. That gives us something to look back at and check into. So, we have a certain mundane kind of spaciousness, and the little wise part of us says, “That’s not quite it.” And later on everything dissolves in light. Ah, this was much more a direct experience of the Unconditioned, free of all the overlays of the mundane senses, the skandhas or aggregates.
So, it’s a gradual process of knowing and trusting, discerning, what’s happening here. But, we can’t, for the most part, live 24/7 from that place of spaciousness, from that place of light. The best we can do is know when we’re not close to that light and spaciousness. When we’re very contracted, to say, is this what I want? What is my highest purpose here, to armor myself or to wake up, and to support the world’s waking up? And that gives us the courage to move ahead.
I hope that many of you will come either to the Oakwood retreat in October or will go to some other weeklong retreat. Even one week is quite a short period. But, give yourself at least a week of deep silent meditation with a skillful teacher.
Q: I have a question about the Unconditioned and the direct expressions of the Unconditioned. I’ve learned that the Unconditioned is itself luminous and aware, meaning that’s part of the inherent nature of the Unconditioned: it’s self-self-luminous and it’s aware. If that’s not true, then what IS the Unconditioned?
Barbara: Okay, thank you, Q—perfect lead-in to part 2, here. First, yes, I experience luminosity and awareness as direct expressions of the Unconditioned. Phrased differently, when that awake mind is fully present, there is luminosity and awareness. There may be a mundane layer too, but these qualities are foremost.
I’m going to back to reading Aaron’s talk. The talk was just posted on the Deep Spring site, the February Wednesday night talk. So, you all have access to it. I did mail the excerpt out to all of you.
So this is from Aaron’s as yet very unfinished book, “Floating Non-Duality”. There are 2 parts here: the part in which he read, on that Wednesday night, and the part on which he made present-day statements about what he read. So, I’ll go back and forth here, as I read. Aaron reading from the book:
We cannot cover the entire history of religious ideology in 45 minutes. What I wish to do is lay a foundation upon which we will build, perhaps exploring the different religious beliefs that have exploded from this foundation.
Every telling of this story is biased. I state here my bias as a highly positively-polarized discarnate energy.
In the beginning, there was no beginning! We speak here of the Birthless!
Aaron: As an aside to the reading, if it is truly Divine Source, Birthless, Unconditioned, how could it have a beginning or an end?
Of course, I was not here. I do not speak from personal experience. My understanding of it, from my present experience and my teachers, is that the infinite truly is infinite. It did not begin with a “big bang”.
(I’m going to use my hand, here, to refer away from the text and Aaron speaking, that night.)
Aaron: The big bang is simply the infinite expressing into form.
There has always been energy. One can conjecture that that energy was neutral in its polarity and through its increasing experience, moved toward positive polarity until it became the model of positive polarity.
And then that day, 20 some years ago, as Aaron was talking to Karen and I, I asked a question:
B: I have a question about the word “neutral, Aaron. I don’t even know how to phrase the question, but something here troubles me. What you say makes sense, that if it had manifest as light then it would be dual with darkness. But if it became positive, what is the relation to negative? Did it become positive, or does it just express more of the positive aspect of its still existent neutral nature, and express less of the negative?
Aaron: I am Aaron. I understand the difficulty in clear articulation. You are correct that this needs re-phrasing. If that which is neutral offers its freewill choice to express that which is positive and to release without expression that which is negative, it is still made up of positive and negative aspects. Think of it in terms of human expression. Greed and aversion may still arise in the deeply positively polarized human. Because they are met with compassion, and are not enacted, they become powerless. The arising of anger no longer serves as catalyst for angry action or speech. It serves as catalyst for compassion. Eventually when angry energy arises, there is no contraction around it at all. It is seen with compassion and that compassion serves as part of the motivation for the service to all beings. The anger dissipates very quickly.
In one sense, we would not say that this being is only neutral. It is positively polarized. We cannot say it no longer contains negativity. If that were so, there would be a duality. It is in its essence neutral with the free will decision to enact its positivity and not to become caught in the stories of its negativity. This power of intention is very important. It is not an intention enacted through force, control or further negativity, but an intention enacted based on lovingkindness.
This All-That-Is in the ultimate sense does remain neutral. But increasingly it chose to express its positivity and to release its negativity without expression. I think it is merely a semantic question whether one will call it neutral or positive. Suffice it to say that it is neutral, expressing positivity.
Then he’s coming back to the original talk:
There was no duality within this infinite energy.
I want to say we’re jumping back and forth, here. Don’t get caught up in it. Don’t worry about it. As you read what I sent you—and I hope you will take the time to read this, maybe several times through, because it’s complex, and to meditate with it—don’t worry about who said what, when.
There was no duality within this infinite energy.
Aaron: This was Source, or Infinite Creator, or God/Goddess, or Love. These are merely terms in attempt to name it; no word can capture its fullness.
This is why we call it the Unconditioned. It’s simply that which exists free of conditioning. This, perhaps, relates directly to Q’s question.
Precisely because it had begun as neutral, it contained within it both positivity and negativity. One could debate philosophically whether or not negativity is contained in positivity. But certainly, both are contained in neutral. You have heard me talk of both light and relative absence of light; here all concept of duality is voided. When this energy has moved into perfect positive polarity, any negative polarity would merely manifest as a decrease in light.
This is an important point. Had this energy originally manifest as absolute light, one could then conceive of its essential nature as dualistic with darkness. Another important factor: because its first expression was as neutral, expansion, change and flexibility are part of its essence. The principles of giving and receiving not only are not contradictory; in a non-dual energy they must both exist.
We have here-in the core of the dilemma. If this energy contains all light and darkness, “good” and “evil”, positivity and negativity, giving and receiving, the human struggling to reflect only the positive becomes entrapped by its own humanness with arisings of greed, anger and various expressions of ego-based fear.
…it comes to a question (eventually) of responsibility. If my urges toward greed and hatred are “evil” (in a dualistic sense) and antithetical to God, then my work would be to smother those urges, perhaps through practices of austerity, or through strong focusing of the mind which instantly cuts off and denies fear-based arising. Doing so does not make me a more loving person nor a wiser person, only more in control. Thus, control and power are viewed as the attributes of the Divine most highly regarded by persons of this bias. Judgment is predominant.
On the other hand, we have the view of Divine as non-dual. Here one does not need to subdue the arisings of fear-based ego, but to draw those arisings more strongly into the heart of love. Just as this infinite Energy was drawn increasingly to express Itself as positive polarity until It became the perfect model of positive polarity, so is the human who embraces non-duality drawn along this path.
Within every religious tradition that I have ever encountered in any incarnation, this schism exists. There are those who will distort the teachings of any tradition into a statement of the dual nature of the universe and will state that “evil” must be destroyed. (And each will have its own name for evil.) There are those who will focus on the non-dual nature and simply understand that darkness must be invited into the light.
It seems to me that this schism reflects an individual bias, a psychological bias perhaps. It reflects (It may reflect) a lack of maturity. Every religion attracts both old and younger beings. Younger beings are simply more fearful and less ready to be responsible.
Aaron: So, why have I chosen to pull this reading out today? Your world is becoming increasingly polarized, with many very frightened and angry people. A lot of people are pushing back from a stance of love, but still pushing, without the ability to cease judging the frightened and angry ones.
If your world is going to flourish and become the Eden that it was intended and is capable to be, there needs to be a deep understanding and— I’m looking for the correct word— sense of responsibility from each person to know that of darkness in themselves and that of love in themselves. Then, instead of hating the darkness, to cease to judge the darkness. Who do you judge? We cannot judge another; unless there are specific facts, we cannot know what they did or did not do. We cannot know why they did whatever they may be accused of, or perhaps did not do it. If harm is done, then yes, the harmer must be confronted. There is never an excuse for abusing another person (or another nation). But that does not make the harmer evil. It does not make those who give accusation evil, if the accusations are false. As my friend Ram Dass so clearly states, we are all just walking each other home, trying to move from darkness into light, and often losing the way.
How do we listen with the wisdom heart that truly can stay connected to the power of love? How do we cease to be reactive in the world? I’m sure each of you this week have heard something on the news that you did not like to hear. You contracted, you said, “No.” You became angry at the person. Equally, there may have been something that you really liked, and you said “Yes”, but with a subtle, “I say yes to that, and no to this.” Well, it’s fine to say no to what feels unbalanced to you, but not to talk about it while expressing hatred.
…This next election has the potential to be very, very nasty. I would ask all of you to consider not becoming polarized into, “This one is good and that one is evil,” but to simply hear that people have their own distortions, some of them based on negativity and even extreme negativity, on fear, on bigotry, on hatred, on greed. That does not make them bad people, it simply makes them humans. But not the humans you want for president.
… Let’s take it beyond an election. There is presently so much negativity in the world. My sense is that this is negative polarity, what my friend Q’uo calls “the loyal opposition”, pushing back because it so much fears the power of Light that is present in the world today; Light that is a very real, loving force. This Light is all-embracing. It does not hate anything, but from a compassionate stance it says no to negativity. Negative polarity is terrified of this force. It wants to be in control.
What you can do, each of you (and those who live in other countries, the same is true for your country): listen to the dialogues around you, and in your personal life also, and watch the arising of fear, of anger. If somebody points to you and says something that upsets you, or accuses you wrongly, watch the contraction. That which is aware of contraction is not contracted. Can you keep your heart open, acknowledging that this human (you) is still human, and when pushed it will contract. That’s okay. Your work is not to cease contracting but to not buy into the stories of that contraction and follow them up with words and actions that will do harm.
This is the heart of your vipassana practice. It’s a very powerful practice in which we sit quietly and watch the fly walking on the forehead. Unpleasant—don’t want it! Contracting. Breathing and holding space for the contraction. You don’t swat the fly. You don’t say, stoically, “I shouldn’t mind this.” You acknowledge, “This is unpleasant. I don’t want a fly walking on my forehead for this whole 45 minutes.” Then you allow yourself to gently brush it off, taking care not to harm it. If it lands again, you can brush it off again. But watch if there’s an energy that says, “Get out of here! Get out of here!” Shhh; allow the mind and body to quiet down. Practice some loving kindness with the fly. Eventually he’ll go.
…I feel that the world is ready for a transition into a higher vibration, ready for a transition into a much more loving consciousness, spacious and connected…
And so on; you can read the rest of the transcript on your own. So, when we come to honor this commitment, one of the ways we can do so is by discerning spaciousness versus contraction, and knowing I do not choose to remain contracted. It’s not for the highest good of myself or others. Therefore—like the fly: here is contraction. There’s a fly walking on the forehead. Relaxing. Okay, here is contraction. Leave it alone; it will go. Where is the uncontracted in this moment? Coming back to the actual non-duality of the experience. Right there with contraction is non-contraction. That which is aware of contraction is not contracted.
And then we come back to the light practice, which is one way of, just in meditation, beginning to perceive the light. The Path of Clear Light gives some good practices to help with this. Right here in this moment, where is light? Where is spaciousness? Where is open energy? Aaron says we were going to try to do too much tonight, and we’re going to save the chakras and element practices for next class.
For now, just this much. Please read through this transcript, these 6 or 8 pages, several times this week, and keep asking, in your practice: contraction. That which is aware of contraction is not contracting, etc. Who is the one who is contracted? Is there somebody? It’s just the body and mind reverberating with the push, and old habit energy. Gradually we stop building a self-identity on it. And then we move more and more into the uncontracted, into spaciousness and the experiences of luminosity, of strong nada, of high, flowing, open energy—whichever (some, or probably not all, but some of these) whichever is predominant for you.
How about if we take a stretch for 5 minutes and then Aaron will incorporate and answer questions.
Aaron: My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron. How may I be of help to you?
John: Does Aaron suggest that when we are resting in clear light, in radiance, that we also are aware when there is the arising of contraction? In pure awareness practice, resting in pure mind, pure awareness, and then as objects arise and cease, to be present with those objects as they arise and cease while continuing to rest in pure mind. In the clear light practice, especially as the clear light, the radiance, becomes very intense, I find it more difficult to be aware of objects arising and ceasing while resting in that clear light. Therefore, it makes it a little bit more difficult to be aware of contraction while resting in that clear light. Can Aaron please address this? Resting in clear light radiance, and at the same time, is it possible to be aware of objects arising and ceasing, and also the arising of contracted energy?
Aaron: Thank you, John, I understand your question. First, starting with access concentration. Objects arising and ceasing, perhaps pleasant or unpleasant, but there’s no going out to them or coming back from them. As access concentration deepens there are two subtly different pathways. If you choose the pathway to open more and more into the spaciousness—let me say it differently, because it’s not you choosing, but something within makes that choice. There is less and less awareness of objects arising and ceasing as you open more and more into spaciousness and light. Then you come to the predicament that you just described, that there’s not as much mindfulness. You’re simply resting in light and spaciousness in a high energy.
I would suggest for now—this is an instruction for now, not a forever instruction—for now, when there is a preference, is what it really is, for light and spaciousness and so forth, note “preferring, preferring, leaning toward the light.” Eventually you will experience that light with the power of profound moment to moment mindfulness, both, simultaneous. The way to come to that is to keep coming back to the intention for presence in this moment, knowing the subtle preference for light, for spaciousness, to get out of the everyday body. Do it without any aversion to the habitual pattern to move into the light. Do it without any grasping at that pattern. Just watch the whole process, and the subtle preference that leads you into the light and therefore losing touch with the direct experience— with the access concentration, if I can simply phrase it that way.
Do you understand my instruction, John?
John: I believe what you’re saying is that as there is kind of opening to the clear light, to the radiance, that there’s some subtle intention or preference to being in that light. Because right now it’s difficult for me to be in that light and at the same time be more aware or mindful of objects arising and ceasing, because of the power of the light energy. But what I hear you saying is that at this point it is okay just to be mindful that I am stating this preference or intention to be in the clear light, but not out of aversion to the conditioned realm and objects arising and ceasing. Is that correct?
Aaron: You’ve got it! The aversion is what’s predominant there, John. It’s very subtle, but the light is so magnificent, and the mundane experience is not experienced as magnificent, but can be unpleasant. So, “Ooo, I like the light! I want to go there!”
They will come together eventually, but for now, simply note the subtle contraction of preference that’s pulling you into the light, or of aversion that’s pulling you into the light, aversion to the mundane that’s pulling you into the light. Then, in a few weeks we’ll have a new instruction. But for all of you experiencing this now, yes, you want to experience this light. It’s wholesome and beautiful, joyful. But not by avoidance of anything, or you can never fully experience it.
There is a progression here, and I don’t want to delineate the entire progression. I think some of you, like John, may understand the progression from your deep experiences, direct experiences, of the Unconditioned. I think we’re talking here about the intermediary steps—not just falling into the Unconditioned but holding mundane and ultimate realms together so that there’s no separation between them.
For those who feel a bit lost with this present dialogue, please just put it aside until your direct experience seeks it out. I pause.
John: Okay, thank you.
Aaron: You’re welcome.
Q: Aaron, when I read that you wrote that the Unconditioned was neutral, it really upset me because it’s almost like saying God doesn’t really care, you know? It’s like, let all the creation do what they please. And my concept of the Unconditioned is that it’s pure love, but it’s transcendent. So, it’s not neutral, it’s non-dual, but it’s still Love. It just seems like, it hit me like a narrow way of perceiving God as neutral when for me the Divine, the Unconditioned, that Divine Source is Love, it’s pure love.
Aaron: And it is even more Love because it has chosen of its own free will to express itself increasingly as love and as light until, let’s call it 99.99% light! It still has the potential for that subtle twist into darkness. Without that possibility it could not have so much compassion for that which is dark. It could have fear about darkness. When it knows that it contains that potential in itself, it no longer fears it but has learned through eternity how to embrace that of darkness in itself without manifesting it. That makes it even stronger light and love. I pause.
Q: by the way, best wishes on this celebration of the entry into this incarnation!
Q: I think I’m closer to the other end of it, Aaron!
Aaron: You may surprise yourself to find you have another 30 years or more—who knows! Lots of time to learn and do and explore and love and be.
Q: Thank you, Aaron.
Aaron: Do you understand what I’ve said, Q?
Q: I do understand, and I thank Aaron for that.
Aaron: And you still may not like it! But, just be with it for a bit. God is Love. All the more, God is Love because God has transcended negativity. There is no duality.
Q: Thank you, Aaron.
Aaron: You’re welcome.
Q: Can Aaron please tell us the difference between pure awareness or pure mind, and the clear light? Are they a part of each other?
Aaron: Pure awareness… Give me a minute to wrap my mind around this… Clear light is an expression of the Unconditioned. All the direct expressions—of nada, of spaciousness, of strong energy, open energy, a certain scent of the Unconditioned, a taste of it—these are all direct expressions of the Unconditioned. Clear light, or luminosity, is one expression. Pure awareness is that which can discern—it is consciousness, citta, that discerns an object. Every citta takes an object. Mundane citta takes a mundane object. Supramundane citta takes a supramundane object. So, the lokuttara citta, the supramundane citta, takes supramundane objects. Pure awareness is the level of consciousness that is capable to discern supramundane objects such as luminosity. Does that answer the question?
Q: Yes, thank you.
Aaron: Any questions here in the room?
Q: It seems like when there is such deep equanimity with the arising of negativity, there is no need to bring negativity into the heart. Can Aaron speak to that?
Aaron: When negativity is simply seen as an expression of fear, and there’s no stickiness, there’s nothing in the self that’s saying, “Oh, no—no negativity,” which negative reaction makes the self sticky; it’s simply seen as arising out of conditions and passing away. There’s no reaction to it. There is still the commitment to say no to negativity in skillful ways, so it does not do harm in the world.
Why would one ever want to bring negativity into the heart? There’s a difference between bringing it into the heart— Let me phrase it differently; I think we’re using the words in different ways. A semantic issue. We bring it into the heart with compassion, not judging it but still strongly capable of saying, “No, you may not control this. You may not take over. You may not do harm.” When compassion speaks in this way, it’s so powerful. When you take it into the heart with self-identification, then you contract, and the ‘no’ becomes, not “No,” but “NO!” with contraction and fear, very different reaction. I pause.
Q: Thank you.
Q: I’d like to say something. This is a follow-up on Q’s question about comparison between pure awareness and clear light. In Wangyal’s “Vision is Mind,” the progression goes: Mind is Empty, and then Emptiness is Clear Light. It seems to suggest, perhaps, that clear light has more affinity to pure awareness than just being an expression, has more conceptual or intuitive (power).
Aaron: When we say “emptiness is clear light,” and we could say “emptiness is spaciousness,” or high energy, or the sound of silence, what we’re saying is that the citta that is capable of seeing these high vibrational expressions is open. When there is emptiness of the notion of a separate self, then pure awareness is strong. In pure awareness, rather than mundane consciousness, there’s no self, no stories, there’s just presence.
I’m not sure that it’s completely correct to say “emptiness is clear light.” Emptiness expresses as clear light. So, the shorthand in the teaching is “emptiness is clear light.” But we have to understand what we mean by “emptiness is clear light.” But, taking it one step further, clear light is… clear light. It’s the deepest expression of presence and awareness. It is one of the deepest, one of the essential expressions, of presence and awareness. So, if we say “it is this,” basically we’re just saying, here is where we can see it best.
Barbara’s garden, out there, it’s growing, but you can’t see it yet; the sprouts are underground. But the bulbs are there. When the sun warms them, the bulbs will express. Can we say that the bulbs are the spring, the flowers are the spring? I think you understand what I mean by that. The flowers exist in the winter, but they’re hidden. In the spring we can experience them directly.
With emptiness, we can experience clear light directly. Does that answer the question? I pause.
Q: It certainly provides an answer to my question, yes.
Aaron: Please meditate on it, Q. Take it into your meditation and don’t try to figure it out, but see what you directly experience.
Q: Thank you.
Aaron: You’re welcome. My clock here says 8:59, so we’re approaching the end of the session. Please take last class’s guided meditation. Listen to it on the tape or read the transcript. Try working with it. Some of you have said, “But Aaron, I’m not having a profound experience of light.” Okay! Nobody said you should have a profound experience of light. Simply be present with whatever you experience. Let yourself go up the mountain, try the practice, and see where it takes you. If you grasp after pure light, you’ll never get to it. If you notice that it’s everywhere around you, there you are!
Try it. Don’t have any set expectations or goals, other than just to experience whatever comes. Please read the pages that Barbara sent out, and from which she read from tonight. Read them 2 or 3 times. Don’t try to figure them out; just read them lightly, put them aside, and sit.
Allow this One Who Knows to put it together. There may or may not be conscious insights. See in what way it bleeds through for you. It may come through in cooking and finding the different seasonings and how they blend, and seeing that it’s all one, all one soup. So, don’t try to figure it out intellectually but let it come into your life however it wants to express.
Please practice vipassana and pure awareness. Those who have not had formal training in pure awareness, a very few of you, simply sit by a window, or outside, if the day is pleasant enough for your climate. Eyes open—ahhhh…. Look up at the sky… ahhh… look at the trees, look at the flowers, look at the grass growing, or the squirrels running back and forth. Ahhh, just resting… effortless effort. We’ll be doing more pure awareness instruction here, and especially at the retreat. I’m calling it a workshop because we will not be in full silence at all. There will be more instruction and interaction, and also time for discussion. You are all eager to get to know each other. How could I possibly keep you in silence for 5 days! You would be talking behind my back! So, you will enjoy practicing with each other. But I do encourage you to reflect on when you can have a deeper experience of silence for at least 3 or 4 days; ideally, for a week. Ideally, for 2 weeks or a month, but we’ll settle for a week.
My love to you, and I will see you again in two weeks. I wish you joy and love. I think that before I next see you, we will have spring, yes? Well, I don’t mean warming weather, but the spring equinox? Spring! Joy.
Can people be heard on this if they sing, or only those in the room? I would welcome us singing Happy Birthday to Q, whoever would like to do so, in whatever ways. And for any of you whose birthdays we have missed because they did not fall on a Tuesday meeting night, we’re singing to all of you…