Vipassana meditation leads to a deeper, clearer seeing. Aaron discusses how Vipassana meditation moves you into responding from your heart.
Video and transcript, the video is also closed captioned.
Transcript, there are a few edits in the transcript that are not on the video.
November 2017 – Dharma Journal
The Deeper Gift of Vipassana is Freedom
My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron. It is a privilege to be with you in this way. You know that these are not recorded the month that you see them but pre-recorded. Right now it’s a beautiful October afternoon. You will be hearing this in November. In between, we are headed to Oakwood Retreat Center in Indiana for a week of Vipassana meditation.
People often ask Barbara and me, “Why do we practice? What is Vipassana meditation? What are we trying to gain from meditation?” Such questions! Let’s start at the beginning. You are a beautiful and radiant spirit here in this incarnation to learn to respond with loving kindness to the earth plane catalysts that come your way. Sometimes it’s easy. People are loving you, praising you. Your body feels strong and healthy. The sun is shining! But if that’s the total of your experience on this earth plane, how would you learn to deepen in a loving, spacious response, when something is painful?
The past months I’ve read some to you from my new book. We hope that book will be published and available to you by early December. I made the decision not to share more directly from the book now but rather to go into something that is the ground for the book and without which you could not do the practices in the book.
First, what is meditation? You are meditation. It is your natural state – stillness, spaciousness. The sky’s natural state is spaciousness, but when certain conditions are present it fills with clouds and looks very busy. Water has fluidity, so it can move. But when no conditions are pushing it into movement it is still.
Your natural state is spaciousness and stillness when no conditions are pushing you into agitation. Without the conditions, however, you could not learn. So, there will always be that which pushes at you on the earth plane, giving you the opportunity to respond to that push – either with anger, with contraction, with agitation, or with spaciousness, letting your own unique light shine forth.
I said there are certain things that will help you to do the practices in the book, and one is to be able to discern the places where you’re contracted or agitated, where you are pulling window shades down over your light. And to discern the places where you are open – heart open, light pouring out. Vipassana meditation … this is not the only use of Vipassana, but it is an excellent practice for doing this work with such quality.
Present with breathing … the first two or three breaths may be very easy. Then there’s an itch. Attention is no longer with the breath. Itching … Which is predominant, the sensation of the itch or wanting to scratch the itch? You don’t have to figure out which is predominant. Your attention is immediately pulled to whatever is predominant. So first the itching sensation, and then wanting to scratch. It’s not the itch itself that is predominant. It’s tension. It doesn’t matter what’s holding your attention – the itching sensation or the tension. The focus is simply, “This has arisen into my experience. It is unpleasant. How will I relate to it? I can relate with kindness or with anger and tension. If I relate with anger and hostility, I create more separation from the experience and from myself, from my heart.” This is vipassana!
When I note the intention to want to push it away, and instead of blaming myself for that intention, I breathe with kindness for myself – breathing in I am aware of the tension. Breathing out I hold space for the tension. I smile into the tension. – then, and this is what I highlight in the book – then I begin to find the simultaneity of the tension, hostility, fear, discomfort, and aversion and the spaciousness.
You are all so deeply conditioned. When something pushes a button, you react. That’s how the human mind works. You’re a mammal. This is how the mammal is wired. But you are not an alligator, a wolf or a bird of prey. You are human. You may have been all of those in the past. Now in this precious lifetime you are human, and you have the opportunity not to be reactive. but to move into experiences and respond from your heart.
Vipassana – the word in Pali, passana, means to see. Vipassana means a deeper, clearer seeing. It gives you the opportunity to observe the habitual responses – the mosquito tickling the arm. Impulse to slap. If I slap the mosquito and kill it, and then my neighbor’s dog comes into my yard and damages plants in my garden, am I going to poison him? When my neighbor’s child comes into my yard with his friends, making a lot of noise, am I going to shoot them? Habit depends upon habit.
When we watch the small habit to slap at the mosquito, we can note “intention to slap, aversion to the mosquito,” and then gently brush it away. We don’t have to kill it. This heightens the habitual tendency. We also don’t have to permit it to bite. When the dog is in the yard, go outside and say, “Go. That’s my garden.” You can even yell at him to make him run away – not harming him but making it clear. “No, you may not dig in my garden. No, you may not suck on my blood.” In this way, we can learn to respond compassionately and wisely to the physical, mental and emotional catalysts of everyday life.
But everyday life is busy. It’s hard to pay attention to everything. When you’re sitting in meditation there’s nothing you have to attend to, except what is arising in this moment, in this mind and body. We start with the intention to respond with love, with kindness and with harm to none but also with a compassionate “no” when appropriate.
If you’re sitting on the cushion in your living room or at the retreat in the meditation hall, and suddenly a flock of chickens runs through, you don’t have to grit your teeth and say, “I shouldn’t mind this.” (Inaudible) The chickens are in the house. Their droppings will be all over your carpet. Get up and escort them out and close the door. Kindness does this. Stillness does this. Not, “Get out of here chickens,” said with frantic screaming; just “Chickens, out you go.” Pick this one up and put it out. Pick that one up and put it out. Close the door.
You have many flocks of chickens running through your house every day, running through your human mind-house. How are you going to attend to them? With Vipassana we’re sitting still, and we see the thought come and then the intention to enact the thought, or to stop the thought. We may say, “No, no thinking.” But the conditions were present, and the thought arose. As soon as I noticed it, the thought has stopped. I just come back to my breath. The body is a different set of chickens: neck pain, wanting to move the neck, pain, pain, unpleasant, tension. We feel the body closing up and creating more pain in the neck. Ahh compassion for this human. “Breathing in I am aware of the tension, aware of the pain. Breathing out I hold space for the pain.” Give it a minute or two to resolve a bit. If it’s still there, and it feels important to do so, gently turn the head a bit to release the tension. And then, as you close your eyes and come back to your breath, also become aware of tension that you habitually hold in the shoulders and the neck.
Thus, we return to the innate tension-free state of being, the place of spaciousness, of light, of awakeness, right there with the tension. The more you try to get rid of the tension, the more you may contract around the tension and create more tension. Vipassana practice leads us to freedom, first with these mundane reactions we have established for one or many lifetimes, such as an habitual way you hold the body. If there’s tension do you hunch your shoulders and clench? I doubt if you relax unless you have done a lot of practice. But right there with the tension is spaciousness. Where is it? Can you feel it?
The deeper gift of Vipassana, beyond responding increasingly kindly and wisely to catalysts in this way is what I would literally call freedom. We no longer find ourselves so deeply triggered by the annoying or painful circumstances of everyday life. We begin to know who we are, beyond those habitual energies, and to trust the world, to trust that you are already an awakened being, to trust that alive, radiant, awakeness of yourself and of everyone. You begin to speak to others – speaking more to that awakeness in the others – not to the personality so much as the spirit. You, yourself, begin to speak from this place of spaciousness. You begin to wake up, to know the truth of who you are. You are Buddhas. You are the Christ. You are the awakened one. You. And now with your Vipassana practice you have the opportunity to practice as is needed, in order to move into that awakeness and know it for certain. It is a beautiful practice.
I hope you will look at my instructions on the website, that you will try to attend Vipassana classes and retreats and practice, practice, practice, practice, because it’s the only way you’ll learn – with daily practice.
Thank you for this opportunity to talk to you. My blessings and love.