Tag: deep spring center

Dharma Journal | January 2018 | The Teaching of Impermanence

Recorded in Barbara Brodsky’s office. Aaron discusses impermanence.

Video and Transcript, the video is also closed captioned.

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. Thank you for being with me now in your year 2018. Do some of you remember that shift from 1999 to year 2000? Do some of you re-member 1960, or 1950? Even 1940, or 1930? Yet, this flow of time is made up of moments, seconds, fractions of a second, and in one second, everything can change. In one second, the sun goes behind a cloud, and the snow begins to fall. In one second, two cars collide. In one second, a baby is born. In one second, a flower opens. All of this arising out of conditions, in each moment.

We talk about anicca, a Pali word which means impermanence; it means everything in this con-ditioned realm is constantly changing, and there is really no conditioned or mundane thing or thought to which you can hold. Everything changing. If everything is constantly changing, why are you so worried? Whatever is unpleasant now is going to be gone. Whatever is beautiful, and you’re holding, it’s will be gone.

In dharma class, we talk about the importance of living in this moment. This does not mean you cease to pay attention; you are constantly creating and co-creating the conditions out of which the next moment will arise, so you take care of those conditions. But all the planning in the world is not going to prevent the hurricane from passing through, the forest fire from sweeping through, the sickness of a loved one, or your stubbing and breaking your toe. Yes, you can be mindful and not kick that object. But sometimes you’re in the dark and you don’t see it.

There are two important points to balance, here. One is mindfulness and presence in each mo-ment, and one is the deep intention for that which is wholesome and beautiful in your lives and on the Earth. If you live in the moment with fear, “What if this doesn’t work? What if that hap-pens?”, your fear contracts your energy field. When thusly contracted, the light can’t pour out of you; equally important, you are armored, and the radiance of the outside world cannot pour in.

Notice I’ve said, ‘outside world’ and ‘into you’ as if there’s a duality, that which is out there and that which is within. On the relative level, there is a duality. This is not that. But on the ultimate level there is no duality. Everything is part of everything else.

When you look through the branches of a tree in the bare winter, as it is now, here in Michigan, you may see the clear sky. You see the black lines of the branches and the clear sky. They both exist but, being human, the everyday perception cannot focus on both at one time. So, the gaze shifts: branches, and sky. In any moment, one or the other will be predominant.

As you live in what seems to be a dual universe, present with this or present with that, objects arising and passing away, beyond all this arising and passing away, what continues? Is there an-ything that continues? Love continues! Awareness continues! The innate, let’s call it intelli-gence— by this I don’t mean mental intelligence, but the knowing heart; the innate intelligence of being; that which is connected to everything, it continues.

So, first we speak in terms of seeming dualities, like the tree branches and the sky. The tree branch, it will fade away eventually. The tree will decay. Even the sky may fade away. The sky is a conditioned object. Love and awareness do not pass away. Love and awareness are part of you— perhaps not a conscious part, right now, but yes, they are a part of you. You cannot lose them because they are not of the nature of conditioned objects; that is, they do not arise and then pass away related to conditions. They simply are. Don’t take my word for it, though. Begin to explore the nature of unconditional love in meditation. Begin to explore the nature of aware-ness in meditation. Observe Awareness, not consciousness, not mundane consciousness, but full presence. What is this awareness? What is this unconditional love, or where does it rest?

So, yes, we have impermanence on one level, everything changing. As we recorded this today, deep snow is falling everywhere. I’m looking out the windows here; snow on the branches, snow on the ground, flakes coming down. Tomorrow the sun may shine and burn away the snow. We can’t say the snow did not exist; it’s out my window, but it has no substantial reality. It comes and it goes, and it comes and it goes, again.

Some of you, as you are listening to this, may be feeling sadness, fear, anger, or confusion. Some of you may have pain here or there in the body. This is like the snow; it exists but it has no ultimate reality. That means you need to attend to the emotion or the physical discomfort, but not to give it power by making it something solid. This, then, is the blessing of the teaching of im-permanence. If an object or experience has the nature to arise, it has the nature to cease.

Why am I speaking of all of this? Many of you are troubled by what is happening in your world, at many different levels. The politics, the United States politics and the global politics, the envi-ronment, the wars, the wildfires sweeping through the land, burning trees and homes. The hurri-canes, the floods. You cannot turn your back on these. People are suffering because they have lost their homes. Perhaps even loved ones have died.

You must always do everything in your power to alleviate this suffering. But, holding fear of what has arisen as result of conditions and trying to fix what has arisen only creates more contraction and fear. It does not support release of suffering.

You can attend to these things— to the blizzard, to the hurricane, to the forest fire, to the auto-mobile accident, to the volcanic eruption, to the political hate-throwing – with an open heart. You can respond to these with a consciousness that refuses to be drawn in with fear, but instead comes forth to attend. It’s very helpful to remember, as it’s often said: This too shall pass. But you cannot hide yourself, and say, “Well, it will pass so I don’t have to pay any attention to it.” It will pass, and it still must be attended to.

That which is best able to attend is this aspect of you is what I call awareness. So, let’s look just a bit at awareness. It is the place where you come together with everything, no separation. We sometimes talk about this in terms of interbeing. Behind me here I have a wooden altar. It looks like a shelf with legs. What is it really? It came from a tree. It’s a slice of wood from a tree. The tree grew out of the earth. The sun and rain and the soil nurtured the tree. So, looking at this altar ¬– I don’t know if you can see it here behind me— let’s use a visible example, because you can see this: a wooden statue of the Buddha (holding it up). Is it a statue? Yes. A block of wood? Yes. But it’s also the sun and the rain and the soil. It’s the wood from which it came, the tree. It’s the forester who cut the log, and the sculptor who shaped it. It’s all of those things, all part of each other.

When you begin to understand the world this way, you can embrace more fully that yes, everything is arising out of conditions and must be attended from a loving place. When necessary, one must say “no” with love. And yet, nothing is permanent so there is no reason to live your life with fear. Not only no reason, but no use. Reaction form fear only makes things worse. But you can’t say, “So, I will get rid of fear.” No. How would you get rid of it? “I will hold fear when it arises and bring it into my heart. I will remember: this fear has arisen from conditions. It is impermanent. It will pass. And when the fear passes, the radiant heart and radiant awareness, love, remain and will be present.” This is what brings happiness and an end to suffering, knowing that you are that radiance and awareness. You are that love.

As you step into this new year, watch the fear that arises about the Earth, about political situations, and about your own personal situations, and offer yourself the intention not to get trapped in that fear, but to remember, “It arose from conditions, it is impermanent. I will take care of the fear and of the conditions. And I will live with love.” In this way, you can truly make a difference in the world.

Thank you.

Dharma Journal | December 2017 | Celebrate Your Own Birth Into Awakening

Recorded in Barbara Brodsky’s living room. Aaron discusses ‘what does it mean to awaken’ and Vipassana meditation, also celebrating your own birthday into awakeing.

Video and Transcript, the video is also closed captioned.

Barbara – Hello, this is Barbara. We’re taking you on a little bit of a tour this fall – my cabin, and we’ve been in my office. Today, for December, we’re in my living room. This is where, in 1989, I started having people come for meditation classes and gatherings with Aaron. You can’t see I’m facing the fireplace, but I sat on a zafu in front of the fireplace, and people sat on sofas and chairs around the room – 5 of us to start, and then 10 and then 20, and we bought lots of folding chairs. So this was our original home, and a few of you will remember sitting by the fireplace with me and with Aaron.

I want to share some personal delights with you. You see the painting behind me. I had been teaching sculpture at University of Michigan, and making sculpture. Then I met Aaron and really shifted and became a medium and dharma teacher, and I told my parents what I was doing. My mother is a wonderful painter. In my living room here – you can’t see it – but it’s filled with her paintings. So, a few months later when I came to visit, she handed me this painting. “This is for you.” I felt so loved and so cherished for her to see deeply into what was meaningful to me and to paint this beautiful painting of the Buddha.

Maybe a year or two later my oldest son was on a year-long trip through India and Asia. He was in Dharmsala and sitting and meditating as close as one can get under the Bodhi Tree where the Buddha was awakened. Leaves fell on him. He thought, “Oh, this is the perfect gift for my mom.” So these are leaves from the original Bodhi Tree … well, not the original, but the tree that has grown up there from the seeds that took root from the original – one after another, after another, numerous lifetimes of that tree.

It’s December now, and I think December 20th Aaron will offer his Christmas stories. For many years we had a big Christmas tree here in the living room, and people sitting around – sometimes 20 or 30 people squeezed into the room – Aaron speaking from a zafu in front of the fire, sharing his Christmas stories. So I’d like you to picture that scene as he talks now. I’m going to move out of the body and let Aaron incorporate. Thank you.

Aaron – My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron. Thank you for being here with me. As you watch this in December, you’re entering the annual celebration of what you consider the birth time of Yeshua ben Joseph, Jesus, son of Joseph. We celebrate his birth, but equally important, celebrate the awakening of yourself, who also is the Christ consciousness, or Buddha nature. You’ve forgotten who you are. But I would ask you, as you celebrate his birth, to celebrate your own birth into awakening.

In November, I talked about Vipassana meditation and the power of this meditation to lead you to live your lives with more wisdom and compassion and finally truly to awaken. I trust this practice because it was the ground practice for me, for my own full awakening. I trust it because for others whom I have watched learn the practice and deepen in it, I have seen them awaken.

What does it mean to awaken? To know your true nature as truly an expression of the living Christ, the living Buddha, the living awakened one. The word Buddha … people call him the Buddha, but that wasn’t his name, which was Siddhartha Gautama. The story goes he was walking down the street after his awakening, and someone looked at him radiant and said, “Are you a god?” “No.” “Well, what are you?” “I am awake.” In that language, “I am a Buddha. I am awakened to Buddha nature, awake.” Christ has the same meaning. He was not named Jesus Christ. Jesus, – Yeshua, as I call him – who was awakened into Christ consciousness, the highest awakened consciousness, where karma is resolved, where each lives completely from the true essence of love, of wisdom.

We look up to these beloved teachers for their examples. Now it is your turn to do the work and become the awake one that you already are. I hope by the time you are seeing this, my new book, Path of Clear Light, will be published and available. In it I delineate some of the non-dual practices where, for example, that which is aware of fear is not afraid. That which is aware of anger is not angry. That which is aware of darkness and contraction is not dark and contracted but opened and radiant. You don’t have to get rid of anything, only to more fully realize the truth of what you are. You are love. You are light. Why are you so resistant to letting yourself know that?

As we celebrate Yeshua’s birthday this month, celebrate your birth into the fullest possible awakening in two ways. Watch the places of resistance to the deeper truth. “I am light. I am love.” Why would you resist? But my dear ones, if you are truly love and light, you may feel you must be responsible to be that 24/7. You are human. No one in human form can be that clarity 24/7. When the conditions are present, anger, fear, confusion, doubt – they will arise. The issue is, how do you respond to these? And this takes me back into last month’s talk.

In honor of Yeshua, if you hold him deep in your heart, in honor of the Buddha, in honor of any enlightened master, hold your intention. “What he has done I also can do. I can wake up, and I can express love, light, patience, generosity, goodness, tenderness.” I can express all of these beautiful emotions, not because I have finally gotten something from out there that allows me to do this but because this is also my true nature, just as it is the Buddha’s and Yeshua’s true nature. So, we can awaken to our own true nature and live it more and more consistently. There is nothing to get rid of. When there is fear or confusion, pause and breathe and remember your highest intention. Is it to get lost in the fear, anger, or confusion again and yet again, or finally to say, “No, I am not going to get drawn in.”?

Picture the image. You are walking by a marsh that is known to have quicksand in it. Somebody comes running past you carrying a bag. He says, “This is gold. They’re chasing me.” And he throws it far into the marsh and runs on. Ten minutes later, soldiers arrive. “Where did he go? He has the gold. Where is he?” You don’t mention the gold, you just say, “He went that way.” Now what are you going to do? It’s a lot of gold. If you try to walk into the marsh, you’re probably going to drown in the quicksand. You try it. You drown in the quicksand. It’s not a pleasant death. Next lifetime, similar scenario. Maybe he has something else precious – diamonds – he throws it into the marsh.

How many times are you going to go into that marsh, drawn by greed, knowing you will probably be trapped by the quicksand and will die, before you say, “I don’t need the gold, those diamonds. I don’t need any of it. I am free. Greed is no longer pulling me into the marsh,” and you walk on? It could be greed. It could be anger. It could be any emotion. Opening your heart, see the arising of whatever has trapped you. See your deepest intention for freedom for the highest good of all beings, to be the Christ, the Buddha, the Awakened One that you already are. Say no to whatever is luring you downward, “No, no thank you,” and move on. And then you are free – free of the old karma, free to live your life as an awake one, truly centered in love and in light.

This living of the Truth is the greatest tribute you can give to these beloved masters who came to teach you this. I hope you will listen to my Christmas stories on December 20th. There is much more I would share with you more directly about Yeshua and what he felt it means to be awake. Many long conversations with him and experiences with him taught me about awakeness, long before I ever full awakened. If he can do it, if I can do it, you can do it.

And the wonderful part is there is nothing to do— you are already awake – only to let go of the idea that you are still enslaved. And indeed you are enslaved if your mind has not resolved itself with the old stories. Let go of them and come to know your true being. You are light. You are love. Nowhere to go, nothing to do – just joy, wonder, presence, and being.

On this December day I thank my beloved brother Yeshua and my teacher Siddhartha Gautama for all they have given me to allow me to know that I am awake and fully to pass that knowing onto you. Thank you, and may you have a blessed holiday.

The Path of Clear Light

The Path of Clear Light
by Aaron expressed through by Barbara Brodsky

ISBN 978-0-9745552-1-8
$16 + $4.00 shipping (U.S.)
(Contact Deep Spring office for Canada and international shipping)
Place Your Order

Barbara Brodsky is a dharma teacher who leads meditation retreats and spiritual inquiry workshops worldwide. She is also the channel for the spirit, Aaron, and, with him, has offered personal spiritual direction sessions, classes, meditation retreats and group workshops since 1989.

Foreword from Barbara

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita.(1)

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,

***

I cannot well repeat how there I entered,
So full was I of slumber at the moment
In which I had abandoned the true way.

I first read these lines from Dante’s Inferno at age 18, in an advanced Italian literature class on The Divine Comedy, and they were my awakening to the noble truth of suffering. Not that I was unfamiliar with suffering before that, but I had tried to deny it existed, or blamed myself for it, questioning,

“What’s wrong with me?” as so many of us do. We all find ourselves in that dark woods, some early in life, some later on. Most of us arrive slumbering. Now here was a revered author speaking of the reality of suffering, its causes and a path out.

When I met Aaron I was suffering acutely from the new experience of deafness and my great aversion to it. Gently, Aaron led me on a journey, far more profound than Dante had decades earlier, because Aaron reached my heart, not just my brain.

In this book, Aaron presents the main path on which he had led me for the past 30 years. He calls it The Path of Clear Light. It is my hope that this short but profound book is as life-changing for you as Aaron’s walk with me on this journey has been for me.

May this book be a blessing to all who open it’s covers.

Barbara

(1)MLA. Dante Alighieri, 1265=1321. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise, New York: The Union Library Association, 1935.

__________________________________________________________

As I go through the Aaron material, I am struck by its sophistication and its lightness, its clarity and its beauty.
  – Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now, and many other books

The voice of Aaron is a vessel of wisdom, arising directly from a deeply compassionate awake presence. Reading these teachings will turn you towards the radiance of love of your own awakening heartmind.
– Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance and True Refuge

Clear dharma; living non-duality.
– Lama Surya Das, spiritual teacher, author of Awakening the Buddha Within and other books

Interweaving teachings and experiences from several traditions, Barbara Brodsky and Aaron open us to new dimensions of understanding and dharma. It’s a fascinating and illuminating read.
– Joseph Goldstein, author of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening 

For many years I’ve been moved by the wisdom that flows from Aaron and Barbara. Based in solid dharma, their message is profound, timeless and filled with unconditional love. Highly recommended.
– James Baraz, dharma teacher in the Theravadin tradition and author of Awakening Joy: 10 Steps That Will Put You on the Road to Real Happiness

With the clarity and kindness of a deeply wise spiritual friend, Aaron illuminates a path for revealing the truth of ourselves as loving, luminous beings. Reading through these pages naturally moves us to rest in the spaciousness and radiance of a boundless heart, coming to know it as our deepest nature – our true home. It’s rare to find this level of depth in a book so accessible.
– Aura Glaser, author of A Call to Compassion

I have heard and practiced Aaron’s teachings for many years. They are filled with deep wisdom and love. This book is a clear and concise culmination of his teachings on the simultaneous experience of relative and ultimate reality and the practice of Clear Light.
– John Orr, guiding teacher of New Hope Sangha, Durham, NC

 

 

October 23, 2017 Monday, Oakwood Retreat, Barbara’s Intro

October 23, 2017 Monday, Oakwood Retreat, Barbara’s Intro

Barbara: I offered a very short few lines of introduction at the start of our go-around. We finished in time, so there are a few things I’d like to share. I grew up in the 1940s, and talk of the Holocaust was dinner table conversation; about extended family who were caught there and nobody knew what had happened to them, about people known and unknown. I really didn’t understand what they were saying, just, that people were being killed. I asked, how can people kill each other like that? How can people be so cruel to each other? I was maybe 5 or 6 years old. I really didn’t want to live in a world where people would be that cruel to each other.

I was a reasonably happy little girl. I went to school, played with friends. But I spent a lot of time crossing the road to the woods and pond that were a short walk away. In those days, 6 year old girls were free to walk into the woods and nobody said, “Oh, you’ll be in danger.” I had to take my big collie with me. Other than that, I was free to go where I wanted, as long as I told people where I was going and when I’d be back.

It was a small pond across the road, maybe 2 or 3 acres in size; it had an island in the middle. I could swim; I was not forbidden to go near the pond. I built myself a little raft; I found pieces of wood and tied them together with cords. The water was only hip deep near shore. I had a stick and I polled my way to the island, maybe 20 feet from shore. I would go to the island, and, I didn’t call it meditation but I would just sit and be quiet. The being I called “the man in the clouds” would come and talk to me. It was Neem Karoli Baba, who has been my guru all my life; his picture is on the altar.

He taught me jhana. He didn’t give it a label. He didn’t call it meditation. He just taught me step by step to move through the jhanas. Remember, I was probably 6, 7, 8 years old. I moved through these very blissful jhana states, and then would go home and look at a world where people were killing each other. I thought, I can’t do this. More and more, all through elementary school, I would spend my afternoons drifting around in the jhanas, blissing out in the jhanas. It was a great escape.

Finally when I was about 11 and going into junior high, Baba said to me, “I’m not going to be readily available to you anymore. You need to get back to the human world. You need to connect as a human.” “Don’t go away!” But I had no say in it. Obviously if he was not going to be available, he was not going to be available.

He gave me that year, and I have this written in a childhood diary, my spiritual name, Shanti Das, Servant of Peace. I asked him; I had no idea what the words Shanti Das meant. He said, “Your first work is to understand your name, the translation of it, what it means, and then how to do it.”

I spent a lot of years trying to figure it out. Finally I found out it meant Servant of Peace, and I said, “Oh, well, I’m a pacifist!” I was a Quaker. I was a very militant Quaker! I have a photograph somewhere in my attic of myself picketing in a canoe on the Thames River in New London, CT outside the Electric Boat Company where they built nuclear submarines. They would send PT boats after us. You can maneuver a canoe much faster than you can maneuver a PT boat! We would play cat and mouse for a long time. They were not going to make a martyr of me and launch the submarine on top of us. They had to delay the launching of the submarine until they caught us. I was thrown in jail a few times. The dean of my school, Connecticut College in New London, where this was happening, was also a Quaker, and she would come and bail me out. Finally, she said to me, “Is this okay with your parents?” I said no, and she said, “Well, considering they’re paying your tuition, maybe you need to stop doing civil disobedience until they’re no longer supporting you.” And that made sense to me. So, I sort of stopped. But I was still a militant pacifist.

Fast forward. What does Servant of Peace mean? This has really been a lifelong question for me. What does it mean to be a servant of peace? What is peace? For many years I asked the question. Then I married Hal, we had children, I lost my hearing, all in fast succession. I really wasn’t spending much time trying to figure out what was a servant of peace. I was trying to figure out, how do I live this life with the enormity of suffering of losing my hearing? There was a lot of anger, a lot of fear.

I prayed for help. I was feeling very stuck, because— my life was good. I have a loving husband. Our 50th anniversary is next May. I have 3 wonderful sons, beautiful daughters-in-law, grandchildren, work that I love. But back then I was so angry. Why did this happen to me? Am I being punished? What is this life about? The questions you’ve been asking. Who am I? Why am I here? Why did this hurtful thing happen to me? I prayed for help.

I’m capsulizing this, but almost immediately after that prayer I came into my living room to meditate and there was a spirit there. That is the only way I can phrase it. There was this powerful energy. I could see him, feel his presence. I said, “Who are you? Why are you here?” He said, “You’re suffering. Let’s look at the causes of the suffering.”

I had been meditating all my life, and doing a practice very similar to vipassana, self-taught. I knew nothing about Buddhism. I knew nothing about vipassana specifically as a form of meditation. But I had moved from jhana practice to what looks like vipassana, just present in the moment, watching what arises, holding it with presence. But I had a subtle tilt to my practice, where when something unpleasant arose when I was sitting, some body pain or emotional pain, I would pull my attention back, move away from what was unpleasant, to my breath or the luminosity  that I often used as a primary object. Because of the jhana practice I knew how to shift myself into a very peaceful place. So I was using it as a way to escape the discomfort, unwilling to go into the discomfort.

Aaron began to teach me so lovingly. Basically, his first teaching to me was the Four Noble Truths. You’re suffering. The suffering exists, it’s real. Let’s look at the causes of the suffering. And the suffering is not from being deaf; the suffering is from the grasping at not being deaf, the hatred of the deafness. I said, well am I stuck here forever? No, freedom exists. I didn’t know this was the Four Noble Truths. Just, you’re suffering, yes. The cause of the suffering is the grasping, the fear. Freedom does exist. And then the beautiful Eightfold Path.

The Eightfold Path has three parts. Sila, moral awareness. Well, I really had that established through the earlier part of my life. Samadhi; I had that established. Wisdom, not much, not much at that point. So, the deepening of wisdom is what was needed.

His early teaching to me, whatever has the nature to arise has the nature to cease, and does not belong to you. It has arisen out of conditions. He helped me to understand how to be present with what arose with an open heart. It is unpleasant or pleasant. If it’s unpleasant and aversion arises, be present with the aversion. If it’s pleasant and grasping arises, be present with the grasping. What is grasping? What is aversion? I began to develop the wisdom to see that it simply is arisen out of conditions, and as long as those conditions have not been purified it will continue to arise; and that the only way to purify those conditions is with love.

At this point I still was not looking at the “what does it mean to be a servant of peace?” Just, how do I get out of the suffering trap? But gradually his teaching really took root.  I started to understand that the peace that I was seeking for myself had always been there, and that I couldn’t really lose it. But I had gotten it so covered up, just mucking around in all these theories: if I do this, if I do that, how do I fix it. I had to just let it all go; to really open my heart and just be here with this beautiful Earth, beautiful friendships, beautiful dharma, and with the enormity of pain of sentient beings; just opening the heart.

The jhana practice had taken me, many decades earlier, to a blissful place where I avoided mundane consciousness. But now I was able to move into the deeper vipassana practices, where the mind and body dissolved; body and ego dissolution. Aaron was teaching me more and more about what he calls awareness, as differentiated from mundane consciousness. Eye touches an object: seeing consciousness. Ear touches an object: hearing consciousness. Body touches a surface: touching consciousness. Thinking consciousness, when the mind touches a thought.All of these are based in the mundane realm

There’s a part of practice with which some of you are familiar with that’s called access concentration. It’s a place where the practice is developed to the point that awareness watches objects arise and dissolve without getting caught up in stories about them. There’s no self in it, just, the sky is blue then a cloud blows across, and then the cloud blows away. Not, why is that cloud hanging over me? No stories, just here it is and there it goes. So eye consciousness sees the cloud come and sees it go. Awareness rests in the spaciousness, seeing the cloud and the absence of cloud, the whole picture.

Gradually I started to find what true peace is, what true joy is. I am so grateful for my life. I am so grateful for Aaron and all the teachers that have supported my path. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to really be a servant of peace by bringing these teachings to people like yourselves, and helping you to realize it for yourself. I can’t give it to you; I can only be like that finger pointing to the moon. Where is the moon? Up there, but I can’t transport you to the moon; your practice transports you. I can’t transport you to liberation, or peace, or joy, but your practice does. It’s a practice of so much love and so much joy and gratitude and freedom, of peace. But it asks of us a willingness to be touched by suffering until it goes through us, without resistance, and the heart opens to hold it all.

I’m very glad to be with you here this week. We have 6 days, which is in some ways a very short time and in some ways a very long time. A lot can happen in 6 days. It’s intense because you’re in silence, and the silence is so beautiful. Please honor the silence, for yourselves and for others. This means more than not talking but finding the inner silence, right there with noise and agitaton, with contraction and pain.

Watch the impulses, all the impulses, not just the impulse to talk or whatever, but all the impulses. Watch the feelings. Watch the body sensations. Watch the emotions, and develop for yourself the wisdom: it’s all arising because the conditions are present for it to arise, and when the conditions cease, it will cease. It is not me or mine. This is wisdom. It’s a beautiful dharma.

So this has been a bit of my story, my spiritual path. One more thought; most of you know I was a sculptor for much of my life and taught sculpture at the University of Michigan. I was making 8, 10, 12 foot bronze sculptures that spiraled around and moved. I would go into my studio and sketch these, and build them out of copper tubing and then build them together. When I finished them, a name came to me: Lael, Ariel. Who’s Lael? Who’s Ariel? But then, after I met Aaron, these beautiful entities came and introduced themselves. “Thank you for doing my portrait— I’m Lael!” “I’m Ariel!” It feels like my life has come together in a perfect way. Now I can channel some of these entities whose bronze portraits I did, and allow them to speak for themselves and share their wisdom.

That’s all. My love.

Buddhism: A Non-Traditional Tradition

From Barbara Brodsky

Barbara: Looking back, I feel Deep Spring Center began in a fortunate way, unfettered by bonds to any specific tradition. My own spiritual path for much of my life was as a Quaker and through Quakerism I found my introduction to meditation. Through three decades my meditation practice evolved into practices akin to vipassana and dzogchen but free of labels, forms and cultural attachments. When I finally directly met Buddhism itself, my meditation was already well established. Thus, I was able to try on the forms and experience them deeply without any sense of attachment or obligation to a specific tradition.

When I began to teach I did so totally without outer form or ritual. Most of those individuals drawn to join me were not Buddhists. They were followers of all religions and of none, people who aspired to live with more love and skill, people who realized that an experiential understanding of mind/body process and a deeper opening into the heart of being were paths to freedom. Within a few years, Deep Spring Center was established as a non-profit, non-denominational center for the teaching and practice of nonduality. Thus, the Center found itself in a different situation than dharma centers which reflect a specific tradition and incorporate the forms of that tradition into the practices. The foundation practice was simply a balance of insight meditation and various purification and heart-centered practices.

If this dharma door was to be accessible to people, it was important not to lodge the teachings in any one system of thought but to use whatever language gave people clearest access. If through vipassana practice I experience emptiness or impermanence, these are not “Buddhist” experiences. Resting in pure heart/mind is not an opening to “Buddhist” awareness. Of course these are universal truths or they would not be truths. Buddhism provides a vehicle to point us to the experience and a terminology with which to discuss those truths.

What phrasing will make these teachings/practices available to a non-Buddhist student? What will obscure it? I was moved on a ten day retreat by the experience of a deeply Catholic woman, weighed down by an inner sense of unworthiness, bent posture reflecting that weight. We worked with vipassana and also with tonglen, or “giving/taking” practice. I had suggested that as she worked with tonglen, drawing in suffering, she release it to Jesus. After some days she knocked on my door late one night, positively radiant, standing tall instead of stooped, and announced to me that the unworthiness was gone. “Jesus took it,” she reported.

I came to see that, like myself, many students had been alienated by the outer trappings of the religions in which they were raised. Of course, at best the forms are expression of the essence but often that was not what we experienced. We had looked for depth from spirituality and found what at first glance seemed to be only empty ritual and words. With such confused childhood models, we grew to refuse those forms as we sought essence.

Yet, as the guiding teacher, I had to ask what we had lost by not participating in these traditions? What part of that which has been lost is frill and what’s essential and how do we replace the essential without immersing ourselves in specific religious or cultural tradition? The answers are only slowly emerging. Our present approach is not an answer with a capital “A.” It is a path, ever evolving because each person who walks through the door is unique and will have their own best way of entering it. I find this whole path is part of our creation of a unique Western Buddhism. This is not a process. With “process,” there is already a plan and a self to activate the plan. This path is just being, present without any knowing, present in each moment with whatever we find there.