Tag: dharma journal

Dharma Journal | April 2018 | Vipassana Meditation-Deeper, Clearer Seeing

Recorded at Steiner House in Ann Arbor Michigan in March 2018 during the Spring Vipassana Retreat.

Video and Transcript, the video is also closed captioned.

March 11, 2018 Sunday, Steiner Retreat, Ann Arbor 
Part 2: Vipassana Meditation | Deeper, Clearer Seeing

There are many forms of meditation; there is no one right form. What is the desired end? Why are you meditating? At Deep Spring Center we teach a mixture of vipassana and pure awareness meditation. This weekend you’re here specially to work on vipassana. I’ll touch on pure awareness just a few minutes as I talk, but not in depth.

Vipassana is a Pali language word, the language from which these teachings originated in southeast Asia. Passana means to see, and vipassana means deeper, clearer seeing. Normally we deeply see the things that are pleasant and we avert our gaze from that which is unpleasant. Vipassana invites us to stay present. When we do, we notice that some things are pleasant, some are unpleasant, and some are neutral, and how we normally relate to these experiences. When something is unpleasant, “Ooooo! I like that!” When it’s unpleasant we contract and pull away. When something is neutral we normally get bored by it and look for something else to entertain us.

When something is pleasant and we like it, that’s fine. “I like that.” But then, grasping comes: “I want that!” Can you feel the distinction? “I like it.” “I want it!” “I like it” doesn’t have any contraction to it. It’s open. Just, “Oh, it’s lovely.” “I want it! I want flowers!” Unpleasant: “I don’t like that”, free of contraction, versus “Aaack! Get rid of it!”, run the other way, with contraction. And neutral— hmm, kind of boring; where else can I go? Can I just be here with nothing? A little bit boring, nothing happening. The mind wanting something to stimulate it.

So, we start to watch mindfully, not just in meditation but in our daily lives, how we habitually relate, and we start to see the patterns. Very strong patterns like I mentioned earlier, my pattern of, “I”ll be upright when something pushes me.” To tighten myself and push back. (demonstrating push arms) push hard… (Barbara just relaxes with the push, then feeds the energy back) eventually she’ll stop pushing and then I’ll straighten up. Now, I can just keep doing that. How long is she going to keep pushing? Thank you.

I don’t have to push back. I don’t have to resist the push and tighten myself. I don’t have to run away. I just dance with it. We do this with arms. Push through… Now I’m pushing back hard! Can you see the contraction? Now I collapse with the push. Versus just dancing with it… I give the energy back. Just dancing with it. I can do it forever. As she begin to push hard—I’m dancing with it and I just kind of return the energy. And she pushes again… hard… I absorb it and push it back, return it. You can dance with it forever. This is not how most of us habitually live our lives. We harden up or we run, fight or flight, or freeze, try to disappear.

In sitting practice, we have the wonderful opportunity, just sitting, breathing in, breathing out. I am peaceful and relaxed and suddenly a fly lands on my forehead. It’s just a little tickle. It’s not really unpleasant, it’s not like something is burning me or hitting me. Tickling, tickling. I feel it, “unpleasant, unpleasant.” And I feel the “I don’t want this.” It goes so quickly from unpleasant to, “Oh no, is this fly going to be landing on my head the whole hour? What am I going to do? I can’t stand it.”

This is a vital point of practice. The touch of the fly is no longer the predominant object. My contraction around the fly is predominant. Can you feel that shift? Touching, touching, knowing it as unpleasant. Feeling myself contract, strong aversion, don’t want this. Tension, tension. Breathing in, I am aware of the tension. Breathing out, I hold space for the tension. I begin to relax, and the fly is still walking across my forehead. But I’m no longer feeling that strong degree of contraction, aversion and irritation. Then I can reach my hand up and just gently brush it away.

The experience is similar with body experience. Sitting, perhaps sitting with your legs crossed there on the cushion, and pain in the knee developing. Feeling pain, feeling pain. Same thing— same story: oh no! This is going to ruin my meditation because there’s pain in my knees. How can I find peace and meditate if there’s pain in my knees? Well, your meditation is not to find peace in a way of controlling your experience, but to open to the innate peacefulness that’s always there. To realize the power of that spaciousness and joy and peace in yourselves.

So, one notes the pain. Breathing in, I am aware of the pain. Breathing out, I hold space for that pain. We can do subtle things, like try to use the practice to make the pain go away. I’m holding space for it, I’m being kind to it, but it’s not going away. What am I doing wrong? We get into these stories too.

Instead, one notes pain as throbbing, as burning, pulsation, tingling. Then the growing aversion to the sensation is noticed, and how the whole body is hardening around it. Noting contraction. Same thing exactly as with the fly. The pain in the knee is no longer predominant. The strength of my “I want to get rid of it”, and the whole body contracted around it, is predominant. I breathe, noting contraction, anger, fear. You don’t have to give it a precise label, just contracting or aversion will do. Opening, relaxing, so that the heart is fully present with this human’s experience of body pain. Unpleasant, unpleasant. And then, very gently, I move my leg. Just once, into a different position. Releasing the pain— that’s a kind thing to do for our bodies when they hurt. But I don’t do it repeatedly, … “My knee hurts; I need to move it. (moves it) There, that’s better. Now my other knee hurts. I need to move it…. Better. Oh no, my back hurts too. I need to move that.” My shoulder hurts, my neck hurts— we can spend the whole hour trying to run away from pain rather than exploring our relationship with pain and finding the one who is aware of pain, and the deep place inside me, that can hold space for the pain and take appropriate care of the pain, without having to hold my body in contraction. My heart may be closed, the stories flowing— “I’m not going to be able to walk at the end of the sitting. My knees are going to be locked in place, they’re so painful. They’re going to have to cart me off to the hospital.” The experienced people are laughing. These stories come. If the story comes, just say, “Shhh….. Story! Story”” Quiet the story. Come back to the experience.

One may ask, “what does this story protect me form?” Often the stories are a way of avoiding something greater than the discomfort, like fear, grief, or anger.

All of these challenging experiences will come, I promise you. I want to read you a favorite poem of mine. It’s called “The Guest House”, by Rumi.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi

So our practice is not to control our experience. We’re all experts at controlling our experience. Our practice is to open our hearts and remind ourselves how to be present with love in painful and un-painful experiences— in beautiful experiences, too. How to just open our hearts.

We start with what we call a primary object. For those new to practice, it will be the breath. Feel the experience of the breath coming into the nostrils and flowing out. Try it with me. A slightly cooler sensation of touch at the nostril. Breathing in, and then the out breath, softer, warmer, touching the upper lip… (frequent pauses, not noted)

You can label it “breathing in and breathing out,” or you can just feel it. Just aware of that touch, knowing the direct experience of the inhale and the exhale. And again, the inhale… and the exhale…

As I inhale, I pick up a scent. Perhaps the cook is in the kitchen cooking food. Can others of you smell that? Subtle, a very lovely scent. It’s immediately pulling my attention from the breath to the scent. Pleasant, pleasant. So I’m still breathing, but the scent is also becoming predominant…

And now, I don’t know where the scent was coming from, but it’s gone. What’s predominant now is a kind of grasping after that scent. Where did it go? I want it back! Subtle tension. Breathing in and aware of the tension; breathing out and aware of the tension. The tension dissolving.

So this predominant object has faded away. The secondary objects have faded. I just come back to the breath. Breathing in, breathing out. Breathing in, and breathing out… As I sit here, I begin to feel the sun is no longer hitting the window. It’s not warming me anymore. I begin to feel chilly, cold. My body closes in tight— cold, cold. It’s not very cold, so it’s a more neutral sensation. I simply note it. Feeling cold, feeling cold, but it’s not holding my attention strongly. I consciously let it go and come back to the breath. Breathing in and breathing out…

Now, I cannot hear this but you can. You’re breathing, you’re relaxed, and suddenly:(tapping cup, glass, other objects on table). Hearing, hearing… (bell/gong) Unpleasant. If you’re trying to meditate it’s going to be unpleasant, whatever kind of sound it is, because you don’t want it. Somebody singing in a beautiful voice in the next room— “But I’m trying to meditate.” Or the lawnmower going, or the snowblower. “Hearing, hearing.”

So, we are present with the primary object. For the beginners, let’s let it be the breath for today. When something becomes predominant, we allow attention to move to it. We are not trying to hold our attention on the breath. That means pushing something away. That’s not being present with our direct experience of the moment. To be present in this moment, with its lovely sound, pleasant, pleasant; with its unlovely sound, unpleasant, unpleasant; with the contraction with the unpleasant; or with the pleasant. Maybe you live in an apartment and through the wall you heard your neighbor, who is a concert violinist, playing his violin. Pleasant, pleasant, ahhh, pleasant. And then he stops. “But I want more of it!” Grasping, grasping.

When we can be present in each moment with things as they are, we see the almost subtle intention to move to a story, such as, “I’ll never hear the rest of that concerto; he stopped.” Or, “I’ll never be able to meditate, the traffic is too loud.” Or the snowblower is too loud. We see these stories building up, and, my favorite response to stories is, “Is that so?” If I really want to hear the rest of the concerto I can go knock on my neighbor’s door and say, “Would you play it for me?” If the snowblower is loud, I can remember it’s blowing away the snow for me, so I’ll be able to walk down my driveway or path. “Thank you, thank you.” Or if it’s across the street and it’s not going to help me, I can just note my neighbor is getting his snow cleared. Sound, sound, loud sound, maybe unpleasant sound. Can we make space for that? And you can, you really can. Most people have not tried, but moved into that fight or flight or freeze. Get away from it, control it. Run out screaming and say, “Shut off your snowblower!”

Learning to live peacefully in myself means watching these arisings of war in myself. I talked earlier about clear comprehension. What is my highest purpose here? Is it to perpetuate a war within myself and in the world? Or to find a way to live peacefully with things as they are? With the early morning snowblower, with my husband’s stroke, where is peace?

Somebody asked me last night, is there still any joy in your life? Actually, I was talking to somebody on the phone, not a person who I know very well in terms of heart-centered discussion. He said to me, “Your life will change totally and you’ll never be happy again.” This is somebody who has also lost a loved one. I said to him, “Thank you for sharing your experience of it.”

I thought to myself when I hung up the phone, am I happy? Yes, I’m happy. I have wonderful friends! And many more of you out there, even those I’ve never met who are here today. People who I love, genuinely love. My heart is open. I’m awed by the strength of my three sons, and their wisdom and their love. I’m going to buy myself some sushi for lunch. I’m going to go and hold Hal’s hand again. And if I find he’s dying, this morning, then I’ll still hold his hand and say goodbye. But I can be happy, and that does not negate the grief.

Our practice allows ourselves to just be— just sitting with the unpleasant noise, the snowblower. “It’s interrupting my practice. I can’t practice with it.” Oh yes I can. Right here is my practice, to be present with sound, maybe unpleasant sound, and find the spaciousness to hold both the unpleasantness of it and the real joy of being. Here I am, a human— you can all hear the sound, I can’t. Imagine my joy if I could hear that snowblower! To be present with things as they are. Just sitting with unpleasant sensations like sadness and finding joy in the shared human experiences of joy and sadness! I am alive! I feel!

We call this practice choiceless awareness. We do not try to control what arises in our experience, nor do we climb on and ride it off into the sunset. We notice it. We hold space for it. We note that it has arisen out of many conditions. If you were going to go for a beautiful walk and suddenly it started to sleet, “Oh no, I was going to walk in the Arb. I really wanted to get out there and walk but the sun is gone, the sky is gray now. Oh no.” There are atmospheric conditions, and the sleet arose from the conditions. Breathing in and aware of desire, frustration, yearning. Just breathing. Whatever has the nature to arise has the nature to cease. This is true of the sleet and rain. It’s true of the inner storm.

I had 2 weeks of intense storm churning inside me, until yesterday when it really began to release. So it took 2 weeks, but it didn’t take 2 years, or even 2 months. This doesn’t mean I won’t grieve anymore; it means I’ve remembered how to hold space for the grief, the fear, the pain.

This is the fruit of the practice. And we do it just like this. Hearing the snowblower, feeling the pain in the back, knowing the grief. Watching that move from the direct sensation— hearing or touching, throbbing, whatever— to the mental formation— fear, anger, or just contraction, the confusion of, “I don’t know what’s happening.” Turmoil. What is the direct experience of turmoil? Where is it in my body? I give it my full, kind attention. The pain in my knee or back is no longer the predominant object; the turmoil is, whatever form it’s taking. And like that sleet storm out there, as I give it attention, gradually it resolves and blows away. And maybe I’m left with a pain in my back. Ahhh, putting my hand back there and touching it for the kindness. Ahhh, maybe changing my posture a bit. And then moving on with the sitting.

I know A and D are going to carry these instructions further. This is just a beginning glimpse of the instructions. And if I were here with you for another hour or for the morning, I would now have you stretch and do some walking meditation and come back and have another round of instruction. Or have you just sit and meditate for a while.

So, I’m going to leave you all and go off to my husband in his new room, where we got him settled in last night, and see how he’s doing. And I’ll be back with you tomorrow morning. I hope you all have a wonderful day. Thank you for letting me be with you this morning.

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.