By Barbara Brodsky
Thirty years ago, when I founded Deep Spring Center and first began to teach meditation and to channel my discarnate teacher, Aaron, there were few places where one could meditate and enjoy organized spiritual discussions. The Zen Temple comes to mind, and Jewel Heart had just opened the previous year. At that time, “meditation” usually meant Buddhist meditation, although one organization in town taught Transcendental Meditation. There were even fewer places that offered any connection with spirit and specifically discarnate, channeled entities. Looking at the Crazy Wisdom Community Journal now, I see with delight all the opportunities for practice and discussion in many traditions.
I am glad that so many are seeking deeper spiritual awareness, though at times I feel concerned by an occasional comment in the vein of “my tradition is better than yours.” Better for what? Is it better to eat carrots or cheese or chocolate? It depends on what each unique mind/body/spirit needs at that moment, and the same is true for spirituality. All spiritual paths that truly teach love are working in this direction, each with their own specific tools and passageways. Each path has its own unique way of teaching and expressing the same truths, and a person is karmically more pre-disposed to some paths than others. But all are paths to higher consciousness. To me, it feels vital to keep the big picture in our minds and hearts.
Deep Spring Center does not hold to any one tradition, but is a center for deep insight into non-duality, experienced and understood through meditation. The core practices are Vipassana (or mindfulness meditation) and Pure Awareness meditation, along with practices that support the open heart.
Many people are asking the same questions. What are we all seeking? What do we all have in common? I hear, “How do I live with greater compassion and wisdom? How do I truly learn to love my neighbor as myself?” And the most frequent questions, “Who am I and what is this life about, with its pain, wars, famine, terrorism, hate, natural disasters, and the destruction of the environment?” and “How can I help?”
People come to a spiritual practice and community for many reasons. Often the start is either because we are searching for meaning in life, or because we feel worn down by life and are suffering and in pain. Belonging to a spiritual community, where new friends and the guidelines of a formal tradition may lead them into a more focused and fruitful search and practice, comforts some people and offers direction. Others study and attend classes, looking for answers to the ancient questions through the path of the intellect.
There are those who seek psychological help for their suffering, which may also be supportive for a while. However, one may gain understanding of the triggers, yet still be reactive to them, suffering because there seems to be no escape.
For me, tools offered in various traditions have been helpful on this life journey ,and Aaron and I have drawn them into Deep Spring’s offerings. Jesus asks us to “love one another,” but how do we love people who bring us pain and trigger fear? It’s not so easy. From Buddhism, the beautiful Eightfold Path guides me to moral awareness, deepening wisdom and presence, and gives me tools to love. But I was born into a Jewish family and find great wisdom there, too. I am a Quaker, and my Guru is a Hindu saint. All of these traditions and teachers touch my heart and inform my path. So does nature and the immense kindness I have encountered. This blend is my path and what I teach. It seems for most of us there is a blend—the parts will come together with some degree of ease when we understand and follow our highest intentions.
My experience is that we are all spirit, evolving into higher consciousness, as is the earth that is our home. Aaron says his understanding is that our earth is a cornerstone of expanding consciousness because here we have free will: the choice to act out fear-based impulses or to see such impulses arise and know that we can hold to a deeper truth based in loving kindness and compassion. When we respond from a loving heart, the consciousness that makes such choice literally carries a higher energy, a higher vibration (if I may call it that). Thus, as we learn to hold to a loving attitude toward all beings (including ourselves), and learn to be non-reactive and release dualistic ideas of self versus other, we are gradually inviting ourselves, our earth, and the entire universe, into a place of higher consciousness.
Buddhism offers a teaching of “the three kayas,” which I find helpful. Dharmakaya (the word kaya means "body”) is “truth body,” the awakened heart/mind. We may find this truth body in profound meditation experiences where the ego and body dissolve and we experience the core of awakened being. Nirmanakaya is “form body,” the mundane realm. We all know this one as our everyday experience. For many, the first intention is to live with less suffering, for the self and others. To do so, we need to understand the ground of our suffering as the belief in separate selves with separate needs. On the mundane level, this is true. We are each unique beings, but is anything truly separate? Perhaps a first step is to experientially understand that the mundane consciousness that keeps us to our separate selves is only one face of who we are. Are we our bodies? Our intellect? Our emotions? Our consciousness? Once we release what we are not, we can begin to open to what we truly are, individually and together, as sentient beings.
The third kaya, the Sambhogakaya, “wealth body,” is the bridge between the awakened heart/mind and our form body. When we stand on that bridge, we can use our deepest spiritual experiences to remain aware of, and connected to, the Unconditioned, the Divine, not losing sight of it and also not attempting to hide ourselves in it as escape from the trials of mundane existence. Such escape can be enticing. From a place of stability on that bridge, where the heart remembers its true being, we can reach back into this suffering world and invite others onto the bridge. From the bridge we see the suffering world, but we also know the truth of our innate radiance and divine essence. Presence, kindness, wisdom, generosity, patience, and compassion are all tools for living from this bridge.
When I keep in mind my intention to alleviate suffering in the world, and truly to help move this earth into a higher consciousness, I find much more patience and tolerance for living “on the bridge,” allowing myself to touch my own and others’ suffering with compassion and less fear. Here is where all of us can respond with a deep honesty to the discomfort of the immensity of suffering in the world and our feelings of helplessness. Each spiritual tradition offers its own ways to find stability on that bridge.
As I look over the many spiritual offerings in Crazy Wisdom Community Journal, and I think of the many practitioners in all these programs, I hope to invite all to pause and ask, “Where am I going?” What would this earth be like if we all were able to evolve beyond self-identification with the fearful, separated self, and to truly know one another as the radiant expression of the Love that is our source? How can we deepen our commitment to this evolution, for ourselves, our planet, and our entire universe? We often feel so helpless in our world today, but we are indeed powerful beyond measure.
I would like to end with the opening lines of Aaron’s book, Human. It speaks to me of the “bridge.”
My friend, you are human and yet you are also spirit. To be spirit is to rest in the core of being that is birthless and deathless. To be human is to contemplate the cessation of your conscious existence. To be spirit is to live fully in the heart of love. To be human is to know fear.
To be spirit is to offer everything. To be human is to experience the fear expressions of greed and clinging. To be spirit is to know divine compassion. To be human is to know the fear expressions of judgment and anger. To be spirit is to know your completion.
To be human is to hunger for it. Yet, to be human and to be spirit is not at all incompatible,for you are not incarnate to abolish fear and its expressions but to learn to draw them into the heart of love.
Walk by my side for a while and I will teach you.
Barbara Brodsky is the founder and guiding teacher of Deep Spring Center, a nationally known dharma teacher and spirit medium and an ordained interfaith minister. For more information, please visit their web site at deepspring.org, or email Deep Spring Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 734-477-5848.