Words from the Deep Spring

Unburdened By Duties



Let me give you a metaphor. You live in a city some one hundred miles from where there were people at war. You know that refugees will be coming to your city. You are the one in charge of the refugee camps. There are tents; there is food. You sit down and think of the thirty thousand people that are going to appear in your town in your next month and you feel overwhelmed. 

You try to think and plan ahead-where will we put them? How will we do it? But if each day you know you must greet, shelter and feed a thousand people, and what you do that day is just to take care of the needs of that thousand people, forty-two an hour, less than one a minute, that’s workable. Don’t worry about tomorrow, don’t dwell on yesterday, just right here, these people can be cared for.

Much of the burden you carry comes because you do not dwell in the present. Instead of seeing the fear self, the fear mind, let us call it, and how it arises and begins to obsess over what will happen here or what will happen there, you become a slave to it. 

It’s an incessant voice: “What if my mother gets sick and I need to go and see her? What will I do with my children? What will I do with my job? Will I put her in a nursing home? Where will I put her?” you’re never going to get it all worked out. 

I’m not saying there’s no use to planning, but planning is creating a plan, planning is not obsessing. If you need to plan, sit down and plan. Make a few phone calls. The children can go and stay with Aunt Sally. Make another phone call. Find somebody who can stay with the mother until you arrive. And then let it go. Maybe she’ll never be that sick. Maybe you won’t have to go down there at all. The fear mind has her sick and the children sick and an emergency at work while in actuality everything is fine.

Get to know this obsessive mind. It is the voice of that within you which wants to be safe. Everybody wants to be safe and comfortable. Your habitual pattern around being safe and comfortable is to move into a kind of control mode, most of you. And so you try to think it out and plan it out and get it perfect and then rehash the plans and see if they can be better. You don’t know how to let go. You can’t let go because you cannot yet recognize, “This is simply fear.” But it is recognizable if you pay attention. As soon as there’s this contraction and the mind starts spinning out the plans, please just note, “Ah, fear is here.”

How are you going to respond to fear? Do you scold fear? Many of you do. But kindness works so much better. What if in that moment you just sit down with a cup of tea and note, “I am afraid. I feel vulnerable, tossed by the winds of fortune. I really feel helpless and out of control. It’s an unpleasant feeling. I want to feel in control and I can’t do it because I don’t know what will happen tomorrow.”

Knowing the fear, knowing the helplessness, the obsessive mind quiets if you remember to offer kindness to this self that feels afraid. You also have to use some self-discipline. Each time fear-mind begins to obsess again say, “Shh! No. I’m not getting into that story again. I don’t need to do that to myself.” It’s partially a punishment for the shame of your perceived imperfection. It’s also a way of avoiding the real sadness that you cannot protect yourself and your loved ones. The human condition is difficult. You cannot keep yourself or your loved ones from sickness, old age or death. It’s very hard for people to accept that.

Many of you grew up watching your parents take control and then you learned to do it. Some of you learned something different from your parents, perhaps parents who were alcoholics or in some other way did not take control so much as run from pain. That’s another thing that people do. The idea is not to criticize the self that wants to run away or to be in control but to catch on to how these are habitual replies to fear and learn that you can say no. If you had a small child who was afraid, did not want to go to bed, said, “There’s a monster under my bed,” you would not scold the child. You would not slam the child’s door and walk out. You would also not get a gun to shoot the monster. You would tell the child very clearly, “There is no monster under you bed but I hear your fear and I will sit here with you for awhile. But you must stay in bed and close your eyes and go to sleep.” The obsessive mind is a child. You’ve got to say no to it lovingly and skillfully. Please observe how conditioned you are to slam the door, or to pull out the big guns!

So if the obsessive mind is not running the show, who is? There is an essence of clarity in all of you, the one who is literally “unburdened with duties.” This is the one who is unburdened because it is fully present, loving, willing to be present with fear, pain, discomfort, without compounding these, without trying to fix them or try to control them or run away from them. So there are two parts to this work: to get to know the one who is afraid, to acknowledge that fear with kindness, and to get to know the one who is not afraid.

It’s not always fear, sometimes it’s greed, or anger which are voices of fear. You get to know the different arising emotions in the mind which serve as conditions for the obsessive mind that wants to run away or to control.

The first part is to be present and see the obsessive, fear mind arise and simply know, “I’m not going to do this any more.” But you say no with kindness, truly embracing the self who is feeling pain. And the second and equally important part of this work is to get to know that strong, clear, loving aspect of your being which most of you have not given yourself chance to know.

When the mind is obsessing, you don’t know what to do because the obsessive mind is so locked into its confusion. A difficulty for many of you is that these states of confusion seem to arise pow! Like a sudden storm cloud, and you become lost in them. This is where your meditation practice is important, that you begin to recognize the approach of stormy weather before the downpour begins. Once it begins, you’re soaked. But if you recognize it you can put up your umbrella. When you lay fear aside a bit, you do know what to do.


Evenings with Aaron, February 16, 2000
For the full transcript:

Barbara Brodsky is the founder and guiding teacher of Deep Spring Center for Meditation and Spiritual Inquiry. She is a trance channel for Aaron. Deep Spring Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit. Please consider making a donation to continue supporting this work at DeepSpring.org © Copyright 2024. All rights reserved.

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