Q: Can you tell me how to get rid of attachment and aversion?
It’s not about eliminating (getting rid of) anything but seeing that it’s all arising in you – consciousness. This is awakening. Experiential focus or identity is shifted from the foreground (phenomena) to the background (consciousness). When this is recognised to be true in your experience the need for elimination of ANYTHING disappears. All is accepted as an arising in you, and this is true freedom. From this, peace is found and suffering is eliminated. Suffering is the lack of acceptance of WHAT IS.
Let me give an example to illustrate why this recognition is actually the most fundamental recognition of awakening.
Just as the clouds appear and disappear in the sky, phenomena (thoughts, feelings, sensations, etc.) are appearing and disappearing in you. Is the sky any less the sky just because it has clouds, or a storm in it? No. Are you any less YOU if there’s something arising in you? No.
We become either attached or averse because we mistake the phenomena for ourselves. We believe we are good or bad, right or wrong if we have certain experiences (phenomena) showing up and so we try to keep or get rid of these things. Consciousness makes no distinction, consciousness is ALL that shows up, ALL THAT IS. No separate piles of good consciousness to keep and bad consciousness to get rid of, no separation at all – just a continuous flow and play of life appearing as different forms and experiences.
It’s only the limited human ego (mind) that judges and says what should or shouldn’t be. If you can see through this and understand experientially (not just intellectually) that this is the futile continuous hamster wheel of the mind, you’ll come to the end of needing life to be anything but WHAT IT IS. You’ll see that the peace, freedom and stability that you seek is in fact right here when the seeking is dropped. When the hands of life let go of the grasping for what ISN’T and accept what IS.
Keep quiet, let all judgements cease, and what you are left with is what is. If this can be accepted into your heart, then you are free, then even if attachment or aversion show up… they will be seen as yet another phenomena arising in YOU, consciousness YOU. And the beauty of it is… you need nothing to be what you ARE.
Don’t be tempted to listen to another’s heart as each heart has its own way, its own movement that when allowed to fully shine sings its own song. Your song is unique and makes you YOU. No wrong notes, no right notes… just YOUR notes.
More often than not all it takes is simply getting out of your own way, getting out of the mind and taking your hands off the tight grip of needs and wants. It takes a willingness to get quiet and innocently listen. The song of the heart never stops singing, we just get good at ignoring it under the weight of expectation.
So let your heart sing with the fullness of its voice, the fullness of its love.
- Martyn took this photo of me the other day and have to admit, I don’t really recognise myself – and this was a bit of a shock at first.So much has shifted these past years and months that the image that I once had of myself, is no longer there, it no longer fits.Now I see a lioness, a strength, a power, a vulnerability, and an openness and it’s beautiful to see. I see someone who is sitting in the pocket of who she is, finally comfortable in her own skin. That process has been amazing to watch and certainly very intense to live.As I write this I get a flash of collective ‘should’ saying “You shouldn’t say things like that out loud, you should be more modest and humble, you’re being egotistical and attention seeking.” But the truth is that to not acknowledge this is to dishonour life and the changes and growth that we all go through. To take a moment to really sink into this acknowledgement, to take stock of the shifts and changes in life is a good thing. It brings with it so much gratitude to life, gratitude to the lessons, the gifts and the humblings that it has shown.It’s not personal, I’m not saying it with a puffed out chest, I’m not saying it for any gain or need for validation; it’s just an observation of what occurs when life is fully allowed to flow and live into every crack, and every corner of existence. When the shell of conditioning is broken. It happens to all of us if we care to look, if we care to let it in. I’m acknowledging the change in myself with the hope that others might be encouraged to take a look and see it in themselves too.I’m pointing this out because I always promised myself to use this platform of my blog to be honest, to show all aspects of so called ‘awakening’, to not sugar coat and present only one side of myself, but to bring awareness to all aspects of life on the path of self discovery, as well as bringing the ideas of awakening back down to earth, back down to the lived reality.In fact I came up with my blog name Beyond Imogen four years ago at the start of this unfoldment and process of what felt like being born again. Now I stand in some ways, completely and totally beyond the Imogen that I once was, almost no remnant is left. But in other ways I am completely and totally Imogen like I never was before. So totally and fully grounded into this experience, living it all without apologies.To not acknowledge this is a false sense of coy-ness. To not acknowledge the power and presence and rawness that courses in every moment is to deny the beauty and vibrancy of life.So I look at this photo and I am in awe, Martyn captured something. He captured the dramatic recognition and effect of just how much has changed.The old Imogen does not exist anymore. This Imogen has a wildness, a strength, and openness, a realness and a vulnerability about her that never was present before. This new Imogen doesn’t care what others think of her, she doesn’t care about self image. She just IS.And I bowed to that.[Photo Credit: Martyn Webber]
There’s a tendency to avoid dealing with the subject of mental health in some spiritual traditions and teachings. To poo poo inner work and growth, to try to meditate away ‘negative’ emotions, reactions, thought patterns and conditioning. But spirituality and spiritual awakening is not a panacea, it is many things and in some ways a lot of the “problems” of the mind do in fact disappear. But in some ways post awakening the work and cleanup becomes intensified and it can become even more important to address and give attention to anything that’s still arising. This can be when some of the true work begins, because the strategies that have stopped you from looking beneath the covers of the mind dissolve.
It is the embracing not the running away that allows one to look at where the stored traumas, memories, reactions, conditioning and energetic imprints are having an impact on the current moment, your current experience of life. So in some ways it’s only then that you can truly move through and on from the issues or patterns that may have plagued your life.
We all know someone, or maybe ourselves that have experienced mental health issues, and yet it’s still so hard for society as a whole to acknowledge, embrace and talk about. Why do you think we even need to have a ‘World Mental Health Day’. We’re too quick to try and fix, instead of taking the cues that are being shown. Those cue want to be heard, want to be seen. Not fixed or forgotten about, or covered up, or shoved under the carpet; but instead seen and heard and embraced like a small child looking for love.
There is no manual about how to live life. It’s difficult and there are no singular right or wrong answers that apply to all. But especially when we pay too much attention to what those around us, and society are saying about how we should feel and act and be in life. Often the first thing to go when we try and fit into something that we feel we should be fitting into, is our sense of internal well-being and peace.
The term mental health is a catchall for many experiences and often comes measured against a theoretical blueprint about what it is to be ‘normal’. This is massively problematic, particularly as from everything I can gather, there is no normal. And beyond that… often these things that we fear are ‘abnormal’ about ourselves are actually experiences that our friend, our neighbour, our family member, the stranger on the bus are also feeling and experiencing too.
The mental suffering comes in when we falsely accept that our experience is wrong – that we ‘shouldn’t’ be experiencing x, y & z. I’ve often said to people that I encounter along the road of life who tell me that what they are experiencing is wrong or broken, that what if they were an alien who had just arrived on Earth and were told x, y & z is completely correct to feel, what then? What would their relationship to x, y & z be? Would they think it wrong? No.
So it’s often our relationship to how we perceive what we’re experiencing that causes it to be wrong or right, to suffer it or not. What if we were taught happy is bad, sad is good? It’s our labelling of experiences that determines their value and therefore where we derive our sense of value in life. What if we were to drop these labels and sit in the pocket with our experiences. To not run away from the ‘bad’ and towards the ‘good. But to feel all.
I feel this is true mental health. To attend to all that’s arising with awareness and compassion, without labels and judgements of right or wrong.
Mental health assumes there is a good health and a bad health. It measures this good and bad against the idea (or ideal) of normal. But show me normal, find me who it looks like? We have to face facts, there is no one-size fits all. There is no ‘normal’, just life playing out as it does with all its colour and variety, shapes and sizes, all its seeming paradoxes and diversities.
- Letting go of a specific image of safety and security is so tricky. But life calls this of us again and again when we get too comfortable putting our stability and sense of security into objects and ideas that in their fundamental nature can’t provide that for us except temporarily.Can you find your home, your safety, your energy and the warm embrace of love in something far more stable… your SELF?It’s to deepen and sink fully into that recognition and then all the other phenomena can and does come and go without the ‘need’ for you to depend on the ephemeral for any derived sense of stability and peace. Find that which is unchanging in your experience and it will lead you home to an unshakable okay-ness and acceptance of all that Grace presents you with on your path of life. True freedom.
One of the biggest helps for me to move beyond my conditioned responses and traumas and to heal and integrate them has been learning how to cope with strong and intense emotions – which for the record I was pretty fantastic at avoiding for most of my life!
I would say that when all the strategies for avoiding no longer worked the only way to turn was through and into them. It was a case of let go or be dragged but turning into them was definitely the last thing I would have originally thought would be of help, go figure ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
For me this was learning to hold emotions and energetic arisings like you would a small child in a loving embrace, to pull them closer and say, “It’s okay you can be here. I don’t need you to change or be gone, you don’t need to be fixed or healed. You can be just as you are for as long as you need. You are also free to leave if and when you’re ready to as well.”
It was Adyashanti that first introduced me to this idea of embracing not running away from difficult experiences. To lovingly hold what is arising tenderly closer than close in my heart with the deepest compassion and patience, to let whatever is showing itself to just BE. And in this way whatever is coming up in the moment gets to be fully heard and met, not cut short or rushed but just patiently allowed for as long as needed. There’s no waiting or willing anything to be gone, just the full acceptance that if it’s there, then it needs to be there. To unconditionally allow, accept and embrace with compassion and tenderness.
And so in this I have learnt to not run, to not avoid, to not change or reject, or try to morph, transmute or even heal anything. But to just innocently and patiently accept and love anything that can and does show up in the field of experience.
This was and is one of the most powerful tools in my tool box of life, allowing me to come to a place of deep peace and okay-ness with whatever shows up. I’ve also noticed over time this has spontaneously become a big part of how I meet others too, it’s seeped in not as ‘something I do’ but as a by-product of meeting myself this way continuously. The work started with me.
I know there’ll be those of you well versed in non-dual teachings that will ask “yes, but WHO does the work?” So let’s not be coy and beat around the bush…. yes there’s no ‘I’ to ‘do’ the work but you can be damn sure that nonetheless the work sure does show up to be done! And for me it was almost as if that work could only really truly begin in earnest once the false ownership of ‘I’ was let go of and the inevitable flow of life came rushing in.
I don’t have any method of teaching or techniques to hand out, but if I were asked what was most helpful to me where the rubber meets the road in terms of the practical embodiment of life; the act of tenderly embracing whatever showed up was the most pivotal turning point of my experience. Whether you take that as a prescription or a description… I leave that to you to discover.
Do not shrink into smallness
Let yourself roar and feel fully into your inherent power.
Your power is found in the courage to be you,
to fully present ALL of you.
To cease with the judgements and accept all of your wholly divine messy humanness as your own.
To not second guess and hide yourself for fear of shame and judgement from others.
To let them see you, really see you in all your glory, in all your power.
Power is not an ‘evil’ blunt instrument that gets indiscriminately wielded around.
Power has many faces.
Power is found in full on vulnerability and openness
Power is found in the soft tenderness of heart
Power is found in the depths of sadness and heartbreak
Power is found in all the bits of yourself you can’t yet met
Power is found when living on the knife edge of exploration
Power is found saying no in order that you follow your yeses
In love and acceptance, there power resides.
So don’t be afraid to stand in your power.
Don’t be afraid to turn up to your life in a completely unapologetic way.
Own your power, don’t shy away from it.
In relationships we have to trust and we have to communicate. It’s a constant leap of faith to say the things that we think they won’t want to hear and we won’t want to hear the answer to, to constantly face the fear of rejection and hurt.
But if you do take that leap of faith and trust, then it’s my experience that life constantly surprises you. It’s such a beautiful thing, but it’s scary, terrifying in fact. I’ve been with Martyn for 15 years and it’s STILL scary. I still have to take a breathe at first sometimes before I say something that is tender and edgy for me, something that I’m not sure of his response to.
This feeling of fear doesn’t disappear over time, you just get used to it. You learn to know it, you even learn to love it because it tells you where your edge of comfort is. It never fully feels safe to share those things that you don’t want to share, because it’s NOT safe. It never feels safe because when you reach an edge of yourself it’s ALWAYS scary. It’s not about the other person, it’s about you. It feels scary to you because you can’t guarantee the response and that’s terrifying, and that doesn’t stop.
If it does then you’re living out of truth and in a fantasy of your own making, because the truth is you can NEVER guarantee what’s going to happen, or what someone’s response is going to be.
So speak even though it’s scary, give them and yourself a chance to deepen and grow. Relationships aren’t easy. They never stop being a constant leap of faith. It’s very much a part of it, and that leap of faith is happening every single second if you’re lucky enough to be in a nurturing relationship. If you’re lucky you are relating new and fresh every moment, every second without reference to past or future and that is both wonderful and terrifying.
It’s opening your chest up, your heart, and trusting. Sometimes your heart gets hurt, but if it stays open life and love goes even deeper than the hurt and that is truly magical. Because with great risk comes great reward.
That risk is terrifying, love is terrifying, so it’s okay to honour that and feel that. But I encourage you to step forward even so, to open your heart wide. Only you can do that. Love is magical, love stretches you to capacity and then stretches you some more.
Love is all there is.
When we show ourselves to others, fully open and vulnerable with our hidden tender aspects, without self censoring and hiding, we step into the conversation, into the relationship in a new way. Through this we also invite others to free themselves of their constraints and speak their tender truth too. It’s a true gift, the gift of openness and love.
Come as you are, no agenda and no expectations, heart open and ready to be met. There are no boundaries between us, no gulf to be filled. Meet me in this moment where you are, without pretence, without posturing or needing to be anything or anyone. Without judgements of good or bad, better or worse, just tender openness.
If you find yourself being uncomfortable been seen fully without a mask of pretence take a breath, it’s in those moments that it takes great courage to stay open, to stay present, to stay vulnerable and trust.
There is a great strength in vulnerability and openness, a strength and power that brings with it such freedom and sweetness that all else melts away in that moment.
This is my invitation to you, to meet your fear of being seen and judged with the fierce love of courageous openness.
When we experience a strong emotion or felt response to life there is a call to be present, a call to sink into it. It’s not the moment to run away and avoid. It’s not the moment to reject and try with all your might to change the course of life. Life is giving you a gift, an opening, the natural call to Self, the great unknowing by which all becomes known, accepted and loved. Don’t be afraid, the call into the unknown is the call home, the call to the ground of your Being, it’s the natural call of freedom and peace. In this moment attention is your true power, your place of healing. The only doing is the seeing, is the accepting. Tender loving attention embracing the aliveness of life.
We’ve lost the focus of a spiritual centre in communities and culture today. Don’t get me wrong I am not advocating for religion in its traditional sense, but what I am noting is that life used to have a balance of both the practical or material and spiritual. At the heart of our communities used to sit a church or maybe a temple or synagogue, a mosque or even a shaman’s huts. These were places to contemplate deeper and bigger ideas, bigger aspects than the day-to-day practicals of life.
They also provided sanctuary of contemplation and silence, a place to look inward. Currently Martyn and I travel around almost constantly never staying in places for more than a month or two. In each of our adventures we seek out these places of quiet. It’s in someways strange that I’m drawn to these spaces of worship because my parents never brought me to church (or to a synagogue as the case maybe) as a child. But in later life I have been drawn to the silence and contemplation that I find in these spaces. If you look around they are actually the only places where one can sit quietly, no phone in hand, no distractions, where one can sit in silence without drawing a strange stare.
I am not religious, I am spiritual. I do not subscribe to any one particular set of beliefs. To me they all point to the silent awareness at the core of our being. Some attribute this feeling, this sense of contentment and the sense of peace to a God or Gods, but to me it’s all pointing back to the Self, to Consciousness, to primordial awareness.
I cherish these places. I’m sad that they are losing their place and their bricks and mortar in this world. I think these spaces need to evolve, to cast off the chains of dogma and ritual that have no connection to the lived experience. These traditional religions hold people in conceptual bondage. Laying concepts on top of concepts that pull someone away from their natural inclination towards the ineffable silence of the Self.
But the physical buildings and spaces that allow for silent introspection, and the guides that are sometimes found in those spaces, I believe this when lost is a tragedy for society. If you look around any modern day town how many spaces do we have that focus on the material and practical, outward expressions and parts of our lives. I believe these spaces are just as important. We have to create space in our lives to balance both the silent, introspective realm and the physical outer dynamic experience. Without both life hangs precariously out of balance.
I charge you with next time you find yourself near a space of contemplation, be it a church, a temple or something similar, that you take a moment out of your day to sit quietly. It doesn’t matter what the denomination is, it’s about the broad focus of these spaces. These places have a gravity to them, a gravity towards silence. You can feel the very visceral experience of presence and silence in these spaces. Presence is enlivened, almost as if it is imprinted in the very bricks and mortar of the building.
They are sacred spaces, not because of any particular set of beliefs, spiritual dogma even, but because each and every person throughout the ages that has stepped foot in the spaces is focused on something other than the ‘small self’. And it’s my experience that this in itself leaves a lasting and powerful imprint. One that we would be wise to take advantage of while these spaces still exist.
Many of us have experienced trauma and hurt from abusive, harmful or dysfunctional relationships of all descriptions and types in our lives. I bow at your courage to try and move beyond it and heal. Equally if you’re not quite there in your journey that’s okay, I honor that too. I feel conversations about this topic are so vital so that we can explore these sorts of things together, both individually and in a broader sense within our communities and society at large. This is where I think healing happens, through open dialogue and exploration and I believe a lot of healing needs to happen overall as the world seems to have a lot of traumatised people who in turn perpetuate and carry on this cycle. Shutting the conversation down isn’t the answer, opening it up is, even though it opens up those wounds. Those wounds need to be seen and given some TLC to be healed so that the cycle can finally come to an end.
But it doesn’t mean it’s an easy topic to talk on, the courage and vulnerability it takes to even go into this subject from any angle (and as reader or writer) is not to be underestimated. We each have our own unique path through the hurt and healing that life shows us and I just want to encourage each of you to listen to yourself as far as what to take or leave in my words. I only aim to speak from my own perspective and experience here, which I’ll try to keep as broad as possible, but it doesn’t mean this is (or should be) YOUR experience. Honor your own journey and path.
Where To Start
I’ve had first hand experience of being in relationships where there’s a harmful or dysfunctional dynamic, the damaging effects of this had a deep effect, effects I’m still healing from. That healing has gone through many cycles and in some ways I was reluctant to put this out into the public domain because while this is certainly a part of my past, it’s not necessarily where I am today. Nevertheless, it does provide some context to my journey and possible a different perspective for yours…
So how did I broadly go about healing from this type of dynamic?
Well firstly recognition was key for me. Seeing it. That Ah-ha moment came quite late on for me after an off-hand joke someone made about abusive dynamics and suddenly it was like someone had turned a light on and the room that I was standing in lit up completely. Up until that point I had been so ‘in it’ that while I knew there were some major issues, I had tended to blame myself as the relationship itself offered no validation to what I was feeling. So this was the first thing for me, acknowledging and see that it was a dynamic, both an external and internal (conditioned super-ego) dynamic that had come about through that person’s wounds and their own conditioning.
[I just want to interject here and say I believe we all have wounds and conditioning that we can quite easily lay down on another, it’s for each of us to break and heal from this cycle. So in this way, I don’t blame this person now, although at the time of this Ah-ha I very much did. I actually believe that’s was a healthy thing for me at the time: “It’s you not me,” as this was part of the problem, them always blaming the other and never taking any responsibility.]
Initially it was impossible to get the kind of closure, validation and accountability I sought, and that I felt I deserved from them. I had to actually walk away, unhook and focus on myself and my own healing in the broader sense. So sometimes the most closure, and therefore the peace is in the realisation and acceptance that you can’t get closure, and then in time this becomes all the closure you need.
How I came to this is I asked myself is who is this need for closure and resolution really hurting, them or me? The answer was ME and ultimately what I wanted was not to hurt anymore. I had tried going down the route of reasoning, explaining how I felt and trying to ‘fix’ them, showing them their wrongness of their actions & ways many times, but the first real step of healing for me was disconnecting. Physically disconnecting but also very importantly, mentally and emotionally.
I was perpetuating the hurt within myself by having my attention on them and their wrongs rather than my emotions, feelings and thought patterns in their own right. The only thing in this equation that I really could and should be focusing on was ME.
Focusing on how to stand in my truth and not give into the conditioning that I had taken on in life that was so destructive. For me it really meant learning to not be afraid of my emotions or the physical sensations and thoughts that came with them. Learning to life fully, even if it meant falling flat on my face. Learning to stand in my own emotions, not suck them up in favour of someone else’s needs.
This mean also learning to give space to the parts of me that I hated, ignored or felt shouldn’t be there, even embrace them like I would a small child – this was a big part of that, learning to be tender and forgiving of myself. This helped me to learn that whatever reared its head, that was okay, I was a big enough space to let it pass through me. In this way I found acceptance and love of myself and all that I had gone through in life. I stopped making any affliction or troublesome thoughts and emotions that I was going through wrong, even the meta feeling of wrongness. I had to learn to love myself and recognise that I was important, deserved to be seen and loveable, even though I wasn’t ‘perfect’ and I made mistakes. This wasn’t a quick or easy processes by any means.
The Road of Forgiveness
Later down the road forgiveness was also necessary for me to fully be free and ultimately be at peace. And for that I need to come to a deeper level of understanding, which is partly what that ‘Being Human‘ piece was talking to, that we ALL have deep and dark areas of ourselves, we are ALL capable of deep and destructive hurt whether it’s on purpose or not. That goes for hurt of ourselves AND others as the way I see it our hurt to others is often (but not always) a reflection of our own inner world and vice versa.
Damaged people (can) cause damage to others. So from the tender shoots of this recognition I believe forgiveness and ultimate healing can come about. As difficult to accept as this might be, I feel every person is doing their very very very cutting edge best in any given moment. And sometimes that best is just not good enough, but it’s still their best. Their actions may be coming from their own deep wounds and trauma, leading to the inability to act from anywhere else. To leave room for this possibility is to leave room for that possibility in ourselves too.
You might be thinking, “Well for some it comes out of a conscious ‘choice’ to act in a harmful way,” but even in this I feel we always have to eventually go deeper. What made them feel that they needed to act in this abhorrent way? Defensiveness, fear, lack of love, low self-esteem so that hurting another made them feel bigger, better? The list goes on and on. For me these dynamics seem to come from a deep seated sense of lack, lack of love, lack of security, lack of control and if you’ve been badly conditioned and taught to look to fill and fix this sense of lack in destructive ways… well we see what happens all over the place.
I want to be VERY clear. I am NOT talking about letting someone off the hook and saying “Oh they were hurt or damaged, that means I have to forgive them and excuse them.” I’m also NOT saying that you have to be physically or emotionally in relation to them. NO!! I’m saying that it is possible to hold the seeming paradoxes inside of you – The acknowledgement and self validation that “Yes what happened happened and it was destructive and horrible.” But ALSO that we are all human and we all make mistakes and act in ways that are less than. This understanding helped me to realise those final hooks of hurt and move into a new era of healing.
We all have to have accountability to ourselves and others but also forgiveness. We need to be able to acknowledge wrongdoing but also move on – in others and also ourselves. Without both of these aspects healing is difficult.
Like I said in that ‘Being Human’ article, we all have a darkness and a light inside of us. It’s part of the lived experience of being human. No one is exempt. Those who show most compassions to others often have accepted this in themselves. When we hide from our darkness we put it in shadow, we make it unconscious. When it’s unconscious it pops up in the most unexpected and often violent ways, like a hole in a cracked bucket. You plug the hole but then the water bursted and breaks through the cracks anyway.
At least if we can see our darkness, we’re aware of it, awake to it, then we can know it’s shape, it’s boundaries, we can work with it, not against it – we can accept it. Which is why I encourage others to see this in themselves, to not be blind, afraid or ashamed of these darker aspects of our human experience.
Root Out Any Conditioning
I do also have one practical thing that was of help to me and may be of help to you, but always measure any advice (mine absolutely included) against what feels right for you – stand in YOUR TRUTH, listen to yourself.
So my ‘advice’ as it were: Root out any implanted conditioning or views that this person or persons has laid on you. Those doubts, those fears, those uncertainties of who you are or what is right or wrong. Root them out, question if they’re true. Question if they’re your actual views or something that you’ve taken on without question, taken on as an assumption of Truth. Was it their projection and their own wounds being laid on you, or were they pointing out something in you that is actually true and that you feel yourself? Being able to tell the difference and throw out those untruths can be very healing and I believe totally necessary.
I still on occasion have that little voice of the super-ego that was actually just their conditioning implanted in me, telling me I am this or that, I should behave and do this or that in x,y or z way. Without identifying and rooting those out you can find yourself still stuck in a cycle of self abuse, even though the ‘abuser’ is long gone.
Healing is possible, but it’s YOUR healing, not theirs. Take care of yourself, learn to love yourself, learn to accept yourself.
This is part of your story, it’s part of what makes you you right here, right now. You can’t cut it out, but you don’t need to wear it like a badge of honour for the rest of your life either. Can you forgive and accept yourself for falling for it, for letting yourself be in that situation? Can you grow and move beyond it, free from it but still grateful for the lessons it taught you?
I know this is a difficult and painful processes. I’ve been through it intimately and am still learning and growing from it. Today I find myself with gratitude to all my life lessons. Would I like to go through them again? Hell no! But I also see that they made me into who I am, warts and all. They made me seek freedom and peace, they helped me to find true happiness, they brought me to a clarity that wasn’t there before.
Like I said earlier, please do only take what feels true to you. I offer no advice here, just a perspective on part of my journey and how it unfolded. None of this is easy, it’s messy, there are no right answers.
I find it funny that the further into this journey of life I get into the less and less ‘spiritual’ I become. Granted, I never self-identified as particularly spiritual, but at least outwardly I certainly was a card-carrying member of the ‘spiritual seekers brigade’. I was brought up surrounded by spiritual types, I meditated from aged 6, I want to a spiritual consciousness-based school and university. I worked for companies where every single employee was a meditator and spiritual seeker. I’ve lived in spiritual communities and Ashrams. I’ve lived like a monk, albeit a married one, but a monk nonetheless (and I still do pretty much live like one).
For a while my focus was well and truly on the abiding recognition of awareness
I was asked the other day how I deal with being around others, particularly when there’s a level of pretending or not speaking your truth that seems to be required of you.
I too know all too well this feeling of suffocation in the company of others. The subtle unsaid permissions of what you can say, which topics you can touch on and how deep that can go. The unsaid permissions that someone can’t give for fear of threatening their own sense of Self, views and place in the world that they hold so tightly so as to keep the facade of security and knowingness intact.
I think this is why the idea of Sanghas can be so enticing, a place to commune with others who were of like mind and place in their journey of unfoldment, of seeing. A place when you can find common ground and openness, common experience and views. Alas it’s not as easy as it sounds to find the ‘right’ sangha!
You are lucky if you can find this in a partner or in a close friend or two – this is what I have with Martyn and this is what I am eternally grateful for. Alone together and full permission and delight of me to be me and him to be him. The freedom to be as we are, the freedom to plumb the depths and go anywhere – no ‘sacred cows’ that are off-limits.
You asked how I deal with the difficulty of pretending with others. Firstly I take plenty of time to go into my aloneness, isolation and unknowingness and revel in the freedom to be. This place of ‘only don’t know’ is such a beautiful place to be. Beautiful and vulnerable. Delicate, embracing and loving but powerful and full of strength. It’s in this space that we can truly see ourselves and breath in the fullness of existence. Taking this time of solitude is incredibly important, especially for me being the hermit and introvert that I am.
But these days when I am with others I find myself laying it all out to bare, trusting in this process and letting the chips fall where they may. Standing in my truth, being open and honest and trusting. Trusting that even if I get push-back or hurt that I can handle it, that they can handle it too and the freedom to be me, the freedom for them to be them is much more important than any particular outcomes. It has meant the loosing and changing of many relationships, but it has also meant the discovery of those relationships that can withstand this vulnerable nakedness of openness and truth that I find myself standing in.
Then of course there are those relationships where masking and pretending is absolutely necessary. Practically speaking I try to minimise the amount of time spent in these types of interactions, that certainly helps. Making sure that I do have plenty of alone time and nourishing relationships where masking and pretending isn’t needed so that there is capacity for those relationships where it’s not possible. Also in those interactions to find as much openness and compassion as is available in any given moment. To not shame or blame the need to protect, defend or set unsaid boundaries, but honoring and accepting those boundaries where we find them. Understand that they are often there for a reason, even if it’s a reason I (or they) can’t see or understand.
From a broader view of this topic generally for me it was the attachments to outcomes and desires in terms of interactions and relationships that had to go. The attachment to the desire of people liking me, people seeing me, the desire to looking a certain way, to be loved or even liked. Even the attachment to the desire to connect deeply or in a certain way, to be understood and acknowledged.
The power in the lack of attachment has been enormous for me, scary but completely freeing. I have nothing to lose, I have no rights to certain outcomes of how I think things should go. I just am who I am in any moment, it’s raw and risky feeling but it’s real and honest. And so in this I’m eternally grateful for what I do have, for all that comes across my path, forget about ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
There is only so much that one can repress and suffocate themselves, the cracks begin to show. The holes start forming and things start to escape in more violent and unpredictable ways.
I encourage you to breath into the fullness of your experience, let the chips fall where they may and find those moments, those people, those spaces, those pages even, where you can freely be YOU.
There’s so much focus on enlightenment and awakening in the abstract. In the projected ideas and ideals of what people, seekers, see in their idolisation of gurus, teachers and enlightened sages. In the goals and focus of wanting never-ending bliss and happiness, and superhuman abilities and powers because they think that’s what it’s all about. The person becoming bigger and better, the person becoming enlightened.
But what is enlightenment really about? What happens when someone awakens, how will their expectations match the reality? This is what I’m interested in, exploring this, the lived experience, the embodiment of awakened living. Not the projected and imagined experience and the constant trying (and failing) to match up to this – but the actual lived experience. That lived experience can’t be codified, it’s a moment to moment exploration without rules. It’s a free-fall through the groundless experience of life.
As a spiritual mentor I’m not interested in making promises, I’m not interested in creating students who feel they need to learn from me, I’m not even really interested in ‘awakening people’ as a goal. I’m interested, or rather I find myself being called to be totally present to those that find themselves knocking on my door. I’m called to hold space for someone to be as they are without judgements of “you’re there and you should be here” or making anyone wrong or bad, but instead to help someone to come to a better understanding of what causes their suffering and seeking. To provide a sandbox of exploration for this crazy, messy, unfiltered life. To hold space for the unfoldment and awakening that is already happening within them.
All I’m really interested in is holding someone’s hand and showing them that they can accept all of themselves, and in fact in the accepting of all of themselves they might just find the freedom, happiness and peace that they are looking for. They may just find that they awaken to their nature, that all of this experience is Self, is them. They might just notice that this is all happening spontaneously within them anyway. The pull and the draw to the Self is already occurring.
It’s not about attaining and achieving, about learning or being the best devotee or surrendering the most. It’s about unmasking themselves, dissolving held concepts and conditioning and learning to be open and vulnerable. It’s in that openness and vulnerability that they will find their strength, they will find the strength that they inherently have, they will find the peace and joy that they inherently have, that they most likely missed while looking for it!
I’m not ‘giving’ anything. As I see it, even with the ‘Shaktipat Transmissions’ that I offer in my session I’m not ‘giving’ a transmission. I am encouraging and aiding the taking of time to focus on this aspect of our experience, the non-conceptual fundamental basis of existence that is at the heart of EVERYTHING – consciousness. I am taking the time to focus and put attention on that, and in that space, to silently encourage them to do that too. To reestablish the known connection with self, with consciousness, with the divinity of our ordinary base experience.
So really it’s not a giving, in terms of one person to another. It’s the attention being placed on that awareness or presence of consciousness. The attention gets amplified, simplified, but it was always there, consciousness was always at the heart of existence, of experiencing, whether known or not.
I know lots of teachers have many different views on this stuff. But the fact is, it depends on how and who you are talking to in any given moment. Even for me, my description changes depending on the situation or moment. Because even in that simple description, I see the flaws, the other ways of describing it, the mystery of transmission, the mystery of awakening because it’s just that, a mystery. There are explanations of these things from the absolute view, but there are also explanations from the relative view and everything in between.
Yes in absolute terms – there is no me, no you, no transmission, no awakening. It’s just life playing out, consciousness forming different forms of existence. Forming a ‘teacher’ and a ‘student’ and even the experience of a transmission, the experience of awakening – all the while all these characters and ‘props’ playing out on the stage of awareness – your awareness, not someone else over there. YOUR AWARENESS. It’s an assumption, a short hand, a concept, even a courtesy that there is even a ‘someone over there’. All you really know is that you are, you are aware. Everything else is an assumption, part of what’s showing up TO YOU.
But in the relative terms, yes paths show up, teachers show up, others show up, experiences show up. Thoughts and desires to learn a meditation technique shows up. Even the wish to be happy versus not happy shows up. And in that I’ve found that this thing we call “Shaktipat Transmission” shows up, and it shows up in a way that apparently helps others to see that the binds of the mind that they think hold them aren’t quite as solid as they thought they were. That life is full of ideas and concepts and shoulds and should nots, but really what life’s really about is WHAT IS HAPPENING.
So my ‘job’, my role right now seems to be showing up, hand holding and reassuring. Because awakening happens in this apparent play. That awakening is actually a waking up from thinking things are a certain way, and waking up to realise that that certainty was actually misplace, because when you look close enough, that certainty falls apart. And in that falling apart, so do a lot of things. So life as we know it falls apart. The illusion is seen through, the dreamer realises it’s a dream.
And then within this we have to learn to live again and this can be hard and messy.
We have to learn to live in this new space where everything is exactly the same, and yet the relationship to everything is completely different. It’s hard to explain, it’s not something someone can ‘grok’ because you can’t change your perspective without jumping all in. And when you do jump all in.. there’s no going back.
You have to let go of the ledge and trust eventually.
You have to open yourself up and take off the heavy armour of conditioning and concepts that you thought to be you, and see that actually you were always inside, underneath, tender and whole. Just so hidden that you didn’t even notice. Your true nature, your SELF was always here, so intimate, so ordinary, so known, that you missed it completely.
So this is my role, pointing you back to your own experience to help you to see that which was here the whole time.
The only way forward and through this life is to embrace our humanity, not run from it. It’s no good hiding in “nothing is effecting me” and “I am beyond it all.” While true on an absolute level, it doesn’t account for the lived, embodied experience of being human. To be beyond it all is to accept it all. You can’t hide from it, you can’t run from it, you have to lean into it, breath into it and feel it all, right from your fingers to your toes.
What does it mean to embrace our humanity? It means to accept all and reject none. It means that even in the midst of messy, ugly, complicated life that you embrace all of it as part of you. Does a tree reject its gnarly root?
What are we afraid of? What is it in our humanness that we don’t want to look at, don’t want to accept?
There’s a darkness in all of us. A devil, a serial killer, a narcissist, a hateful, arrogant, egotistical bad boy or girl waiting to show itself and most people can’t, don’t or won’t see this. It’s those people who see this, accept this and learn to not be afraid of those aspects of themselves, they find themselves living in freedom.
I am not perfect by any stretch. I’m not just saying that either, I know it, I know my deep dark crevasses, I’ve gotten intimate with them. I’ve learned to honour and love them, embrace them. I’ve brought light to them. Not that happy-shiny-blissful looking concept of ‘light’, just ordinary awareness light. I’ve brought a lamp into the dark corners of my experience, I know they’re there, they’re not hidden.
The less you avoid, the more freedom you have. Can you release yourself from bondage, can you embrace even those hard to reach depths of your humanness and still somewhere in there, embrace them.
This is love.
It’s easy to love your friend, it’s a different story to love your enemy.
So what is your enemy within yourself? What is that part of yourself that you’ve gone to war with? Which part of yourself do you want to cut out and never see again?
We have to go looking for these parts and learn to at the very least accept them, know they exist.
Because if you can’t accept them in yourself, who can you accept them in? And if you can’t accept them in anyone or anything then are you going to spend your entire life in perpetual avoidance, at perpetual war with what is?
Embracing our own humanity is embracing all others as well. It’s having compassion for what it is to be human. It’s having compassion for the internal struggle of full acceptance that we all go through.
Embracing our humanity is to put down the internal war that you have with yourself, to wave the white flag and find some harmony in which all of your experience can finally be accepted.
There is a mask that we’ve all experienced. Many even have several masks, each for a different set of circumstances, a different set of people. The mask that you wear for your boss is not the same mask that you wear for your grandmother, which is not the same mask you wear for your friends. All a partial view of who you are, what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking.
But what happens when the cracks in the mask begins to show? What happens when that mask full of pretense and fake smiles becomes heavy and suffocating? When the toll of not showing the full range of your human experience, showing your whole vulnerable self becomes unbearable. What happens when you find that mask slipping off or not fitting anymore? So what then?
Can you leave the mask off, let it fall away, step out from hiding behind it and accept your reality? Or do you go back to trying to shove it back on and avoiding? What if it was supposed to crack, can you accept that? Accept that life has other plans for you right now, plans that you maybe can’t see, and certainly can’t control.
Can you be brave and stand up straight, hold your head high and walk forward into this next moment without reference to past, without wallowing in self pity? Can you hold your arms up to life and say, “Okay life, I’m ready for what you want of me, I’m here, I’m open and I’m listening.”?
If you say you’re done wearing this broken mask a million times does it make it so? Saying “I’m done” doesn’t make it so. BE done. Not tonight, not tomorrow, right now. It’s an action and a movement that rises up from within. An action that you can notice happening spontaneously. An action of Grace saying not next, not back there, but here – right now. Stay present. Drop any thought that says otherwise. Cast aside any thought that draws you into past and into future.
Life is making the wearing of this mask too painful, too impossible. So listen. Listen to life. Life is making it clear… “no more mask”. Can you stand true and listen to life, can you open yourself up to that vulnerability and stand naked without the safety of your mask, your mask that is so painful, so heavy, so constricting. What happens then? What happens when you set aside your mask and stand naked without it?
You are believing yourself to be weak and small, but maybe the cracks that you’re trying to hold together with sticky glue and tape actually were correct all along. Maybe they needed to break open. Maybe you can’t be contained by this false mask, this false shell anymore. Maybe the light that shines from within is making its escape through those cracks.
You find your life is falling apart. So what makes you think that it’s correct to try and tape and hold it back together? What happens when you let go?
I know it’s difficult. But when life falls apart you have two choices…. try and put it back together or acknowledge it and move on. Acknowledge that life wants something else for you, life is going in a different direction for you. So which will it be? The old or the new?
You’ve interacted with life in a particular way, with the mask and conditioning that has got you this far. Now life is taking that away from you. Now life is giving you the chance to move in a different way, without these crutches. They were only ever temporary, they were always going to fail at some point.
Life is for you, not against you. But it’s not necessarily in alignment with the mind’s ideas about what’s best. It’s in alignment with what’s actually needed, not what you think is needed. So where does your loyalty lie? With the mind’s ideas about what’s best, or life, reality, truth? Do you hold on to these ideas, or do you move forward, boldly step into this moment of life, raw, open, vulnerable but most of all with the strength of conviction that this is the only way. Will you falter? Will you stay loyal to the past? Or will you bow your head in acknowledgement that life has far bigger plans than the mind can conceive of.
When a door closes life is giving you an opportunity to walk through the window that it has just opened. To try another way. To leave behind the burdens of your past, to let go of the heavy mask of personhood. This is your chance to step up, to step out, to move beyond yourself, your small, controlling, afraid mind. To step into the darkness of unknowing with the light of Self and say, “Not today, today I make a different choice, today I choose myself not those doubts and fears. Today I take off my mask for the last time and stand free in the vast expanse of it all.”
Step into your new reality, step into your own light. It’s right here now and it cannot be overshadowed, it cannot be taken away. It’s right at the core of your being and you don’t need to run away from it any more.
All your choices have led to this, they are not something to be ashamed of, they are not something to second guess. Your choices ARE your path, your path has lead you to crack open, for the mask to become unbearable. Your choices are choice-less and so all you can do is accept that it’s all Grace. Every single choice, every single thought, it’s all Grace. Grace doesn’t pick and choose, it’s all of it. The sun doesn’t pick and choose what flower to shine on, it shines on all.
Don’t dwell on your past, it will do you no good. Accept where you are, see that it’s all meant to be exactly as it is. Life’s showing you that you’re not in control and whatever is happening is just part of your path.
Let your old life go, let it fall apart and be ready and willing to step into the great unknown, ready for Grace to show the way. But you can’t take your baggage and past with you. All you have is this moment. Your past does not define you, this moment does, and this moment is gone as soon as it came. So be undefinable, just BE.
Where you see brokenness and endings, I see beginnings and the shell of personhood breaking away to reveal your true Self – open, fresh and full of possibilities.
What if your true Self was something your mind rejected, found disgusting or worthless, what then?
Would you spend your whole life rejecting what is at the core of your Being? Or would you give up the constant resistance and accept what the mind won’t?
It’s exhausting to be in resistance to what is.
What is it in you experience that takes no effort? What is it in your experience that you cannot NOT be?
Discover this and discover the natural omnipresent awareness that is you at the center of all. The unshakable core of your Being. It may not, no – it WILL NOT be what your mind dictates it should be. It might not even be something your mind likes or even respects. It might not be something you mind can grasp and relate to. But does this make it any less true?
Where do you go from there? Where do you go when the insight and discovery of who you are doesn’t match up to the mind’s view? Which will you find yourself choosing? Where will your loyalty lie? With yourself, or with the thoughts and concepts of the mind?
We deny our humanity. We hide in the ideals of ‘The Absolute’ and yet it’s the absolute that contains all of humanity. It’s the absolute (field of awareness) from which all of this springs. Does awareness have such distinctions? Does awareness *need* life to look a certain way. No! That is the small limiting notions of the human mind, too feeble to comprehend the magnitude and the mystery of how life is playing out.
It’s easier to think that we don’t have to deal with difficult emotions and wounds. It’s easier to think that all our problems will be solved when we are established in silence, in the absolute. But silence is only half of the equation, silence may be the ground of experience but from that ground springs forth the full diversity and experience of life. And included in that is the story of our personal life where wounds and traumas and relationships have a deep impact on our emotional, physical and energetic experience of life. So we can’t hide in the silence expecting that those experiences of life will fade away.
What does happen is that when established in silence, in Being, in the Self, when faced with those hard truths, those hard experiences, those very human experiences, that when faced with this we find that the capability and the capacity to hold space for these in the ground of our Being is infinite.
When established in Being, this is when the true work begins. When the strategies no longer work when they are seen through and seen as temporary Band-Aids for the work that is inevitable.
Don’t be afraid of the radical honesty and difficult work that life requires of you. It’s in this that you see the pure power and magnificence of humanity. It’s nothing to be afraid of, it’s a glory to behold, the complicated and messy magnificence of being a human. Don’t run from it, if anything, run towards it. It is in the full embrace of all that you are where you will find your freedom, where you will find your peace.
Peace and freedom don’t come about from limiting and controlling your experience. Peace and freedom come about from blowing the doors, and walls, and floors, and ceiling off of life. Peace and freedom come about when you are no longer trying to avoid any experience that shows itself in your life.
There is a lot of emphasis in spiritual circles of the wonderful, blissful, joyous experiences that can happen in life. But life is so much more. Don’t be tempted to only go towards the “light and good” experiences. Don’t be tempted to run away from the “dark and bad” experiences. Instead run towards all experiences, run towards and beyond all experiences. You are beyond all experiences. All experiences appear to you, you are greater than them and therefore need not be afraid of them. Experiences come and go, you are that which witnesses and knows those experiences. Don’t be tempted to identify only with those experiences, see that they come and go. What you are is far more and therefore cannot be overwhelmed by any experience.
Let go into the void of Being. Let go your notions of how this should and could go. Let go of any limits and any concepts of what life will look like. It is the height of arrogance to believe that you can figure out and control the mystery that is life.
So see that anything that does show up in your experiencing is a gift and bow your head to the feet of life. Surrender your small notions of personal authorship. Bow to the feet of the unknown, let life and Grace carry you through. Give over your need to pen the story, instead bear witness to that story. That story is your path and your path is uniquely yours. Never can you stray from your path, never can you take a wrong turn. Never is there a moment when you are not carried by Grace. Grace is at the centre of all actions, don’t be the judge of Grace.
So in the depths of strong emotions, and fears, and memories, and projections, fear not, even this is being held in Grace. Even this is the destiny of your path playing out. Even this is a gift being given to you, a gift that you are capable of receiving. Strength is not found in ease and comfort, strength is found when all else is lost. Strength is found in vulnerability. Strength is found when you let go into the unknowing. Strength is found at the core of your being.
Give life a chance to show you this. Take a leap of faith. Let go of the steady ground you think you’ve found and take the next step, even though you don’t know the one after it. Have faith that Grace will carry you.
Life is the ultimate mystery. Not ‘life’ in some mystical imagination of the mind, of some projection of what you think I am talking about when I say life. But life in its very ordinary and mundane and very human experience. This is the mystery, nothing more than this. This is mystery enough, we need not try to hijack it with imaginations.
Life is mystery enough.
In my travels it’s become very clear to me that to talk about acceptance is to talk about love, and to talk about love is to talk about acceptance. They are one and the same. They are the key to peace and freedom. They are the key to the recognition of your own nature. They are the key to everything. And they are happening right now, right under your nose – whether you recognize it or not.
When you fall in love with another person you accept that person, you accept their differences, you accept who they are. Similarly when you love an aspect of yourself, you accept that aspect of yourself. Equally, when you hate an aspect of yourself you are attempting the futile rejection of that part of yourself. In this way love and acceptance are seen as synonymous.
You have all the tools, all the things you need in life. You are not lacking in anyway. You are not broken, you just need to accept all that you are… accept even the seeming imperfections into the wholeness and you will see that your light was there all along… hidden under the rock of self doubt, strategies and egoic-mind. But the light of your true Self is far too infinite and vast to be hidden by a rock.
Emotions, traumas and experiences, all of it are life’s way of showing you that it’s alive and kicking. Don’t be tempted to create separation where there is none. You contain multitudes and that’s a beautiful thing…not something to run away from, minimize or control. But something to be embrace, accepted and integrated.
When you notice the pernicious tricks of the mind creeping in, simply let go and return. Let go into the unknown. cast aside the tendencies of the mind to grasp and ‘know’. Notice this dynamic and let go, anything other than this simple act is a distraction.
So notice and return to the core of your being… everything you are, everything you think you need, right there at the bedrock of your experiencing all that time.
You are perfect.
What is the ground of your experience?
Is it the world?
Is it the body?
Is it the thoughts?
Is it the sensations?
Or is it the simplest form of non-conceptual awareness, aware of all of *this*.
Search for the gap in between the content.
We are all figuring out life best we can, in our messy and imperfect, perfectly human way. Life includes in it the whole spectrum of experience and there’s no guidebook or rule book, there’s no one way to live life.
A lot of the people I meet along the way are looking to others to give them answers. But other people/ gurus/ teachers (even life) are only ever a mirror, a reflection of your own awareness, your own subjective experience of life, pointing you back to Self. That mirror can be crystal clear or that mirror can be partial and muddy. I encourage each and every one of you to look into your own direct experience, use your discernment, listen to what others have to say and mark it against your own internal compass and intuition. Drop all your judgements about what you think you know and take a careful look, take a look prior to your assumptions, observe. See if whatever they (or I) are pointing to stands up to scrutiny, does it point back to Self? But don’t take my word for it…. go looking for yourself!
Q: Is the whole old spiritual paradigm collapsing?
The old way of doing things may well be, the very strong hierarchical Guru-lead spiritual organisations as an example. But I feel there will always be the search for connection to, or rather awareness of Self (it’s like consciousness forgets itself, just to for the delight and play of remembering itself too!) and those ‘big’ answer-less answers will be searched for as long as there is suffering in the world. What that search looks like, and if it’s so widespread that it’s not to be seen as ‘special’ or different (fringe) anymore… yes I think this world is changing, but then it has done before and it will do again.
“We are already enlightened”
This statement seems overused in many spiritual circles and is in serious danger of creating concept fatigue. It’s been placed up on the spirituality pedestal as something teachers, gurus and seekers alike say but for many it has become an abstract ideal to aim to understand but never truly a reality to reach. So what use it is other than to dangle a carrot and perpetuate the seemingly endless cycle of seeking?
Don’t be tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet; what is being pointing to is the fact that our inherent or primordial nature is one of open awareness (consciousness). Within this arises the sensory phenomena of experience – thoughts, feelings, sensations (body/world). Included in that are all those beliefs, views, conditioning, embodied memories, traumas and concepts – everything that we experience and call ‘life’.