Again and again life has recently been showing up with this question of what is compassion? What is love? Compassion can look like a lot of different things, but for the moment I wanted to talk about compassion for those around you that act in ways that you don’t understand, don’t like and don’t find their behaviour to be acceptable at all – maybe they’re behaving like a complete asshole.
The most compassionate thing you can do is not write them off. Bring them into your heart. Their asshole-ness is covering up a non-acceptance of Self in themselves. When you accept your whole Self, when you accept all that you are and all that you experience, all the ‘world’, then you aren’t rejecting anything. You aren’t creating a sense of separation – all is you. So pull into your heart that someone, see that
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you have to do XY&Z in order to realise the Self…. as if it’s like a cake that you put all the exact ingredients in the bowl in the right order and put it in the oven and ping, you have yourself a perfect cake.
Except it doesn’t work like that, that’s the mind’s imaginings of what it is. What I’m talking about is prior to the mind, and therefore can’t be grasped by the mind. Anything the mind thinks it knows or understands about this is just the mind imagining what it thinks. It’s not an adding to, it’s not a changing of, its a realisation of that which you cannot NOT be, that which you already are, that which you always were, that which you always will be whether you realise it or not. It’s like waking up from a dream; before… you were in the dream and you didn’t realise that you were dreaming, but you were. Then you wake up and realise it was a dream. It doesn’t change the dream, the dream is still there, playing out at it was, but you realise you are dreaming now.
Self realisation, or enlightenment, or whatever you want to call it is not a ‘thing’ that you get… it’s your very nature, and that is recognised…. which changes everything, and yet it changes nothing. It’s not something that I can describe to you and you will ‘get’. I’m just pointing, in my own imperfect way, to something in your own experience that’s maybe being overlooked, but like I said… if you’re reading this and trying to ‘get it’ with the mind then you won’t able to.
It will seem like a riddle.
We tend put value judgements on what we want any given moment to look like, and so when the present moment doesn’t look like how we want then we seek to change it; we seek for the ‘good’ to stay and the ‘bad’ to go. This futile seeking to change the here and now causes immense suffering because life can look like anything.
And yet in reality good or bad it doesn’t matter, it all comes, it all goes, nothing stays around for very long. NOTHING. If we can sink into the reality of that for a moment we can see the futility of trying to hold on to anything; then the peace and sense of freedom that opens up in its wake is quite glorious. The physical feeling of tension and heaviness is lifted, the space of being right here right now is felt. Nothing to change, nothing to do, nothing to be.
There’s an assumption that when I say “you are awareness/consciousness” that I’m talking of I-personal/ego/individual I/you. Firstly I want to clarify that when I speak of I/me/you in conjunction with awareness I’m talking of the non-personal ‘I’ that is consciousness. That is awareness. The you (big Self, I-I) that IS awareness-consciousness.
It seems to be common that when someone realizes that who they took themselves to be (the mind-body ‘I’) is untrue, it’s seen that at the heart of experiencing there is nothingness/emptiness/awareness. This is true. But I urge you to not stop there, look/inquire deeper into this recognition.
Wow I feel like a lion has been unleashed. This brutal honesty in service of truth that cuts with the precision of a well known blade is quite a surprise to me. This sharp intellect that can spar and duel with words unknown to me, spilling out like nobodies business.
There’s still a tendency that’s been around all my life – that when confronted with an assertion by someone, to shy away, to back down without even looking, to assume that they must be right… “who am I after all? I know nothing.”
But I’m finding this tendency more and more untenable. There’s a nauseating energy, I guess we would call it adrenaline, that surges in me and so this hiding, this backing down from looking to my own experience doesn’t last. It’s like I cannot NOT look to see if what is being said is true – no matter how much the tendency to hide from that looking still shows up.
And so I find myself, for the first time in my life, facing full-faced to what life is showing me. Responding to the assertions of others, looking at the fabric of what they are saying. And… well then the lion roars.
It’s been quite a surprise to find that roar, at first (and still now if I’m honest) it didn’t feel like ‘my’ roar, it feels alien and new. But none-the-less there it is, and now I see that it does come from me-consciousness. In this roar I can be uncompromising and unsettling (well to the ego at least). It doesn’t win me any friends! And yet, somehow to me it seems like the most loving, compassionate action of “but how can I leave this untruth be in the light of what is seen.”
It’s like this lion in me is called to stand up to the truth of what is known. Was this lion always here, disguised as a kitten?
Life has become about living; living not in past regrets or future worries but life lived in this moment… None of the second guessing, the questioning, the “is the right thing?”, or shoulds and should nots. The age old – before awakening, chop-wood-carry-water and after awakening, chop-wood-carry-water is so so true it’s laughable. Being a seeker you imagine some different ‘state’ where everything will be beautiful and blissful – life will be perfect. Well… life is perfect, but not in that way, perfect in that it IS. It’s happening exactly as it is, nothing to do, nothing to change, nothing to be; even in amongst every imaginable phenomenal occurrence. That’s where the miracle of life is to be found, in the very ordinariness of existence.
You are, and always have been exactly what you seek. You are the freedom that was/is always here, it’s only a matter of seeing through the trees of ‘personhood’ to see that the ‘person’ that you take yourself to be is such an incredibly limited and narrow view of you. We take ourselves to be the body; the body that has changed, morphed and grown since birth, the body that will die. We take ourselves to be thoughts; the thoughts that tell us one thing today and something completely different tomorrow. We take ourselves to be the emotions and energies – sometimes blissful, sometimes not. You get my point…. In all of these we are, but we are more than this, we are prior to this, we are the one that sees all of this. We put so much emphasis and importance on everything that can be perceived, everything that can be experienced, yet we put almost no attention on who is perceiving and experiencing life. What is the nature of this one, what are the quality & attributes of this one, how can this one be described.
That One never goes, never changes – that one is YOU!
The image of relationships and enlightenment don’t normally go hand in hand. The stereotyped image of the ‘enlightened monk’, shunning the material householder life is something that’s been around in spiritual traditions for a long time. So out of this there comes the common misconception that you can’t be in a relationship and be successful on the ‘spiritual path’. But being in a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean that awakening can’t be there too. The relationship doesn’t have to go, only the attachment to the relationship has to go. Don’t get me wrong, the result of that dropped attachment may actually be that the relationship ends. Ultimately that’s what was meant to happen, and all attachments do eventually fall away – what’s left is what’s left, maybe the relationship will be there, maybe not.
My own relationship has taught me that relationships in themselves aren’t some obstructive thing that stops you from realizing your own nature. Having said that, I lived through the often painful dropping of the attachment to my relationship with my husband Martyn. We found ourselves at an impasse after he had a spiritual awakening that in the wake of he felt he could no longer be at the ashram where we were living, and I felt I couldn’t be anywhere else. He couldn’t be there, and I couldn’t NOT be there; this resulted in us parting ways with no end to our separation in sight. When we said our goodbyes they were potentially permanent goodbyes, we didn’t have any idea if we would ever see each other again. There was immense love for one another, but our situation in life was physically parting us and it was torture.
I cried myself to sleep for the days and weeks that followed. I spent my days on the verge of crying, feeling like my insides had been ripped out. And yet there was nothing I could do other than endure it. Connection to the internet for both of us was incredibly patchy so we would maybe speak once a week, and because of the turmoil that both of us were feeling it would invariable end up in an argument – often over how to resolve the situation, or ending with an angry and frustrated, “well it’s over then!?!”.
I felt torn, I wanted to be with him, but I felt I needed to be where I was. My life appeared to be crumbling before my eyes, such strong seemingly overwhelming feelings were right at the forefront of my experience. I was suffering and I felt so alone.
The suffering that I was experiencing all came from the expectation of how I imagined or conceived the relationship ‘should be’ rather than how it actually is/was. This ‘should’ was now not being met, and the attachment to this ‘should’ was a strong one. In relationships we may not even notice that there’s attachment there, (especially if for the most part it’s been a smooth sailing healthy relationship like mine was) but there’s always a subtle fear of loss, and from this, suffering can arise. In this attachment we are either always holding on to something we have with a feeling of fear or loss, or trying to get something that we feel we lack.
It’s funny because in the wake of this or rather the flip side, I also felt a sense of strength in my new found independence. We had been together since I was 18 so it was a completely new experience to not have to worry or think about anyone else, to make decisions without referring to anyone else was a liberating feeling. So even with this turmoil there I also experienced the growth and discovery of strength that I didn’t know I had. I experienced who I was away from who I took myself to be within our relationship; who I was living prior to any labels and ideas of being a ‘someone’ to ‘somebody else’.
At the pinnacle of that torturous two months I began having ‘panic attacks’. I couldn’t deal with these strong emotions, they got the the point where it wasn’t even strong emotions, it was just intense energy coursing through my veins. I spoke to both Martyn and the spiritual teacher at the ashram about this and both gave me pretty much the same pointing:
“Don’t give so much importance to this energy, trying to understand and work it out, just feel it. Let it pass through you. See that you are aware of all of this happening.”
I felt like I was talked down from the ledge a few times by them. But eventually the innocent observation of these strong energies led me to be able to let go of the attachment I had about being physically together. An ease came about in accepting what was (is). This was among one of the most difficult times of my life thus far, but with it came an openness and an acceptance of what was showing up in my life. I let go of any ideas of how the relationship ‘should’ be – good or bad, it didn’t matter – everything had to go.
Throughout all this upheaval I intuitively knew that what was happening was somehow inevitable; to have the attachment of the relationship torn from me. I had to accept the separation and along with it the attachment to Martyn and our wonderful relationship, for it was the non-acceptance that was causing immeasurable suffering.
It’s funny, once this attachment had given way to acceptance everything immediately shifted, and a few weeks later an opportunity for Martyn and I live in a house in the nearby village came up. And so to our complete surprise, we found ourselves once again in physical proximity when only weeks before that possibility looked lost forever. The attachment to the relationship and the shoulds and should-nots have never returned. I know that both individually and in our relationship we continue to evolve, and whatever happens – whether we stay together or not – it doesn’t hold the same neediness of attachment.
I see now what a gift it was to have this strong and intensely embedded attachment brought so clearly (and painfully) to the surface. For it was in this hard lesson of letting go that I was able to clearly recognise my essential nature, prior to all attachments, all concepts of ‘shoulds’, and all suffering.
I’m pretty much an open book these days, but I’m not some kind of spiritual google that people can ask any amount of questions and I give them the answers. Someone on twitter recently asked me “…does that mean people have no individual purpose?” A perfectly normal and unassuming question as questions go, but all of these questions, do they need to be answered? If you have the answer will it stop all questions, or will it just satisfy that particular question for a second then another one will fill it’s place? Is there a question that will end all questions? Is there an answer that will end all questions and answers? Will this cycle of questions and answers ever stop? Is there something in you that is nothing to do with questions and answers? (Wow, see how many questions I just asked there!!!) Throw out all questions, throw out all answers. They are just more of the same stuff, empty and meaningless. Keep quiet and see if any questions or answers come in this quietness of being.
The utter humanness of existence cradles in it every possible emotion, sensation, feeling & thought. We can’t run from that, we can’t hide from that, we can’t avoid or resist that, and nor should we want to.
It’s our human experiencing that reveals the ever-changing world of perception that we live in – our ‘world’ is constantly being born and reborn in every moment. Embrace this change, embrace it as the play and display of awareness-consciousness (you). This play is set on the stage of pure open, unconditioned and ineffable awareness-consciousness.
This is not the bliss of happiness; the fleeting bliss of phenomenal experience, that shows up when nothing is rocking the boat, the bliss that’s dependent on the content of life being wonderful. It’s something deeper, something more fundamental, something ever-present. It’s like an immovable mountain; the very ground you walk on. It’s peaceful beyond the word peaceful. It’s the very fabric of you.
I didn’t notice it much until now; there have been plentiful moments of the kind of happiness bliss that we all know about, both since this realization and throughout my whole life. But this…I’ve had hints of it, I’ve sensed its unceasing presence; it’s completely without words that can describe it. The nearest thing I know to say is to use the word bliss, but it feels far more primordial than that word can grasp.
You are the awareness that’s witnessing the comings & goings of life. You have no qualities, no attributes other than you are aware – you’re not an object that can be described.
There’s nothing that can show up that can disturb you – for you just ARE. Notice that you’re observing even the thought or feeling of an ‘I’ that wants to identify what’s showing up and why it’s showing up. In this recognition you realize that anything can show up, nothing can be avoided or gotten rid of, life doesn’t need to ‘look’ a certain way, because you are simply aware. You are that awareness, you have always been awareness, you cannot NOT be awareness, for you are aware.
Notice that all that I say is not a prescription for something to do, rather is a description of how it is; you need no instruction or ‘practice’ to be aware.
And so you say “but it’s not always like this”, but it is… are you not always here, always aware? Do you-awareness need anything, does the feeling of peace, space, bliss or lack of thoughts need to be there in order for you to be aware? Are you not aware even when sadness or anger is here in the midst of an argument?
Awakening is the recognition of this awareness to be you. It’s a noticing – a confirmation if you like, that you are the awareness that witnesses all of life.
There’s nothing more than this…. and yet people spend their lives convinced that they’re missing something, not getting something, not where they’re supposed to be, not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Pretty much focused on everything BUT This, what IS, the present-moment experience.
There’s something in the mind that’s compelled to go with the seeking energy for that ‘greener grass’ over yonder. This constant looking/seeking motion that pulls your attention out of the very now is derived from the attachment to the idea of how life ‘should’ look. Ultimately this is where suffering shows up, where there’s a disparity between how life should look, i.e. your expectations, and the reality of what is actually happening. But if for a moment you can set aside this seeking, this outward searching movement to fulfill expectations and desires, and look to your own experience prior to words and descriptions in this very moment – is there anything lacking here?
When you experience an awakening – the recognition of the primordial nature of awareness, you’re centerless center; often what comes with it are things such as relief, spaciousness, invincibility, freedom, few thoughts and even bliss. It’s quite easy to then start identifying with those qualities as something that has to be present to indicate your new found ‘awakening’.
This can lead you down the path of trouble, because as you go about your life you’ll naturally start to bump into the different flavours of living, some nice and some not so nice. You might start experiencing what you might call ‘afflictive thoughts’ or intense feelings & sensations. Maybe the feeling of invincibility and spaciousness feels like it has lessened or disappeared. This can lead you feel that you’ve lost ‘it’. You then try all that you can think of to get back to those wonderful qualities that you experienced; all the while trying to avoid the shitty thoughts and feelings that are coming up.
We take the fleeting objects of our perception to be solid & persistent – even eternal, and we build our identity based on these beliefs. This illusion can work for a while, but at some point when we find that the ‘solid’ ground we walk is not so solid after all, we tend to hold on for fear of losing our identity, and in that we suffer.
The belief that anything was ever solid was build on unexplored assumptions. Explore and recognise that at the heart of you, there is an emptiness from which all that you perceive arises.
Two years ago today I collided with the Self, setting in motion the falling away of life as I thought I knew it to be. I was smacked over the head with the realisation that who I took ’Imogen’ to be was false. There was in fact no identifiable ‘solid’ form of Imogen that could be found. It’s been quite a journey, a journey to realise that what I sought was always here, looking out at the unfolding of an apparent journey. Although I now see that that collision was ultimately a fleeting experience it was so dramatically felt that it changed everything. It changed my casual interest in spirituality into a search that left everything else in its wake.
The abiding realisation of non-duality came about a year and half later. It’s been a constant learning and discovering of what it looks like to move in this life as a passenger rather than believing the illusion that I’m the driver. I’m still discovering the implications of this realisation and while all this may sound so far off and mystical, know that what I’m pointing to is in fact your very nature and you’re never NOT this. It’s just a matter of recognising and confirming that what’s being pointed to is in fact you, the awareness from which all of life arises in and as. Don’t ever stop looking, but ultimately we’re all already on a ticking time bomb of this realisation.
The obsessive need to understand enlightenment or anything for that matter, is the very thing that’s stopping you from experiencing this present moment in its fullness. When resting in the present moment it’s seen that there’s nothing missing and no needs are unmet; there’s no understanding that you need that could add or take away from what you essentially are.
You are that which sees everything, you are what is being sought. There’s no understanding that would bring about this realization. Understanding is only ever something that the mind ‘gets’. That’s not to say that some understanding might come; but you as consciousness are prior to any understanding. The understanding arises within you, not the other way around. You exist before any understanding.
Anything other than the recognition that you are formless awareness is born of the mind. There’s nothing that can adequately capture the indescribable awareness that you are. To try and do so will always fall short somehow. But it doesn’t mean that these pointings can’t be useful, that they can’t lead you to the doorstep of recognition, it’s for grace to push you over the threshold. To simply dismiss the importance and power of any or all teachings is to miss the possibility that even a woefully inadequate pointing, that is full of concepts and occlusions may in fact give way to a greater seeing.
It’s so easy to fall into the spiritual trap of feeling like you’ve ‘got it’. After spending many years doing spiritual practices there may be a deepening and deepening understanding of what’s being spoken of and pointed to. This intellectual understanding coupled with spiritual or awakening experiences, and life can start to look a hell of a lot rosier. Maybe you’ve gone through some tough times, some mind attacks and such, and coming out the other side everything feels lighter and more blissful, the annoying person who cut in line isn’t bothering you any more. It’s like the contrast of that tight constricted suffering compared with the light airy, no troubled feeling comes as such a relief. And when it lasts for longer and longer with more frequency and with less and less trouble you can’t be blamed for thinking ‘I’ve got it’.
When I was writing the about page for this website something became quite apparent. Why do we focus on the ‘story’ of all of this? It’s like the story is taken to be so real, it’s seen like a path that has to be followed. That one action led to another, and another, and another until all the actions culminated in “this is how to it was done to reach this outcome”.
It is supposing that all of this description is actually a prescription. So… if you meditate for X number of years, followed by some big event that leads you to question life, and then followed by walking out of your life, giving up everything and going to live in an ashram… these will equate to…… Ta Da!!
After so many years of the word Enlightenment being banded around by spiritual gurus, new age folk and self-help aficionados, I find myself feeling that the word is just seen as another concept that’s predicated on a ton of other concepts about life. It’s an idea that keeps hold of the mind’s interest in working towards the idea of a state of happiness, bliss, no suffering and the ‘perfect life’. On this level it feels like one big ruse, a massive cosmic joke that everyone is aiming towards, but there’s nothing when you get there; in fact there’s no thing and no there to ‘get’!!
We spend our lives gathering information like trading cards, it’s our currency. Knowledge of how to do things, knowledge of what social etiquettes to follow, knowledge of dates, facts and figures. Knowing anything and everything gives this sense of security and comfort. “I know that” means that you are someone to be trusted, someone to listen to. After all what good is someone who knows nothing in this world. How will they get a job and live a successful life without knowing anything. The feeling of solidity and security in this world as a ‘someone’ is heavily wrapped up in how much knowing we gather around ourselves.
I was talking to a dear friend the other day about how to be present for others. Everyone’s had the experience of sitting with someone but not really being present to what they are saying. You are physically there but there’s a sort of ‘half listening’ that’s going on. There’s also the commentary or stream of thoughts going on in your mind.
What’s at the heart of it is to deal with your own stuff. Through the acceptance of what is arising in you there is space created that allows you to be completely present to them. It’s like when your cup is full, there is no space; but if your cup is empty there is space for them. Your emptiness comes from your ability to abide in the present moment and allow what is arising in you to arise. To not be met with any resistance, or to indulging and encouraging whatever is arising.
My relationship to speech and words has completely changed. I used to believe that what I said was the end result of something rolling around in my head, carefully considered and judge and then spat out into the world. There was a feeling that words were informed my memories and impressions, that there was history and knowledge in the words too.
Now when I speak and I have no idea where it comes from. I have no opinions that I’ve formed that come out in response to someone speaking. I actually listen when someone’s speaking, with open heart and mind, it’s not just an opportunity to figure out what to say next!
I had a recent conversation that brought into focus how important it is for someone who overthinks to get out of their head, and allow whatever feeling or sensation that occurs to arise and to just feel it. Don’t analyse it, don’t name it, don’t judge it – just feel it.
The very act of focusing in on the thought to try and ‘figure it out’ tends to perpetuate the suffering that’s being felt. What is being ‘felt’ is literally a feeling or energetic sensation arising within you that is being interpreted by the mind.
I’m so deeply and profoundly grateful to the life that has put me in the way of some amazing lessons. Lessons that have come from many different sources and many different teachers. I see now that these teachers have each come forward at the perfect moment to ultimately teach me that I am beyond all teachings, that I am the One that they point to.
To Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, for giving me TM from an early age, that allowed me to experience transcending on a daily basis throughout my formative years. This gave me the understanding that all of life is unified consciousness and that there are infinite possibilities within this. Without you my whole foundational paradigm could have looked horribly different.
To Amma, for flooring me with your presence and for opening me up to a the possibility of a world outside of TM.
To Wayne Liquorman, for showing me how much power there is in a teacher’s unspoken presence; and for introducing the profound realisation that all of this suffering is from a false sense of doership.
To Adyashanti, for guiding me into the present moment silence of the Self. For encouraging me to love my wounds and pull them closer. And for your reassuring words when the ground had fallen away for the first time.
To Suzanne Segal, for blasting off the doors of the identified body and the illusion that I believed that I was separate from the tree. And later on for showing me that I wasn’t alone in being duped into believing that enlightenment ‘looked’ a certain way.
To Mooji, for showing me what deep abiding love and surrender is. For allowing me to be fully me and for opening up your heart and home to me. You never gave up on me, even when I was ready to give up on this journey.
To Ramaji & RASA, for taking me all the way home. And if that wasn’t enough, allowing me to be so brutally honest and blunt with you; through you I found my voice. Being in relation to you changed my world, unfortunately not just in a positive way. Through these lessons I also learnt the hard but very necessary lesson to finally stand on my own two feet, to trust myself and my voice, and not give over to the authority of anyone else again.
And to Martyn, my love, for being my biggest ally, supporter and teacher in all of this Leela. You and I have walked this journey hand-in-hand thus far and you have provided me with such a loving but totally safe space that is our relationship to challenge everything possible in the most divinely unsafe way!
Thank You, Thank You and a million more Thank Yous
For links to these teachers click HERE