Excerpted from “Illuminating Presence,” August 14, 2019 ~ Woldingham, UK
Presence is a mysterious thing in a certain sense, at least when we reflect upon it. When we experience it, it’s not mysterious, but when we reflect upon it, it’s quite strange. We think of presence as a feeling, and in a sense it is a feeling, a tone—the way an environment feels, for instance. But it’s more than a feeling, especially when we start to awaken certain dimensions of presence within ourselves. Then it’s something that’s more immediate. The feeling is a byproduct, but the presence itself is experienced viscerally.
There are two fundamental dimensions of presence. One of them, you could say, is “presence as such.” You can walk into a church and feel the presence of a place of worship. When there has been deep and heartfelt worship or spiritual work going on, you can walk in the door and feel a kind of presence. You can also feel the presence in a negative sense. When something very violent has happened in an area or in a space, if you’re sensitive, you can pick it up. You can feel it in the atmosphere. It’s disquieting, though you may not know why you feel disturbed.
There’s a presence that we all share, a presence of true nature as such, and there’s also a kind of individual signature of presence. It’s almost like your personal essence or soul, as each person has their own quality of presence. There’s not just one quality—there are many facets of how presence can be experienced, and each person has a very distinct experience of presence. They may not be aware of it, but if you’re sensitive, you can sense their presence, whether they’re aware of it or not.
Presence is a doorway. It is the visceral experience of various facets of our true nature. Don’t just be aware like a cold spotlight of awareness. Get the sense of it, the feel of it, viscerally in your body. Feel it, even if it’s subtle. If you have an experience of spaciousness, feel it, sense it, because these things arise first as experiences that we are having, or “I” as a “me” am having. That’s often how we get the little hints of these experiences. The foretaste of presence can be like a vast space of awareness, or it can be experienced as a kind of compassion. In the West, the old word for compassion was agape, selfless love, a love that’s just there. It’s not “I love you,” it’s “loving what is” and having a tender feeling for all beings. That’s a kind of foretaste. By giving attention to these experiences, that distance can collapse or just simply merge, where all of a sudden it’s not “me” experiencing awareness, spaciousness, love, stillness, emptiness, solidity—in a positive sense, it’s “I am those qualities.” Those qualities are a dimension of being.
By sensing something, you’re actually drawing yourself close to it. It’s like the difference between “Oh, hi, how are you doing? I can see you over there.” There’s distance. And then you come a little closer. “Oh, hi, how are you doing, let me shake your hand. Now we’re a little closer. I can feel you a little bit.” And then, “Oh, how are you doing?” and you’re giving a big hug. Now your distance is closing. There’s still distance in the hug, but you’re closer, and the closer you get, the more you sense and feel. You might even feel more of the subtle body about them, but there’s still “you” and “them.” There’s the possibility that there’s actually something closer even than a hug, where you might recognize true nature in them. True nature is, in one sense, an insight, but it’s an insight that comes from a visceral, immediate experience. And that’s just how it is for these foretastes of presence—the spacious, unconditioned nature of awareness. It’s right there. Be close with it. Be intimate.
Entertain the possibility that your own direct experience, whatever it is at any given moment—positive, negative, wonderful, difficult—is not a mistake. It is the way. Showing up for it, whether it’s beautiful or challenging, that’s the way. Always running away from it and towards something else is just a delay. So, maybe we can, all of us, even if we feel like we know this very intimately and truly, even if we know it deeply and have experienced it, maybe we can have an even deeper trust in our own immediate experience.
© Adyashanti 2020
In its true sense spirituality is not a plaything or a pastime. It has nothing to do with enhancing you or your status in the dream state. Nor is it about gurus in long flowing robes, secret oral teachings, ancient traditions, or holy books that people claim were written by God. It’s about here and now and you, and whether you are asleep within the dream state or awake within the awakened state.
It is the nature of all dreams that the characters therein are so busy being—well, dream characters—that the bigger reality of what lies outside the dream state eludes them. But then again, dream characters don’t wake up from the dreams they are a part of; the dreamer does. If spirituality is to be meaningful it must address what lies beyond the dream state that most of us create in our minds and humanity lives in day-to-day, for unless we awaken from our personal and collective dreams we will continue to live in a state of unconsciousness on the surface of a life of infinite potential.
Only that which is real and true has the power to liberate us from the mechanical and magnetic draw of the dream state. For ultimately it is ignorance (the belief in things that are untrue) that imprisons us within a trance state, which is induced by taking the conditioned stream of thinking within one’s mind to be true. If we are to awaken from the mind’s hypnotic embrace, we must question all of our beliefs and assumptions down to the very source of our being until that which is true, real, and everlasting reveals itself.
Truth is that which lies beyond the grasp of the dreaming mind. It is not something that can be captured and stated like a fact can. Truth is a timeless reality and therefore sacred in the true sense of the word. Please do not think of truth in mystical terms or even in spiritual terms. Truth refers to the whole of existence and beyond. Truth exists as much in your teacup as it does in your temples and churches. Truth is as present in shopping for your groceries as it is in chanting to God. To think of truth only in spiritual or religious terms is to miss the whole of it, for in doing so you create the boundaries and divisions that are the very antithesis of truth.
Truth is an immeasurable reality not at all separate from your own being. For in the revelation of truth, all beings rest within your being. Put more simply, if you cannot find it now underfoot, I’m afraid that you have missed it entirely.
© Adyashanti 2009
On Monday, March 2, 2015, my beloved father and friend, Larry Gray, passed away from this world while surrounded by his wife, Carol, three children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It was a great blessing and honor to be with him when he passed. Those of you who have heard me teach over the past years have no doubt heard me tell many stories about our close and loving relationship. Before retiring to Oregon with my mother, he was a constant presence at sangha events, where he formed many of the deepest and most loving friendships of his life.
Although his body was deteriorating over the last five years of his life due to a heart attack, stroke, and finally cancer, he finally found the love and gratitude that he had been seeking within himself his entire adult life. His most commonly used phrase during the last few years of his life was, “I love you.” He was and is an enduring testimony to the power of transformation amidst the fierce challenges of life.
One of the last things that he said to me when he was still well enough to speak clearly was, “Beloved teacher, trusted friend.” Then he bowed deeply. And so in his passing I also say to him, “Beloved teacher, trusted friend, I bow to your life and your legacy.”
With Great Love,
Memorial for My Father
Well Dad, my beloved friend, fellow adventurer, unwavering supporter, spiritual companion, and truth seeker — here we are. You asked me several times over the last few years of your life what happens after we die, and now you know with the unwavering certainty of direct experience. You need no explanation, no belief, no faith, no hope or promise of any kind. You are living the living of death, which is eternal life. You have gone through the crucible and emerged in complete poverty and innocence. You have been stripped down to your radiance. And I meet you in the void of light where our masks lie on a stage that actors dare not step onto. And so I will remain silent with you about that which no words can convey.
I so enjoyed the form of you — your perfect imperfection and the way you stumbled toward the spontaneity of Love. In our own ragged way it is we, those who stand together here now and call ourselves family with all of our perfect flaws, who embody the one worthwhile virtue: We love one another. That is our humble family legacy, and it is we who bear the burden of loving one another unto the ends of this life through the crucible of forgiveness. It is we who honor you best by continuing your death into love by living in the fire of benevolence and compassion toward one another without reservation.
My heart does not break for the dead but for the living. For it is the living who must continue in the sunlight of your absence, and embrace the invisible mercy of your presence. I cry for Mom’s beautiful and broken Heart, even as I know that she will heal into the brightness of joy in time. Mom, you have been the embodiment of committed love, fidelity, and selfless caregiving, and I pray that you will be able to receive as much love as you have given — for the circle of benevolence must complete itself in receiving as much as in giving. You have poured yourself out as a fountain of sun and I will always be here for you as you were always there for Dad. For our legacy is Love and the living of it.
In the dark light of my solitude, where I died by the hand of grace into the Great Void of my nothingness in my 25th year, I find you, Dad. I welcome you into what I could not tell you with words. You have been stripped down to your radiance, and the entire universe is now contained within your single glance. The sky and clouds and laughter and tears express your true personality, and we the living are the recipients of your final glance and the last breath of your departure into eternal presence. Our grief contains the celebration of your deliverance into boundless joy, and our tears are the sunshine of your emancipated love.
These words of Walt Whitman come to mind: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself . . . I contain multitudes.” And so Dad did you contradict, and contain multitudes. You lived a human life after all. Did you expect anything more or want anything less? I for one loved you as you were. I never expected you to embody anything less than multitudes. And so I celebrate the earth and sky of you, and the perfection of your contradictions, and the way you lavished yourself unto your humanity. And I see that you are as spotless as a lamb, and as perfect as anything can ever be, that breathed the soil of this earth.
And so I will bring to an end this little remembrance of Dad, leaving all the touching and fun-filled stories to those of you gathered here today. Dad’s and my relationship was the envy of almost everyone that I know, and it will not end here but will live on and affect thousands of people all over the world for years and even generations to come. Dad’s death is a reminder and an inspiration to me to love without measure, to be an indiscriminate lover of what is, whatever it may be, to be daily grateful for all that is and all that isn’t, and to spread love and laughter to the very end.
Written in honor of Larry Gray by Adya's uncle, William Rockloff:
Join Gentle Now the Light
It is here where only we can stand
Our world among ten thousand worlds
Reaching for God’s long arm and hand
To bring the child's awakening sight.
Join gentle now this new light.
Go gentle now and join the sky of night
To scatter suns of love.
Join gentle the endless smile of Heaven.
Dark sky made dark by light.
Sun’s brilliance made light by night.
Join gentle now the light and make whole
The spinning bowl of all that is
In Heaven known, and so in earth
In darkness death, and deathless birth.
The turning whole of night and sun
Join gentle now all into one.
~ William Rockloff
© Adyashanti 2015
Excerpted from “Innate Knowledge of the Unknown,” November 2, 2019 ~ Oakland, CA
There is a power unlike any other power, force, or energy, when we’re connected deeply with the way our spiritual instinct communicates to us. You usually know it because there’s a kind of intensity about it. It’s an orientation—a spiritual instinct, you might say. When you get connected to how it’s speaking to you, and how you experience it without the veils of what we imagine it should be like, then we come upon a profoundly transformational energy.
There’s a way of listening to our spiritual instinct where we don’t leave ourselves in the listening. It’s to be connected or rooted in an intuitive way, into what’s often a very quiet dimension of being. We do need to stay rooted, but there are different ways of being rooted, of being connected. There’s being connected in a way that’s rigid—“My way or the highway”—being so rooted that one is rigid and can’t actually let anything in. A lot of people, when they’re open and they start to listen deeply, stop being deeply rooted and connected within themselves; they’re listening in an abstract way. And then there’s a way of being connected that’s very fluid and dynamic, where we’re actually rooted but open.
In order to come upon that which is really uniting, we just relinquish our grasp. What we relinquish our grasp on isn’t as important—we could say “on everything.” When we start to relinquish our grasp on any particular point of view, what we start to come into as a living experience of being is a very intimate connection with what in spirituality is often called the Unknown. The Unknown is actually a bit more simple, approachable, and available than people think it is. We make some extraordinary fantasy out of the great Unknown, when at least to begin with, the Unknown is right underneath whatever we’re clinging to.
We cling to things in direct proportion to how much doubt they cover over. The things we hold most tightly, we hold tightly because they’re concealing doubt. If there was no doubt, why would anybody hold them tightly? You don’t hold tightly to the idea of being a human being, let’s say. Most people don’t clutch to that particularly tightly. To them it simply seems to be so obvious that they don’t need to clutch to it.
When we begin to open, we begin to experience this potentially wonderful domain of not knowing. If you want to be united really quickly, just come into the domain of not knowing. Or let’s just call it uncertainty: “Maybe I’m not so certain about the things I think I’m pretty certain about.” Maybe a different kind of energy gets in there, a different kind of curiosity: “I’m not so certain.” The Unknown is actually the absolute necessary ground from which to engage in any deep form of spirituality—without that, it’s just a bunch of ideas.
The beginning foundation—even if it doesn’t sound like a foundation—is actually the willingness not to know, or at least the willingness not to be certain. We start to hold things a little more loosely. When we start to hold things less tightly, the veils through which we tend to perceive things just naturally start to settle. If it doesn’t start with some visceral sense of not knowing, we’re not going to get very far.
In our culture, not knowing is not highly valued, but spiritually, it’s one of the highest values there is. When we open ourselves to the mystery of being, that’s always the doorway—whether it’s the mystery of who you are, the mystery of life, the mystery of God, or the mystery of somebody who’s had a kind of spiritual opening and they’re wondering how they can embody it and live from it.
If you’ve never experienced yourself as a living mystery, a mystery unto you, give it a try. It’s actually very pleasant. It’s not the resolution of the question, of course, but it’s much more liberating than someone’s idea of themselves.
The Unknown is the entryway, the doorway. We let ourselves be oriented to the mystery of being—not because it’s a kind of technique, but because until we’ve had any deeper awakening, we don’t actually know. That’s the truth of the matter: until we know, we don’t know. But the way to know is to allow yourself not to know. That’s the paradox.
© Adyashanti 2019
Online Course Q&A Excerpted from Adyashanti's “Experiencing No-Self” Online Course Q&A
A participant writes: As I spoke about my devotion at the recent Australia retreat, you said it was part of how I was made up. Spirituality for me is also about divine love. So my mind is rather disturbed by the descriptions of losing the self as “bland” and “blankness.” My mind is asking: Why would I want no-self when having a self means that I can experience or be love and devotion? I suppose I’m hoping you will reassure me that no-self is also divine love and not just blankness!
Adyashanti: The no-self state is not bland or simple blankness, although it can sound that way because it cannot be described in positive terms. It is much easier, and more instructive, to describe what reality is not than what it is -- although neither positive nor negative descriptions of absolute reality can ever convey its reality. Always remember that the ego and the self’s experience of God (absolute reality) is not God’s experience of God.
Self experiences everything through the medium of itself. To go beyond self is to go beyond experiencing life through the medium of self, in the same way that going beyond the ego is to no longer experience life through the medium of ego.
Absolute reality (the Godhead beyond God) is the source and substance of all, but it cannot be described as any particular expression it may take, not even love or bliss or being or any other expression of the Divine. That is why I say that no one can desire what the Absolute actually is, only what they think or imagine that it is.
Nonetheless, at the very depth of our being we are inescapably drawn to the Absolute, even though there is nothing for either the ego or the self in it. That is why I say that the true impulse for liberation is an irrational impulse -- irrational to both the ego and self, because it will eventually mean the end of both of them.
Of course, this all sounds quite negative until you remember that liberation is to experience life, reality, and the true nature of God without any medium. Strictly speaking this cannot be described, it must be lived. But I can assure you that nothing else holds a candle to life lived beyond self.
So follow your desire for divine love all the way until it takes you completely beyond ego, self, and even love, where all that is left is the Divine itself.
© Adyashanti 2015
Our primary cause of suffering is that we think deep inside we’re going to win the argument with what is. “What is” may be the world outside you, or you can be sitting all by yourself and you can be at war with yourself, saying, “The way it is, is not the way it should be. I want it to change.”
The problem is, the way you are at any instant is the way it is. That’s reality. Reality rules. It doesn’t change because you or I think it should be different. It’s very simple. And yet, when you really see it, you realize how easy it is to get lost in a literal state of insanity where your mind, your ego, is always telling life: “It’s not the way it should be. I’m not the way I should be. You’re not the way you should be. Something is wrong.”
That sense of wrongness has been around for a long time. But the only thing that’s wrong is that we keep believing there’s something wrong. And when we believe there’s something wrong, we treat the world badly.
You treat yourself badly when you think there’s something wrong with you. The more wrong you feel about yourself, the worse you treat yourself. We’re afraid to let go of that because we think unconsciously, “If we let go of that, then everything would spiral up and out of control. We wouldn’t feed the hungry and we wouldn’t pay attention to the needy and we’d all be self-absorbed. The world needs my argument with it. Otherwise it’s never going to become better.” It’s just insanity.
Where we are, we got here precisely because we argue with what is. And then our hearts close, and our minds close, and the inherent creativity of Spirit shrinks, and our options seem to diminish, and we’re walking in blinders. And the more we have blinders on, the more justified we feel in our reasons to oppose our lives.
At some point, something hits you: “Oh, that’s insane. That’s an argument I can’t win. I can’t win the argument with life. I can’t win the argument with myself. It has no validity to it, none whatsoever.” And then maybe it just starts to collapse.
And isn’t it when the heart opens, when the mind opens, that you and I join with right now? It doesn’t matter how “right now” is. Right now you might feel like a real disaster. You may feel absolutely horrible right now. If you totally join with even that, at the moment you join with it, it’s perfectly fine. It’s the cause of your freedom, just joining with life.
From Adyashanti's Asilomar Retreat, 2010
© Adyashanti 2010
Following is a French translation of Adyashanti's "True Meditation."
La véritable méditation n'a ni direction, ni but, ni méthode. Toute méthode vise à atteindre un certain état d'esprit. Tout état est limité, transitoire et conditionné. La fascination pour les états mène à l'asservissement et à la dépendance. La véritable méditation est de rester présent en tant que conscience primordiale.
La véritable méditation apparaît spontanément dans la conscience quand l'esprit n'est pas fixé sur des objets de perception. Quand vous commencez à méditer, vous remarquez que l'esprit est toujours dirigé vers un objet quelconque, qu’il s’agisse de pensées, de sensations corporelles, d’émotions, de souvenirs, de sons, etc. Il en est ainsi car l'esprit est habitué à se concentrer sur les objets et à se contracter. Alors, l'esprit interprète machinalement ce dont il est conscient (les objets) de façon compulsive et déformée. Il se met à tirer des conclusions et à faire des suppositions basées sur des conditionnements passés.
Dans la véritable méditation, tout objet est laissé à sa fonction naturelle. Cela veut dire qu'aucun effort ne doit être fait pour manipuler et supprimer un quelconque objet dont on est conscient. Dans la véritable méditation, l’accent est mis sur le fait d'être conscience; non pas d'être conscient d'objets, mais de rester présent en tant que conscience primordiale elle-même.
La conscience primordiale est la source à partir de laquelle tous les objets surgissent et se dissipent. Alors que vous vous détendez doucement dans la conscience, dans l'écoute, la contraction compulsive de l'esprit sur les objets s'atténuera. Le silence d’être se révélera plus clairement dans la conscience comme une invitation à vous y reposer et à y demeurer. Une attitude d'ouverture et de réceptivité, libre de tout but ou d'anticipation facilitera la présence du silence et de la tranquillité, qui se révéleront être votre condition naturelle.
Le silence et la tranquillité ne sont pas des états et, par conséquent, ne peuvent être produits ou créés. Le silence est le non état à partir duquel tous les états surgissent et se dissipent. Le silence, la tranquillité et la conscience ne sont pas des états et ne peuvent jamais être perçus dans leur totalité en tant qu’objets. Le silence est lui-même le témoin éternel sans forme ni attribut. Alors que vous vous reposez plus profondément en tant que témoin, tous les objets reviennent à leur fonction naturelle, et la conscience se libère des contractions compulsives et des identifications de l'esprit pour retourner à son non état naturel de présence.
La question simple mais profonde «Qui suis-je ?» peut alors se révéler, non pas comme la tyrannie sans fin de l'égo-personnalité, mais comme la liberté d'être non objective -- la conscience primordiale dans laquelle tous les états et tous les objets naissent et meurent en tant que manifestations de l'éternel Soi non né que VOUS ÊTES.
© 1999 Adyashanti. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from Adyashanti's “The Way of Liberating Insight” Online Course Q&A
A participant writes: I have been sensing into awareness, but I have not previously thought of it as the ground of my being; it hasn’t had any spiritual connotation for me. I have, however, experienced it as a quiet alertness, warm, comforting, peaceful and loving, and somehow both young and old. Whenever I relax into it, all the stress goes away and my mood becomes softer.
If there is a problem, it is that I know I am aware but not that I am awareness. I also know that I am not my thoughts or emotions, or even my body. But when I consider I am that which is aware, so far I haven’t seen what “that” is, even though you and others have offered teachings to help me recognize it. I need to see.
Adyashanti: I appreciate your inquiry into the nature of yourself and awareness. It is true that we can never see ourself as a thing, or as an object of awareness. And we certainly cannot ever see awareness; we cannot see our own seeing. But there is a mysterious and profound way in which our true nature recognizes itself -- not as something “out there” that we can see or relate to, but as the totality itself recognizing itself.
Such recognition is intuitive, spontaneous, and immediate. And it happens when we no longer try to recognize ourself as apart from anything, when we are no longer looking for ourself as some piece, or part, or subject of our experiences and our perceptions. For there is no part or distinct subject who awakens; rather, it is the whole or the totality that awakens.
And all along we are the totality. Even our sense of individuality and human uniqueness is itself the totality appearing in a unique way.
© Adyashanti 2015
I’ve been asked many times, “Adya, I’m experiencing this strange sort of fear, like I’m at the door of some void, and it’s just going to swallow me. And somehow I’m strangely, deeply compelled towards it, and absolutely terrified of it, because it feels like it’s going to be the end of me.” It’s very common in doing this kind of deep work that you can run into this.
Ultimately, in the end, we see through self, but at that point, self isn’t a thought and it’s not really a feeling, except for fear. It’s something you can’t identify, like some sort of presence of being that feels extraordinarily threatened. When this really opens up, you quite literally experience the disappearance of everything you know. It seems like the body, the mind, the entire world—all of existence blinks out of existence.
In a certain sense, the most real sense that there can be, you actually do go through a death. It’s not the same thing as a near-death experience—as transformative as those can be—it’s a death experience. It’s the thing we’re afraid of, because you think of your body dying, which is what most people are afraid of. But you’re only afraid of your body dying because you think that you are associated with the body. What is it that’s associated with the body? It’s you.
If you were 100% completely convinced that you survive your body dying, death wouldn’t feel like a threat to you at all. But since the identification runs so deep there, any threat to your body feels like a threat to your life—as a threat to your ideas can feel like a threat to your life. If you let go here, it feels like, “I will cease to be.” This is to experience the death of the entire ego identity. If it really happens all the way through, something doesn’t come back from it. There is an irrevocable change or transformation. The good news is that you aren’t what you feel is going to die. The only way to know that entirely is for it to die.
My hunch is that when the Buddha associated nirvana with extinction and cessation, this is what he was talking about: to yank identity up from the root. Because until then, it is the journey of identity: “I’m me”—whatever your sense of yourself is—“Oh, I’m not, I’m the aware space.” And then you have emotional identities: “I’m this open, wide, loving, benevolent presence. That’s what I am—beautiful.” Or “I am That—everywhere I look, there I am.” Or if you’re a little bit differently oriented, “Everywhere I look, there’s the face of God. Okay, now that is what I am. I’m a son or daughter of God.”
The fear of it is that it is the death of identity, which is almost impossible to contemplate. The journey is that the identity gets more and more transparent and boundless, until finally identity itself falls away. Then the question “What is it that I am?” is no longer there—not because you have an answer, but because identity is no longer relevant.
In conventional language, you may give it a name like “the infinite.” I call it “pure potentiality.” There are different ways the void is talked about, and this is one of them. Pure potentiality would necessarily be void if it’s pure—no manifestation at all—pure potential, pure creative impulse.
That doesn’t mean that you no longer have a personality, that you no longer have human things about you, that you no longer have a certain kind of principle that orients you—you may even call that an identity. But you no longer find self in identity, and so it’s freed up.
When the Buddha says “enlightenment,” one way of articulating it is that it’s the freedom from identity, from having to be or not be anything. Does that mean you no longer experience the oneness, being everything, seeing the face of God, your true being, or Buddha nature in everything? No, that’s still there. Things are still there, but there’s no longer identity in them. I don’t really know how to describe that, because the nature of it is beyond description. You can’t even think about it. It’s the borderline between being and nonbeing.
So this is just part of the journey: awakening at the level of mind, heart awakening to the unity of all things, and each one of these provides more spaciousness and openness. Your sense of yourself gets more and more transparent, therefore there’s less to defend. There’s less necessity to assert yourself in the world, which doesn’t mean you are not an assertive being. You can still be a very assertive being.
How does all that translate down into your human experience? There’s still a human being there. The human being hasn’t started to glow and become incapable of any stupidity. It hasn’t suddenly become God’s shining example of utter perfection. Each dimension of being exists within its own dimension.
In my experience, what it does is it frees these dimensions up so they’re no longer in conflict, and life is no longer about protecting and asserting a kind of ego structure. It’s about something different. There are still other dimensions of our humanness that need attention if we want to be able to function well and have what we’ve realized be able to flow out into all the dimensions of what it is to be a human being.
From Adyashanti’s Omega Institute Retreat, 2017
© Adyashanti 2017
From the ordinary standpoint, which is where we all start out, spiritual practice has a quality of being a goal-oriented activity. We’re doing it for a particular reason. We’re hoping for a particular result. We hope it will help us to awaken or reveal the truth to us, or help us find peace or freedom. That’s entirely understandable. It’s a way of relating with whatever our spiritual practice is that feels honest. That’s a conventional view of practice, whatever the spiritual practice is.
The most important part of any spiritual practice is its authenticity, its honesty. And that’s something that’s often missed. The spiritual path is an embodied form of being really true and honest with yourself. That’s not an easy thing to do, especially at the beginning.
To be aware is to be confronted with whatever the reality of your condition is at any particular moment. That can roll off the tongue very easily, but when you go to do it, it can be very challenging to really show up in your life authentically for whatever’s unfolding at that moment. We’re always trying to change what is, or explain it, or justify it, or anything other than a direct encounter with the raw reality of our condition at any given moment.
It’s not easy for human beings to be really honest with themselves. It’s one of the most stringent, demanding practices that there is—to not knowingly, intentionally deceive ourselves or others. Just start with yourself. That’s enough for any given day. It's what needs to be informing our spiritual practice.
Spiritual practice becomes effective and powerful in direct proportion to how true and real and honestly it’s undertaken. That's authenticity. And so much of being honest and real with ourselves is realizing what we don’t know. Knowing that we don’t know takes a lot of honesty. A space opens within the mind and even in the body when we start to know that we don’t know. We open to uncertainty: “I’m not so sure anymore. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what enlightenment is. I don’t know what God is. I don’t really know much of what I thought I knew.” Sometimes that can be tremendously liberating, when you let go of a painful idea or belief or opinion that was really burdensome. That can be very freeing, just to get that far.
From the standpoint of realization, practice looks very different. Practice is actually an expression of the state of realization. It's an embodied statement. At first, we can see something like meditation as a means to an end: “I hope this helps me get to where I want to get to.” But from a realized perspective, meditation actually becomes an embodied expression of that realization. It’s not the only expression by any means, but it’s one embodied expression. So then the practice and the realization become the same thing.
The underlying attitude that needs to inform our spiritual approach is basic honesty, sincerity, and truthfulness. To whatever extent we can become honest, truthful, and sincere right from the beginning, we’re actually participating in an embodied form of realization. So we can actually utilize aspects of realization far before we’re even realized.
From the viewpoint of realization itself, not only is practice an expression of realization, but it’s also simultaneously a way that realization explores itself, that reality explores itself. Again, it’s not a goal-oriented activity, because realization itself is infinite. Realization itself has no borders. It has no boundaries. Reality can always be realizing more of itself. When it’s reality doing the realizing, there’s no goal. There’s no end. There’s no anxiety. Strictly speaking, there's no seeking, because there’s no goal orientation. How could you make something that has an infinite capacity into a goal? Because if it’s infinite, by definition, you’re not going to get to the goal.
So practice can been seen from this other orientation, the orientation of a deeper realized state. And we can utilize some of that orientation, even if we don’t think we’re realized yet. We can use some of that attitude, you might say. In fact, it’s essential that we do use that attitude, because spiritual practice itself actually isn’t confined to specific spiritual disciplines. That’s another mistaken idea of spiritual practice, that when we're meditating, listening to a talk, or inquiring, we're engaged in a specific spiritual practice. But spiritual practice actually transcends all of those particular forms. It expresses itself through those embodied forms of spiritual practice. The forms are embodied expressions, but what informs all of those forms is something else.
What informs all of those forms of practice is the commitment to realization itself, which goes back to honesty, sincerity, and truthfulness. These are the primary spiritual practices. In that sense, they’re not limited to any particular form. They’re not limited to a time of meditation. You can practice honesty, sincerity, and truthfulness at any moment of your life, in any situation you might be in. Literally, these are the fundamentals of spiritual practice.
From Adyashanti's Authentic Spiritual Practice, UK Retreat, 2018
© Adyashanti 2018
To the extent that the fire of truth wipes out all fixated points of view, it wipes out inner contradictions as well, and we begin to move in a whole different way. The Way is the flow that comes from a place of non-contradiction—not from good and bad. Much less damage tends to be done from that place. Once we have reached the phase where there is no fixed self-concept, we tend to lead a selfless life. The only way to be selfless is to be self less—without a self. No matter what it does, a self isn’t going to be selfless. It can pretend. It can approximate selflessness, but a self is never going to be selfless because there is always an identified personal self at the root of it.
Being selfless isn’t a good, holy, or noble activity. It’s simply that when there is no self, selflessness happens. This selflessness is very different from having a moralistic standpoint. When action is selfless, it tends to do no harm. It tends to be the salvation, the secret alchemy that awakens and removes conflict. It’s a byproduct of not having a self. It just so happens that reality is overflowing with goodness and love.
This is radical emptiness—where everything is arising spontaneously. There is no more need to discriminate with the mind between what seems to be the right thing or the wrong thing to do. In ego-land it’s helpful to have an ego that can discriminate between right and wrong, but at a certain point, that’s not what you are operating by. You are operating by the flow of the Tao, which is a higher order of intelligence. You don’t need to intellectually discriminate anymore because the Tao discriminates without discriminating; it knows without knowing; it moves without moving. There is no sense of being enlightened or unenlightened. Since there is no self, there is nothing to be enlightened or unenlightened.
We can talk about enlightened beings and non-enlightened beings, and conceptually that has a use. But when there is no self, when there is radical emptiness, the whole enlightenment thing is sort of irrelevant because reality has become conscious of itself, which is enlightenment. That’s what is often missed. People believe that enlightenment is an improvement on reality, like becoming a super human being or God-knows-what. But enlightenment is when reality is awake to itself as itself within itself.
© 2006 by Adyashanti.
Awakening to the truth is a deep realization of what you are as an experience. What is it that is feeling? What is it that is thinking or sensing? This is not about coming up with the right name for it, so don’t name it for a moment. It’s about just noticing, just experiencing. Feel it. Sense it. Welcome it. Spiritual awakening is realizing what occupies the space called “me.” When you listen innocently, you’ll see that there really is something more here than a me.
Your me is always experiencing this moment in relation to some other moment. Is this moment as good as it was two weeks ago? Will it be the same today as it was yesterday? The me worries about what it knows and whether or not it is good enough to get enlightened. Your me might call itself Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Advaitan, atheist, agnostic, believer, or nonbeliever, but no matter what your me is identified with, when you become very open and relaxed, you can suddenly be aware that something else is occupying your body-mind. Something else is looking out from your eyes, listening from your ears, and feeling your feelings. That something has no qualities. Realizing your true nature is realizing what is present without qualities. We can call it the emptiness of consciousness, the Self, or the No-Self. To directly experience this emptiness—the aliveness of it—is spiritual awakening. It is to realize yourself as beautiful nothingness, or more accurately, no-thing-ness. If we say it’s just “nothing,” we miss the point.
When your image of the me takes a break, you’ll find all you are doing at that moment is just being open. You feel quite relieved that you are not trying to get to another moment or a better experience. You feel yourself just being in a very relaxed, easy sense of peace. You haven’t gained anything at all—you’re not smarter, you don’t necessarily know more than anyone else, and you haven’t suddenly become holy. If you are resting as your own true nature, then you feel that there is really nowhere else to go.
At that moment, you feel as if your path has ended. It can be hard to end it when so much is invested in your path, but if you really want to be free, you must want to know the truth more than anything else. And when you do, you find that the truth is so damn empty. There is so much nothing to it. There is so much nobody there, just a very vivid awakeness.
But even then you can realize the truth and still not operate from it. You can have a very deep awakening experience and still not function from that awakening because the me is still convinced that a me is necessary. The me always brings you back into relationship with another—it can be the world and me, my job and me, the dog and me, whatever. Have you noticed how the way you relate to your thoughts, feelings, and sensations is often slightly adversarial? How it’s never quite the right moment? How it’s almost perfect, but not quite? The Buddha said, “All suffering originates from craving, from attachment, from desire.” This is the movement of the me who always wants a little more out of the moment.
The me is clumsy. As my mother used to say, “You’re like a bull in a china shop.” Did you ever hear that? If you let your mind imagine a bull getting loose in a china shop, that’s how the me is. It’s knocking things over, things like the most precious china. With a whisk of its tail, there goes . . . grandma’s four-generation-old antique china cups! Boom—they’re gone. When your me is operating, it’s like that bull. It tends to make a lot of noise because it’s always in a slightly adversarial relationship with its moment. It produces noisy thoughts, feelings, beliefs, or opinions. It also likes to search, moving its head around, scanning for the right emotion in the body, scanning through the mind for the right concept. It’s always in movement like a radar, looking for the right thing to happen.
As soon as you move your attention away from the radar scan, you start to notice something else. Inside, there is something that is not creating nearly as much noise as the me. This something else, this openness, this awakeness, is not searching for the next moment or scanning for the right emotion or experience. You can get the sense of it now. What does it feel like to simply be awake? Whether you think you are awake or not doesn’t matter—don’t worry about that for now. What does the awakeness itself feel like? What is the experience of that awakeness before you try to be more or less awake? Just with a willingness to open, you can start to feel it. How does this awakeness feel? How does this openness feel? Just by bringing your attention there, just by noticing without any effort, this formless or empty sense of being heightens itself as if to say, “Someone is finally paying attention.”
When this openness is present, you can recognize how it experiences your body. How does openness experience a feeling, emotion, or thought? How does it experience the movement called “me”? Allow yourself to get a real taste of this. This openness is in a completely different relationship with everything that exists, starting with you. It’s in a different relationship with the moment; it’s not going anywhere. Have you noticed? It’s not trying to achieve something else. It hasn’t elevated you or demeaned you. Start to sense the profound innocence of this openness. It’s not perceiving from the past—not from the last moment, much less from the accumulation of a lifetime. It’s perceiving only in this moment.
Openness has not accumulated anything, so it’s free. It has a profoundly innocent but wise relationship to everything. It is something primary, awake, and alive. You can sense how incredibly precious it is. When you look right into it, there is nothing there. Let yourself experience this openness, this nothingness. Let yourself see how it experiences your body and mind right now, in this moment. It’s so different from the experience of the me. This nothingness is the peace that surpasses all understanding, and it’s right here at your fingertips.
Awakeness is inherent in all things and all beings everywhere, all the time. This awakeness relates to every moment from innocence, from absolute honesty, from a state where you feel absolutely authentic. Only from this state do you realize that you never really wanted whatever you thought you wanted. You realize that behind all of your desires was a single desire: to experience each moment from your true nature. You find that simply walking outside and seeing a leaf in the breeze or seeing a street person on the corner is the most exquisite of experiences. You don’t need anything big; each moment has a beauty all its own. Even the very ugly moments have a beauty when experienced from this innocence, this beautifully disarming state of awakeness.
During any moment, you can ask yourself, “What is it like for emptiness to experience this moment? What is it like for awakeness?” Really listen, because openness is quiet and soft. You can’t insist upon it. You can’t grab for it, so don’t reach. Just open. Look for the openness, feel from the openness, and relate from the openness. It can freak you out if you’re not used to it. If you find yourself in a place that you don’t like, just ask how openness is experiencing this moment. A shift happens, and you find yourself saying, “I’ll be damned—it’s actually enjoying this!”
This relationship from your heart, from the truth of your being, from openness—is something that can’t be taught. I remember what it was like when I went as a Buddhist to undertake the precepts. You read through them, study them, and kind of take them inside. You do whatever the little me does with them, like deciding you are going to do a really good job of it—until you find out otherwise. You think you know what the precepts are, then you really awaken to your true nature and realize that this is how your true nature naturally sees things. It’s very simple. That’s it. Now you don’t need any precepts because your true nature sees that way all the time. You don’t need to be reminded of how your true nature sees. You only need to be reminded of what your true nature is.
So if you want to find out how openness relates to each moment, just go inside. Be that openness. Be that emptiness. All you can do is ask yourself, inquire for yourself. How is it relating to this thought in my head? To this person? To this moment? You can see this. Go directly to the source, to the only authority that is finally liberating: your own awakeness, your own emptiness perceiving this moment. It will teach you how to live.
Berkeley, California, March 17, 2002
© Adyashanti 2006
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