In spiritual realization, if we mistake the first blush, the by-products of first discovery, for that which we’ve discovered, then we remain a kind of immature lover. An immature lover endlessly mistakes love for the experience of falling in love. In the same way, we may remain an immature realizer. We may have realized something, but we can remain in an immature state: “I want it to be this way all the time. I want it to feel like, ‘Oh, my God!’ all the time.” You’re not going to get past the threshold of the doorway of reality doing that. Experience teaches us that, and then we start to let go of it. We move beyond the ego mind into just being what we are.
That matures for a while. And then at some point, there may be a vast expanse of consciousness. It's like being a conscious, awake, alive, vibrant “nothing.” And it’s a great nothing to be—a totally ascendant, transcendent experience. But it starts to dawn on you, “Okay, I am the nothing as opposed to everything else. Something doesn’t quite add up. There’s still some division. Maybe this isn’t the entire picture.” Not that you have to throw away what you’ve realized, but maybe there’s more to the picture. “Maybe it’s not just this stark duality that I have going, being the aware, awake nothing of consciousness and the everything of existence, the form of existence. That’s a fundamental duality.”
When that interest arises in you, it starts to help. There’s a clutching that you don’t even know is happening. It’s deep in the unconscious. It’s holding on to the new identity of formlessness. There’s a great tendency to want to stay there because it’s a kind of heaven. And you can understand why, because life’s a rough ride sometimes, and then you come into contact with something that’s never been harmed and can’t be harmed ever, and is always there, something that nobody can give you or take away from you. It is such an amazing relief and security to experience something like that. One is not quick to let it go, nor should we be quick to let it go. But it does arise that there may be more to this story.
That curiosity starts to loosen the unconscious holding on to the new identity as formless awareness. It’s not that the formless awareness identity has to go anywhere; it’s just that the clutching at it starts to loosen. And as it loosens, then the witness position relinquishes itself, and the witnessing collapses into the witnessed. When the holding starts to be relinquished, it’s the descending movement. It descends down into the heart. When this descent happens, the heart starts to awaken, and the witness collapses into the witnessed. Then we start perceiving through the heart, seeing through the heart. Then the witness and what is witnessed seem to be one. They’re the same.
It’s a grand inclusion and the waking up of a perceptual capacity from the heart that sees the underlying unity of existence. Experientially, it’s like looking up at a tree and feeling as if the tree is seeing itself. Or you look up at the sky and it feels as though the sky is seeing itself. Or you touch something and you feel as though what you’re touching is feeling itself.
There’s no subject-object relationship going on anymore. There’s just one seamless thing, whatever you want to call it. Ramana called it the Self. The Buddhists call it Buddha nature. You could even call it the perception of life experiencing itself. “Oh, I thought I was apart from life. I thought life was something that I was in and trying to negotiate.” That’s the egoic perspective. “And now I see that I’m actually life itself, the whole of it, also appearing as a particular part at the same time.” You get to play both sides.
From Adyashanti’s Mount Madonna Retreat, 2018
© Adyashanti 2018
Awakeness is inherent
in all things and all beings
all the time.
This awakeness relates to every moment
from absolute honesty
from a state where you feel
Only from this state
do you realize
that you never really wanted
whatever you thought you wanted.
that behind all of your desires
was a single desire:
to experience each moment
from your true nature.
© 2007 by Adyashanti.
Anybody can awaken to the truth of being. And yet, when it is realized, often the person who has committed a large portion of his or her life to the spiritual path is more readily able to let go and flow with that realization than the person who hasn’t been on a spiritual path. Does that have anything to do with some sort of merit earned by sitting on a meditation cushion, or whatever the spiritual practice was? Absolutely not! It has nothing to do with that. It has nothing whatever to do with preparing the field, tilling the soil, or fertilizing the soul. It’s just that it’s possible, though not a guarantee, that someone who has made the spiritual search his or her priority in life is already in fidelity to truth when realization happens. Realization was wanted more than anything else, and his or her life has been a living, walking, breathing demonstration of this fidelity.
But if those who walk in off the street and realize the truth of their being want it just as much as those who put in decades of spiritual practice, guess what? They are at no disadvantage whatsoever. None. Zero. And by the way, having put decades into the spiritual life and spiritual practice does not necessarily mean that we actually value the truth more than anything else. It’s no guarantee. But to take awakening into enlightenment requires a certain sort of fierce commitment to the truth. It is a surrender to what is realized, a surrender to not be moved in the face of anything. And for anybody who loves the truth, really loves the truth, this surrender is not going to be avoided.
In the past, the deepest spiritual teachings were reserved for a very small part of the spiritual population. Those were the people who became monks or nuns or sadhus (renunciants), and committed their entire existence to get the teachings. You couldn’t get the teachings until you’d done that, walked away from family and friends and life as you knew it, and put everything on the line. And even then, teachers wouldn’t give the teachings to you immediately. They’d probably make you wait some years. Why? Because those few enlightened beings knew that to really take awakening to enlightenment or liberation was going to require that kind of commitment, that kind of love of the truth, and the kind of person who would put all their eggs into that basket, right there.
Today you do not have to live in that rarified spiritual environment or commit your entire life to get the teachings of the truth. And yet, to realize the truth and then take it all the way into living and being what you really are, fully and completely, the internal commitment is not any less. It can’t be any less because nothing less than a full, internal love of truth will do. If you love anything more than you love the truth, there’s no way this realization can complete itself. You can realize it, you can awaken, and you can have a nice enlightenment experience, but it’s not going to be something that’s going to be stable and effortless, or last forever. That’s just the physics of it. I’m not writing the rules. It’s just the way things are.
When you realize the truth, then you know that this truth is not fooling around. This truth wants you, and it wants your life, and it’s going to devour you and eat you up for dinner. The truth is not playing games. I’ve had more than one person say, “Adya, how do I turn this off? How do I back out of this deal? This isn’t what I signed up for.” And the only answer is, “Sorry, it’s too late, you can’t back out. You can walk away from me and from all teachers, and from spirituality altogether. You can go to the end of the earth and play some other game, but it’s too late. You can’t unrealize what you realize.” It’s a game until it’s not, but by the time you realize that it’s not a game, you can’t back out.
By and large, people want liberation, freedom, bliss, peace, love, and total release from fear. They want all the accoutrements of enlightenment without having to pay the price. They don’t want to pay the price of a total love affair, a total commitment. I’m not speaking of anything that is separate or different from your life. This doesn’t have anything to do with the monastery or leaving your day-to-day existence. The truth is here in every single moment of your life. That’s the truth. It’s not separate from your life. You can’t run away from yourself and your life in order to awaken to reality. Your life is your path to awakening. Stop and open your eyes: You were free from the very beginning.
Please understand that it’s not you that wakes up; it’s reality that wakes up, the truth wakes up. You are not enlightened; enlightenment is enlightened. Ultimately this realization doesn’t have anything to do with individuals, since there aren’t any separate individuals. That is the whole illusion, that there is something separate from the ultimate reality. When it’s clear that there’s nothing going on other than the ultimate reality, it’s a done deal—enlightenment is effortless.
Excerpted from a talk in Mountain View, California, March 13, 2003.
© Adyashanti 2013
Our deepest spiritual experiences and awakenings are transcendent of self. It’s as if we’re leaping out of the domain of relativity and leaving it behind altogether, to go into the dimension of pure being, the ground of being.
The human dimension that you leap out of when you transcend it may or may not be that ultimately transformed by what you’ve realized. You will always be transformed to certain degrees. But closing the gap between your absolute and relative nature, between your deepest experience of being—whatever that might be for you—and your relative human experience of being, is getting those two dimensions of your being into conversation. Your depth of life translates into your relative life. This is essential if we are to have the experience of being unified beings, unified in the sense that all of you feels like it’s aligned in one direction.
By starting to explore this, the more unified you become, the more your depth and your relative life start to come closer and closer together. They begin to express each other, so that you have a deeper and deeper experience of meaning.
The absolute ground of being is transcendent of meaning. Meaning almost doesn’t make much sense there. But in the relative dimension of being, meaning is meaningful. It means something. Our humanity, if it has no sense of proper orientation or meaning, tends to be in a more chaotic state of being that is innately unsatisfied.
Part of our ability to translate more and more our deepest experience of being into a relative way of being is that it brings meaning back into life. I'm not talking about meaning in a philosophical sense, where you can tell someone the meaning of life. I’m talking about meaning as an experience of being, where you feel as if you’re in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing. Have you had that experience? It’s an experience where you just feel altogether that you're in the right place, doing the right thing at the right time. And you feel it. You don’t get there through analysis or conventional thinking. You get there when you’re doing the right thing at the right time. That is the sense, the experience of meaning.
Meaning in this sense is an experience of being, rather than an idea that you’re imposing upon life. It’s the experience where you feel that you are in alignment with the cosmos. It’s the feeling that your life feels right, it’s on course, and it’s in alignment with the cosmos. You’re in alignment with life. That gives life a sense of meaning—not a philosophical idea of meaning, but the experience of meaning.
The experience of meaning is in some ways similar to the enlightened condition. The enlightened condition is transcendent of meaning, but one way of describing the enlightened condition is always being in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing, totally inwardly aligned, undivided inwardly, psychologically and emotionally undivided. That’s the enlightened condition. And that’s a pretty good description of the experience of relative meaning.
From Adyashanti’s Online Course Taking the One Seat, 2017
© Adyashanti 2017
The enlightenment I speak of is not simply a realization, not simply the discovery of one’s true nature. This discovery is just the beginning—the point of entry into an inner revolution. Realization does not guarantee this revolution; it simply makes it possible.
What is this inner revolution? To begin with, revolution is not static; it is alive, ongoing, and continuous. It cannot be grasped or made to fit into any conceptual model. Nor is there any path to this inner revolution, for it is neither predictable nor controllable and has a life all its own. This revolution is a breaking away from the old, repetitive, dead structures of thought and perception that humanity finds itself trapped in. Realization of the ultimate reality is a direct and sudden existential awakening to one’s true nature that opens the door to the possibility of an inner revolution. Such a revolution requires an ongoing emptying out of the old structures of consciousness and the birth of a living and fluid intelligence. This intelligence restructures your entire being—body, mind, and perception. This intelligence cuts the mind free of its old structures that are rooted within the totality of human consciousness. If one cannot become free of the old conditioned structures of human consciousness, then one is still in a prison.
Having an awakening to one’s true nature does not necessarily mean that there will be an ongoing revolution in the way one perceives, acts, and responds to life. The moment of awakening shows us what is ultimately true and real as well as revealing a deeper possibility in the way that life can be lived from an undivided and unconditioned state of being. But the moment of awakening does not guarantee this deeper possibility, as many who have experienced spiritual awakening can attest to. Awakening opens a door inside to a deep inner revolution, but in no way guarantees that it will take place. Whether it takes place or not depends on many factors, but none more important and vital than an earnest and unambiguous intention for truth above and beyond all else. This earnest intention toward truth is what all spiritual growth ultimately depends upon, especially when it transcends all personal preferences, agendas, and goals.
This inner revolution is the awakening of an intelligence not born of the mind but of an inner silence of mind, which alone has the ability to uproot all of the old structures of one’s consciousness. Unless these structures are uprooted, there will be no creative thought, action, or response. Unless there is an inner revolution, nothing new and fresh can flower. Only the old, the repetitious, the conditioned will flower in the absence of this revolution. But our potential lies beyond the known, beyond the structures of the past, beyond anything that humanity has established. Our potential is something that can flower only when we are no longer caught within the influence and limitations of the known. Beyond the realm of the mind, beyond the limitations of humanity’s conditioned consciousness, lies that which can be called the sacred. And it is from the sacred that a new and fluid consciousness is born that wipes away the old and brings to life the flowering of a living and undivided expression of being. Such an expression is neither personal nor impersonal, neither spiritual nor worldly, but rather the flow and flowering of existence beyond all notions of self.
So let us understand that reality transcends all of our notions about reality. Reality is neither Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Advaita Vedanta, nor Buddhist. It is neither dualistic nor nondualistic, neither spiritual nor nonspiritual. We should come to know that there is more reality and sacredness in a blade of grass than in all of our thoughts and ideas about reality. When we perceive from an undivided consciousness, we will find the sacred in every expression of life. We will find it in our teacup, in the fall breeze, in the brushing of our teeth, in each and every moment of living and dying. Therefore we must leave the entire collection of conditioned thought behind and let ourselves be led by the inner thread of silence into the unknown, beyond where all paths end, to that place where we go innocently or not at all—not once but continually.
One must be willing to stand alone—in the unknown, with no reference to the known or the past or any of one’s conditioning. One must stand where no one has stood before in complete nakedness, innocence, and humility. One must stand in that dark light, in that groundless embrace, unwavering and true to the reality beyond all self—not just for a moment, but forever without end. For then that which is sacred, undivided, and whole is born within consciousness and begins to express itself.
© Adyashanti 2008
There is a very famous poem written by the third patriarch of Zen, Seng-ts’an, called the Hsin-Hsin Ming, which translates as Verses in Faith Mind. In this poem Seng-ts’an writes these lines: “Do not seek the truth; only cease to cherish opinions.” This is a reversal of the way most people go about trying to realize absolute truth. Most people seek truth, but Seng-ts’an is saying not to seek truth. This sounds very strange indeed. How will you find truth if you don’t seek it? How will you find happiness if you do not seek it? How will you find God if you do not seek God? Everyone seems to be seeking something. In spirituality seeking is highly honored and respected, and here comes Seng-ts’an saying not to seek.
The reason Seng-ts’an is saying not to seek is because truth, or reality, is not something objective. Truth is not something “out there.” It is not something you will find as an object of perception or as a temporal experience. Reality is neither inside of you nor outside of you. Both “outside” and “inside” are not getting to the point. They both miss the mark because outside and inside are conceptual constructs with no inherent reality. They are simply abstract points of reference. Even words like “you,” or “me,” or “I,” are nothing more than conceptual points of reference existing only in the mind. Such concepts may have a practical value in daily life, but when assumed to be true they distort perception and create a virtual reality, or what in the East is called the world of samsara.
Seng-ts’an was a wily old Zen master. He viewed things through the eye of enlightenment and was intimately aware of how the conditioned mind fools itself into false pursuits and blind alleys. He knew that seeking truth, or reality, is as silly as a dog thinking that it must chase its tail in order to attain its tail. The dog already has full possession of its tail from the very beginning. Besides, once the dog grasps his tail, he will have to let go of it in order to function. So even if you were to find the truth through grasping, you will have to let it go at some point in order to function. But even so, any truth that is attained through grasping is not the real truth because such a truth would be an object and therefore not real to begin with.
In order to seek, you must first have an idea, ideal, or an image, what it is you are seeking. That idea may not even be very conscious or clear but it must be there in order for you to seek. Being an idea it cannot be real. That’s why Seng-ts’an says “only cease to cherish opinions.” By opinions he means ideas, ideals, beliefs, and images, as well as personal opinions. This sounds easy but it is rarely as easy as it seems. Seng-ts’an is not saying you should never have a thought in your head, he is saying not to cherish the thoughts in your head. To cherish implies an emotional attachment and holding on to. When you cherish something, you place value on it because you think that it is real or because it defines who you think you are. This cherishing of thoughts and opinions is what the false self thrives on. It is what the false self is made of. When you realize that none of your ideas about truth are real, it is quite a shock to your system. It is an unexpected blow to the seeker and the seeking.
The task of any useful spiritual practice is therefore to dismantle cherishing the thoughts, opinions, and ideas that make up the false self, the self that is seeking. This is the true task of both meditation and inquiry. Through meditation we can come to see that the only thing that makes us suffer is our own mind. Sitting quietly reveals the mind to be nothing but conditioned thinking spontaneously arising within awareness. Through cherishing this thinking, through taking it to be real and relevant, we create internal images of self and others and the world. Then we live in these images as if they were real. To be caught within these images is to live in an illusory virtual reality.
Through observing the illusory nature of thought without resisting it, we can begin to question and inquire into the underlying belief structures that support it. These belief structures are what form our emotional attachments to the false self and the world our minds create.
This is why I sometimes ask people, “Are you ready to lose your world?” Because true awakening will not fit into the world as you imagine it or the self you imagine yourself to be. Reality is not something that you integrate into your personal view of things. Reality is life without your distorting stories, ideas, and beliefs. It is perfect unity free of all reference points, with nowhere to stand and nothing to grab hold of. It has never been spoken, never been written, never been imagined. It is not hidden, but in plain view. Cease to cherish opinions and it stands before your very eyes.
© Adyashanti 2007
What is inquiry, really? This is a good question. And like most really good questions, it is very basic. Authentic inquiry is allowing yourself to care, to take on the weightless burden of caring. Everyone knows what it’s like to inquire out of intellectual interest—asking for the sake of asking or because you think you should. This is not caring. When you care about something, it gets inside of you. It gets inside the shell that keeps you from being affected or bothered, the shell that keeps anything really new from happening.
So in the beginning, to deeply inquire about anything, you have to care about it. You have to care enough to allow it to get inside that shell. What do you really care about? What pulls you into here and now, this minute? What is the most important thing to you? For real inquiry, it is important to be asking about something you sincerely care about. The question needs to be personal, not about a spiritual teaching or something that’s outside of your experience. It needs to be something that’s coming from the inside.
When you care, you care from the inside. Many people impose ideas from the outside upon themselves, but this isn’t inquiry. When you really care, you enter a love affair with what you care about. Sometimes it draws you into bliss, sometimes into confusion. You don’t know what to do. You don’t know where you are going. You feel a bit out of control. You’re letting this caring get under your skin. To find out that you care like this is the most important thing; otherwise you can spend your whole life caring about what someone else says you should care about.
Like many people, you may be afraid to find out how much you care because that caring could just steal you away. What is the one thing that will matter the most at the end of your life? Without it, you would say: “That’s what it was all about and I missed it.” If you had the best job, lots of money, the perfect lover, or whatever your ideal is, and suddenly your life was over, what would still be left undone? That’s what it’s all about.
When you find that kind of caring, inquiry has some power behind it. You also find your own inner integrity. You find something inside that’s stable. There’s a place inside you that is willing to be a little crazy—crazy enough to take inquiry seriously and hold nothing sacred. Holding nothing sacred means that nothing is assumed to be true and all of your assumptions are fair game. The more spiritual they are, the more they are fair game. Ultimately it is your most sacred and unquestioned assumptions about yourself, others, and life that are most important to question.
Many people find their spirituality taking them outward. They think they are going inward because they have heard the spiritual teaching, “Inquire and look within.” Meanwhile, they are out in the stars somewhere looking for someone else’s experience, looking for the right experience, or looking for the experience they believe they are supposed to have. This is spirituality going entirely in the wrong direction. Inquiry is a means of taking you back to yourself, back to your experience.
When inquiry is authentic, it brings you into the experience of here and now, bringing you to the full depth of it, pulling you into it. The question pulls you back into the mystery of your experience. “What am I?” takes you right back into the mystery. If your mind is honest, it knows it doesn’t have the answer. You ask, “What am I?” and instantly, there is silence. Your mind doesn’t know. And when it doesn’t know, there is an experience right here, right now, that is alive. You bump into nothingness inside—that no-thing, that absolute nothingness which your mind can’t know.
The answer does not come in the form of a description or phrase; it is a direct experience. And this experience, your livingness, always transcends any words or intellectual answer. In fact, the truth of your being is eternally transcending itself. As soon as it projects itself out as something, even as a profound insight, it has already transcended it. So eventually the inquiry wears itself out. You wear yourself out. You wear your ego self out. You wear your spiritual self out. You wear it all out. You’ve inquired yourself out of this whole thing, and you’re disappearing faster than you can put yourself together.
As Nisargadatta Maharaj said so brilliantly and beautifully, “The ultimate understanding is that there is no ultimate understanding.” When it’s in the head, it’s an impressive piece of understanding; when it’s in the heart, as the Buddha said, it’s extinguished. You find a living experience of being, empty of content, empty of you. This is where spiritual awakening begins. This is the living answer of authentic inquiry.
© Adyashanti 2007
To move beyond all pairs of opposites within oneself is the heart and soul of spirituality. Awareness itself is not a female or a male awareness. It doesn’t belong to me; it doesn’t belong to you. It’s not a right awareness or a wrong awareness. Awareness itself, consciousness itself, lies beyond and before the opposites.
The fundamental ground of your nature is inherently already and always free, inherently already and always complete. This part, when it’s discovered, is where you realize everything is One. It is an exquisite place beyond the pairs of opposites. It is in the very heart of every being, and it is the same in every being. This is a wonderful thing to realize, because then you can start to connect to that which is indivisible. And that is an entirely different place to live one’s life from.
Most human beings are living their whole lives from the pairs of opposites because it’s the only way they know. But when you discover that there is within you this place that is beyond the pairs of opposites, and that place, that state of awareness, is actually what you are, you start to realize you can live from that place.
To live from that place, self-grasping must be let go of more and more fully, because the only thing that keeps anybody from living from that place is holding onto thoughts, ideas, judgments, regrets—all those things that cause you to hold onto yourself. They literally create your self, and as soon as they are let go of, that self is not there anymore.
Living from that place, you start to choose to be simple, to give your attention to the simplicity, to what’s awake in you, to what lies beyond the pairs of opposites: your inherent nature as awareness or consciousness itself. It’s a very simple thing. Through this, it introduces you to the fundamental nature of yourself, the fundamental nature of reality.
You’ll know when you get there, because you stop asking, “Have I gotten there yet?” It’s an exquisite place to get to. It’s very liberating when you discover yourself as you truly are. It’s that place within you that is free, within and from the pairs of opposites. The exquisiteness is the sense of freedom. It’s what brings rest.
Excerpted from the DVD “Beyond Opposites.”
© Adyashanti 2006
Excerpted from Adya’s book, Sacred Inquiry
Be True to What Inspires You
Q: Is it necessary to be in the social world to manifest redeeming love? I have experienced many awakenings during my life, starting at ten years old. I am now seventy. All my life I have been a very dedicated intuitive painter, and painting has led me to my spiritual openings. Now I am not too healthy, so painting is mostly what I do, apart from listening to you. Am I missing something crucial?
A: Love can take an infinite variety of forms—simply to be a loving presence in the world is quite enough. No matter what we are doing or not doing, our state of consciousness affects the whole collective consciousness. Some people will be quite called to active participation in the world, while others will not. There is no right or wrong in it—we are all simply who we are. Each life is unique, and each life contributes simply by being what it is.
When I look at great art, I am inspired and reminded of the sacredness of existence. Michelangelo has been dead for hundreds of years, but he lives and inspires me greatly in his works of art. Our very existence is our contribution to life, no matter what we do or do not do. We are all the products of the whole of existence! Be true to what inspires you; that is your contribution.
I wish you great happiness and health.
What the World Really Needs
Q: I know directly and profoundly that I am nothing. And from that knowing it’s clear, at least intellectually and maybe more deeply, that the multiplicity of appearance is an expression of nothingness. But I still get caught in multiplicity, especially in anger and despair over the havoc we are causing on the planet. It seems to me that until I can hold the facts of resource depletion, species extinction, and climate change in the space of nothingness, the process of awakening is incomplete.
Do I accept that the humanity in me will always be outraged about these things and that there can simultaneously be a knowing of the nothingness of it? Or is there a “place” where there is only abiding in the nothingness of multiplicity? How can I work with this incompleteness and know that I am everything in the way Nisargadatta did?
A: So many people are outraged at the senseless way that we treat each other and this amazing planet that we find ourselves on. Does that outrage solve the immense problems of humanity, or does it fuel them? It seems to me that the world does not need any more outrage than it already has. It does, though, desperately need more love put into action. Perhaps your feelings of outrage are actually originating in a love that you have not yet fully acknowledged and acted upon. Perhaps if you saw how much you truly care and love, and got on with expressing that as best you could, you would not feel outraged and afraid. Love denied turns to anger. Love expressed creates the space and conditions where more love can flower. Love isn’t just a feeling—it is an act of courage.
© Adyashanti 2021
Study Course Q&A Excerpted from "The Philosophy of Enlightenment"
My Dear Friends,
This letter is in response to several letters I have gotten during this course that have asked about how to deal with chronic pain and illness. Although this important subject is a bit outside the scope of this course, I feel called to respond to those who have written in about it. I have condensed my response to these emails into this one response, given that there were so many questions regarding this challenging topic.
There is an unavoidable tragic aspect to life. We will all experience the loss of loved ones, illness, and tragedies of various kinds and to varying degrees. As the Buddha said, in life there is suffering. No sugarcoated truth here; he was just stating one of the unavoidable facts of life. However, this is not the end of the story, it is just the beginning.
One of the greatest challenges of dealing with chronic illness is the feeling of isolation and aloneness, and experiencing something that so few understand. Many more people deal with chronic illness and pain than most people would imagine. There is also the challenge of experiencing something that you have little or no control over, which can elicit feelings of fear, rage, depression, and victimhood. One also becomes more vulnerable to the darker impulses of the mind as it struggles to adapt to the day-to-day realities of what often feels overwhelming.
Notwithstanding the necessity of caring for your health and physical well-being to the best of your ability, what I want to address here is the psychological aspect of prolonged illness and/or pain. It is very important to look closely at the difference between the body’s experience of pain and illness and the mind’s reaction to it. It is the mind’s reactions and the emotions that they trigger that are often more challenging than the physical experience of pain or illness itself, because the mind’s responses are optional.
Most of the ways that the mind responds to prolonged pain and illness elicit the fight-or-flight response in the brain. This response, which takes place in the most primitive part of our brain, underlies almost all of the emotional turmoil associated with prolonged pain and illness. It is the mind saying no to what is being experienced, while simultaneously trying to run away from it. There is nowhere to run to, because the perceived threat is not occurring outside of our bodies, it is occurring inside of our minds. The good news is that the mind and the emotions that it elicits are changeable.
The practice that is essential when dealing with the fight-or-flight mechanism of the mind is, first of all, to notice when it is happening and take immediate action to counter it. Because this is an email, I will condense my explanation of the practice here below.
1. Notice when the fight-or-flight response is happening. The symptoms that it has triggered are fear, anger, anxiety, resentment, defeatism, victimhood, and rampant negative thinking, to name a few.
2. Once you have noticed the fight-or-flight response is taking place, stop and take several conscious deep breaths. You are beginning to go against the tide of the fight-or-flight response, so you may experience some inner resistance to doing even this first step. Nonetheless, take the time to take a few conscious breaths. This will begin to biologically counter the fight-or-flight response in the brain. It will help the brain to reset its response to physical and emotional challenge.
3. Notice the negative thoughts that the mind is generating. Also notice that it is the negative thoughts that are generating the emotional turmoil. Pain and exhaustion are direct experiences, while emotional turmoil is a secondary reaction. It’s an add-on that has the power to elicit many reactive emotions. So take the time to notice that this secondary reaction is being generated by negative thinking.
4. Acknowledge that, while the pain or illness may be unavoidable, the resistance to it is optional and happens in your mind. Ask yourself, “Is it absolutely necessary for me to resist what is happening right now? What would it feel like to let go of these resisting thoughts?”
5. Take the time to let your body feel the shift from negative thinking to a more neutral mindset. Negative thoughts may still try to intrude into the moment, but just ask yourself once again, “What would it feel like to let go of these resisting thoughts right now?” Don’t resist the resisting thoughts, however; that will only keep you bound by them. Be patient and don’t try to rush it. Being patient counters the fight-or-flight response as well.
6. Be sure to let your mind and your body feel the space between and underneath the negative thoughts, which this practice makes available. I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough. This practice makes available the experience of neutral space in the mind and the body. When applied constantly over time, it resets the emotional triggering caused by the mind to a more peaceful and free state.
7. Illness and pain can also generate future thinking like “Will this ever end,” or “What will my life look like in the future?” Or, even more painful, “What did I do to deserve this, and why is God doing this to me?” These are also thoughts that are resisting experiencing this moment. They are generated by fear and resistance and in turn create more fear and resistance. You may also feel some fear in letting them go, as if somehow they were going to protect you in the future. You are not being punished; life is just like this sometimes.
8. Repeat the above exercise as often as needed, probably many times every day. It can take time, though it doesn’t necessarily have to, to reset the mind’s fight-or-flight responses. The more consistent you are, the faster these old conditioned responses can be turned around. But it does take consistent practice.
9. Also, take some time to meditate every day. You can work with the thoughts that come up in meditation in exactly the same way that I have outlined here. Meditation done correctly can help tremendously in freeing yourself from the fight-or-flight response, as long as you don’t restrict the practice only to times of meditation. And remember, this practice is not only for your mind, it is also for your body. So take the time to let both the mind and the body experience those gaps of neutrality and peace that this practice makes available to you. It can be life changing.
With Great Love,
The above Q&A is excerpted from an online study course with Adyashanti. Learn about his current course on the Study Course page.
Study Course Q&A Excerpted from "The Philosophy of Enlightenment"
Lois writes: I have followed your teachings for many years. My question is, how do we adjust to living in this new world with all its turmoil? I know it’s all part of the dream, but then I wake up at 3 a.m. to rage, judgment, and fear, which carry through the next day. Which of these is the worst, and how do I deal with them? I find myself un-friending a lot of family and friends over this.
Adyashanti: This election certainly has stirred up a lot of emotion in people -- mostly fear and anger, as far as I can see. We are in a time of great cultural upheaval in both the United States and Western Europe. People on both the left and the right of the political divide feel disenfranchised, ignored, and threatened in so many ways. And it all boiled up to the surface during this election. It was bound to happen and in many ways necessary. Cultural turmoil brings change. The question is, what kind of change will it bring? This is the great unknown, and wherever people encounter the unknown, the most common instinctual reactions are fear, blame, and anger.
I feel that this is a time when we who seek to be more conscious, loving, and wise get to see exactly how deep our wisdom and love really are. This is where the rubber hits the road -- no more abstractions or high-minded ideas; this is where and when it is needed. This is where we come to see if we are still caught in the old ego-minded world of reactivity, anger, and fear, or if we have come upon the consciousness of wisdom and love. It is also a time when we can see if we are hiding out in transcendental ideologies of how unreal it all is as an unconscious defense against engaging with the world as it actually is.
There are important political and cultural issues at stake here to be sure, and we all have a stake in the outcome, which is why so many people are so fearful and angry. It's as if 50 percent of the population cannot possibly understand, or even care to understand, the other 50 percent. And human decency and sanity have gotten lost amid the angst. Sadly, we have stopped truly communicating in the process.
I have watched this growing in our culture over the last 25 years, and now it has boiled over. As a populace, we have stopped seeking to understand one another and have sought instead only to be understood; or, in many cases, insisted upon being agreed with. We have failed to take care of one another, to love, cherish, and understand one another.
There are very important issues at stake here: issues of poverty, inequality, political disenfranchisement, racism, sexism; the list goes on. But as each of us advocates for those issues that are important to us, we too must take responsibility for the breakdown of civility, decency, and unhealthy communication. No one forces our state of consciousness upon us. No one forces us to act out of fear, rage, and unconsciousness. We will either relate out of our conflicted mind states, or from the more evolved aspects of our nature.
I cannot say exactly how to relate with those who are caught in their own conflict, except to say that if we seek to understand as our first impulse -- and to respond from the wisest, most patient, and loving dimension of our being -- we will at least be standing on a foundation of sanity and peace. And our actions, whatever they may be, will then be expressions of the highest consciousness that we have attained, and we will have taken responsibility for our own feelings and impulses, and made the wisest choices that we have access to.
If we are inspired to advocate for certain causes, we will do so out of love for those causes, rather than out of rage against the perceived "other." Perhaps then we will become agents for sanity, peace, love, and the living of it in this confused world of ours.
With Great Love,
© Adyashanti 2016
Ego believes it has agency and that it’s doing things, and constantly things happen that the ego doesn’t want to happen. In fact, the ego itself does things that it doesn’t want to do; yet it insists that it has agency. Strange, isn’t it? We bump into that over and over, even in one given day.
You hear it at retreats, like this: “How do I not have this thought? How do I not have this feeling?” As if you had agency. If you had agency you wouldn’t have to ask the question, would you? If we had this so-called free agency we’d just go, “Well, I don’t want to think—click. I feel bad, I’ve got free agency, I don’t want to feel bad—click—I feel good.”
We think the enlightened ones figure this agency thing out. They’ve got total agency, so they can choose bliss, joy, and happiness, and they’ve got something figured out, when actually it’s just the opposite. They’ve realized just the opposite: There is no agency.
Ego has no agency, therefore it has no freedom. That’s why it’s constantly frustrated; that’s why it constantly lies to itself. It keeps pretending that it does. It would be terrible news if we were our egos—because that would mean we are locked into a prison we could never get out of. But of course an ego is just a collection of thinking based on desire and aversion.
That vast unified field of being—whatever we want to call that: pure consciousness, spirit, unified field—as that gets more and more conscious, as that wakes up to its own nature, the experience as it gets very deep is that “Whatever is happening is what I want to be happening.” Because when you are only that field, you haven’t split yourself off; there’s only the One.
From Adyashanti's Online Course The Philosophy of Enlightenment, 2017
© Adyashanti 2017
Excerpted from the book “Sacred Inquiry: Questions That Can Transform Your Life”
Q: After forty years of seeking and searching and practicing and cul-de-sacs and dead ends and moments of enlightening grace, your message is bringing it all together and dismantling it. It’s amazing that it comes to this.
The question: I come from a long legacy of Methodist ministers, and being good seems to have been the whole point of that and most religious teachings. Now I find myself struggling with not knowing whether my impulse to love and serve is more “good ego” or if it is coming from beyond that. My awareness of ego, and uncovering and dismantling it, is becoming quite constant, yet this confusion seems to be yet another of its tricks. How can I tell?
A: Of course there is nothing wrong (and much that is relatively right) with being a good and loving person, unless it becomes an identity. Good and loving acts are a virtue, but being identified with those acts easily becomes a vice. In truth, you are not a good or bad person, you are spirit itself. And although spirit usually gets associated with the good, it is actually far beyond being relatively good or bad.
All relative identities belong to the ego, as in “I am good.” But spirit is simply “I am”—not “I am this or that.” Abide in the felt sense of “I” with no conceptual overlay. True love springs forth from spirit, which is pure “I am.” The “I am” is naturally loving and egoless. Meditate on the sense of “I,” and it will lead you into that state which is the source of “I am.”
Ego is “I am this or that,” while the pure “I” is beyond ego and all definitions. It is without form, either physical or conceptual. It is pure consciousness and presence. By attending to your absolute subjectivity, you awaken as the unseen subject to all experience. The universal sense of the unseen self is the universal “I am,” which is all-encompassing unity and oneness.
And as I have tried to clarify, when both self and Self fall away in the experience of no-self (as in the crucifixion), the ultimate ground of existence is realized, and a new (resurrected) life begins.
The impulse to love and be of service can be coming from your higher nature, or true self. But it could also be coming from the ego which easily forms an identity around being “a good person.” If it is coming from your higher nature, it will flow from a natural abundance of well-being and you will feel no attachment to being viewed as a good or helpful person. If it is tinged with ego, it will be a way that you like to be seen by others, as well as an identity that you like to see yourself as. True nature is beyond being a good or bad person; it is pure being as such, prior to all relative identities.
© Adyashanti 2020
When we are engaging in spiritual practice from the viewpoint of boundless reality, there is no subject and object, no “me” seeking something from practice, and no seeking outside of oneself or outside of the present. I’m stating this in negative terms, but only for the purpose of countering how the ego engages in spiritual practice. The ego’s strategic viewpoint serves as a means of achieving something outside of, or beyond, what is presently given in each moment. Not that the egocentric view of spiritual practice is necessarily wrong, but it is limited and bound by the dualistic outlook that defines its perspective.
I vividly remember being bound by just this sort of dualistic attitude in the early years of my spiritual quest. I very much saw my spiritual practice as a means to an end: namely, to achieve enlightenment. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this strategy simply served to continue to separate me from what I was seeking. As if I were sprinting to the finish line at the end of a marathon, but the faster I sprinted, the faster the finish line receded away from me. It was not until I had thoroughly exhausted myself with my efforts to the point of total collapse, that I realized the elusive goal of awakening was not only exceedingly near, it was exactly no distance away from me at all. In fact, it was the very foundation of my being, and the foundation of all beings.
The awakened condition is not something to be achieved, found, or grasped. It is our natural condition from the very beginning. The reason that we do not experience it is because it is not hidden—which is a very strange idea, but nonetheless true. We also do not experience it because we are simply too identified with and beholden to the egocentric perspective. We therefore engage in spiritual practice from that perspective, even though it is the sole obstruction to the awakening for which we strive. Awakening is not a thing to be perceived—rather, it is clear perception itself. And it is not attained by the ego; it is clear perception becoming conscious of itself.
From the mature ego’s perspective, we are helping true nature realize itself, rather than trying to attain it for ourselves as egos. However, ultimately we are true nature realizing itself in a deeper and deeper way, and in a profoundly human way.
In order to help this realization, our spiritual practice must be very embodied, very earthy and natural. For example, when we meditate, we sit down with our body, reconnect, and bring our mind back to the immediate and concrete aspects of our experience: our posture, our breath, and our senses. These are the material facts of embodied existence, they are not theoretical, abstract or imagined.
The ego is a product of the mind, and it lives predominately in the mind, and in the emotions that are created by the mind’s interpretation of events. Although the ego is profoundly attached to its identification with the body, it is not actually very conscious of the body, as the body is prior to the ego’s interpretations. So even though the ego is profoundly attached to the body, and feels contained within its confines, it lives in a rather disembodied state. A state created and maintained by its attachment to, and identification with, thoughts, ideas, memories, and opinions. And if we are not very careful, the ego will be driving our spiritual practice and doing so within the very limited confines of its personal agenda. Whereas a truly embodied spiritual practice will seek to be connected with the immediate and concrete facts of existence as they exist prior to the ego’s interpretations, desires and demands.
There is a profound paradox that you may have noticed in this teaching. The best way to go beyond identification with the body and the ego, is to attend to the body by being mindfully present to the direct and immediate experience of material existence as it is prior to the ego’s interpretations. This will naturally lead us to developing more and more subtle perception until we can perceive the nondual nature of body, mind, and spirit. Our true nature makes no distinction between the material and the immaterial, between consciousness and the empirical world. To our true nature, these distinctions that the human mind makes are at best sometimes useful, but never ultimately real.
Which is simply to say that there is more dharma in a single leaf on a tree than in all the sutras ever written. There is indeed a reality beyond all material form, but it is on full display in each and every fall of the breath, or heartbeat, or grain of sand on the beach. The world’s greatest spiritual teachings are simply ways of articulating the great reality that lies fully embodied right before our very eyes.
Always and already.
Copyright © 2021 Adyashanti.
Awakening, at least initially, is often a kind of transcending of the human dimension of being. Body, mind, ego—all of that is transcended. And that’s necessary, because it’s not our egos that wake up. We have to be able to sort of leave them behind. But also, we do have a body and a mind and a human life that’s in time and space, and it’s always in a process of becoming.
To our ego mind it’s hard to imagine “becoming” that has no search for completion in it, no sense of angst or unworthiness. But it’s actually happening all around us. Everything in nature is in the process of becoming, but it’s not in a rush to get there. When a pine tree is a seed, in a certain sense it’s complete. It contains the entire pine tree within the seed. In fact, in a way, it contains all pine trees within the seed. It’s totally complete; nothing is left out. The potentials for roots and trunks and branches and pine needles are all present. A hundred-and-fifty-foot-tall pine tree is innate in a single little seed.
If that seed had its own version of a spiritual awakening, it would feel that completeness, that it didn’t have to become anything other than it was. That’s a huge thing for a human being to experience. Simultaneously, if the conditions are right, the seed starts to sprout and put down roots. It grows a trunk and stretches out its branches and needles to the sun, and basically unfolds its potential. Through the whole life of the tree, it’s endlessly unfolding its potential, until its life is exhausted and it becomes fertilizer for the next seed.
That’s one of the examples I like to use where you can actually have both of these things happening: always unfolding your potential and always unfolding your completion, once we realize what’s always and already whole. And it’s not just a personal thing. It’s not the ego that has that realization; it’s true nature as such, so it’s the true nature of all beings and all things. As it is said that the Buddha proclaimed when he awoke, “I and all beings everywhere have simultaneously realized the great liberation.”
Of course, if he was saying that from the ego perspective or even the rational perspective, it makes no sense. Just because this guy Buddha sitting under the tree had his great enlightenment doesn’t mean that somebody around the corner all of a sudden popped into enlightenment also. But the true nature of me is the true nature of you, and the true nature of you is the true nature of the universe. And when true nature awakens through an individual expression, it’s true nature as such that awakens. So that’s the feeling, and that’s important, because it’s not only important for us to discover our wholeness and completion, but that we also perceive it in others. If it’s a real realization, it will be true nature that’s awake—not “my” true nature, in terms of just me. It has that quality, too, because there’s still an individual there in a certain sense. But the gift has to be seen everywhere.
Seeing the true nature of everyone and everything is an immensely beautiful thing to behold, and wonderfully confounding when you behold the true nature of somebody or something you really don’t like. “Really? Wow!” It doesn’t mean that you suddenly agree with the person you dislike. You can still disagree, but it’s different to disagree and just see your version of their wrongness, or disagree and see that they are also an expression of true nature—potentially a conscious one, potentially an unconscious one.
Even though it’s just mere understanding, it’s kind of nice every once in a while to remind yourself that you can’t be other than you are, and there’s completion from the very beginning. Even when we’re confused and searching and struggling, that’s also true nature. That’s like the seed sprouting and pushing away the grains of soil as it makes its way to the surface sunlight. You can feel that pushing through happening sometimes; that itself is an expression of true nature. So the yearning and the search is an expression of true nature. And it’s not a bad thing to contemplate, especially if you’re having a difficult time. You don’t somehow stop becoming what you really are when you’re struggling.
It all starts from the simplest standpoint, the simplest thing. As I say, often when it comes to your spiritual practice, whatever that is, the simpler and more one-pointed the better. The usefulness of an application is how much can be condensed into its most simple form. It’s like a physicist trying to come up with an equation that takes the greatest amount of information and condenses it into the most simple expression possible. That was the genius of E=mc2. The amount of information that it contained was almost unimaginable, as well as its beauty. Certainly for someone like Einstein this was clearly a big part of his motivation. Such discoveries were mathematical and spiritual discoveries at the same time.
So when you condense the immensity of true nature down into a really simple application, you want something that contains as much wisdom and vision and love as possible in its most simplified, practical form. Often I’ll say simply, “Abide as awareness.” Just that. Keep it simple.
From Adyashanti's Mount Madonna Retreat, 2019
© Adyashanti 2019
Online Course Q&A Excerpted from Adyashanti's "The Way of Liberation Online Course Q&A"
A participant writes: I am writing this with fear to do so. I have stayed in the background reading only nonduality books daily and listening to your CDs for the past four years. I am aware of this fear of abandonment and rejection from authority and yet also realize the fear keeps me creating and living what I fear.
When my husband passed away (four years ago) I had a profound clarity at his bedside before his passing. After, I had to be profoundly alone. I moved to CA by myself not really knowing anyone and have stayed alone for all this time. In a way, my only friends were nonduality books and CDs which I read and listened to daily.
Nine months ago, my Mom had a stroke and nearly did not make it. I had 4 brothers and three of them passed away in their 20s. Now the only family I have is my Mom and my one brother.
Somehow I isolate myself even though I also have this clarity. There is such a tiredness feeling that there is nowhere to go and nothing left to trust in this place we call the world. Perhaps I am afraid to love and be loved with having all the loss. The feeling is a feeling of loss, abandonment, rejection, trust, and also realizing and aware that this is the life I am creating from these deep core feelings.
It is huge for me to expose this as it feels like there is no one who is going to care and it just may be easier to not take the risk. It seems that I have created a belief there is no one I can trust to be there to care. I have put myself in a place where I no longer know how to be with the others in the way I once loved to be.
Where do I start to trust being alive again and trust life to be alive?
Adyashanti: Thank you for your question and your courage in opening up and asking for help. Sooner or later we will all experience the tragic quality of life. Perhaps this quality of life is brought to us through illness, or the death of a loved one, or losing a job, or an unexpected accident, or having your heart broken. But we will all experience this tragic quality of life in both small and overwhelmingly large ways over the span of our lives. Whether we want to face it or not, life, with all of its beauty, joy, and majesty, also has a tragic element to it. This is exactly what the Buddha saw, and it inspired his entire spiritual search.
It seems that most people look for various ways to escape from this tragic quality of life, but ultimately to no avail. There is no escaping it. And it must be faced sooner or later. The question is, when we are faced with this aspect of life, how do we respond? Surely, to avoid it only leads to denial, fantasy, life-numbing withdrawal, cynicism, and fear. It takes great courage to face the totality of life without withdrawing from it or trying to protect ourselves from it.
Paradoxically, to face the totality of life we must face the reality of death, sorrow, and loss as well. We must face them as unavoidable aspects of life. The question is, can we face them directly without getting lost in the stories that our mind weaves about them? That is, can we directly encounter this tragic quality of life on its own terms? Because if we can, we will find a tremendous affirmation of life, an affirmation that is forged in the fierce embrace of tragedy.
At the very heart and core of our being, there exists an overwhelming yes to existence. This yes is discovered by those who have the courage to open their hearts to the totality of life. This yes is not a return to the innocence of youth, for there is no going back, only forward. This yes is found only by embracing the reality of sorrow and going beyond it. It is the courage to love in spite of all the reasons to not love. By embracing the tragic quality of life we come upon a depth of love that can love “in spite of” this tragic quality. Even though your heart may be broken a thousand times, this unlimited love reaches across the multitude of sorrows of life and always triumphs. It triumphs by directly facing tragedy, by relenting to its fierce grace, and embracing it in spite of the reflex to protect ourselves.
In the end, we will either retreat into self-protection, or acknowledge the reality of sorrow and love anyway. Such love not only transcends life and death, it is also made manifest in life and death. You give yourself to life out of love, and it is to love more fiercely that you walk through the fires of sorrow that forge the heart into boundless affection.
© Adyashanti 2015
An Unfinished Poem by Adyashanti
Listen now, or lose your life, for what I have to say is what you have imagined in quiet moments but have failed to realize in full. Perhaps you were too timid or astonished at the critical moments, or couldn’t find the courage to step through the veil of your frail life when the door was opened for you.
Or perhaps you wanted to keep your life as your own, and chose to hold onto a few pennies when you could have had gold. No matter, for yesterday has passed into the dust of remembered dreams, and tomorrow’s story is yet to be written.
Which is precisely why you and I are now here together. You and I. You and I. Oh, the sheer mystery of it—how could anything be more grand? Stand with me here at the precipice and take my hand in yours, for I am good company to those ready to depart familiar ground. If not, then let loose of my hand now and take that of a more familiar companion. For where we stand is known, but our next step will not be—nor the one after or the one after that.
So shoulder all of your longing and intent and leave all else behind. I give you fair warning: The world you are about to leave will not be there when you return. For nothing truly left behind is ever the same upon our return. Let us not waste any more time on discussions or debates; you have surely been caught in those tide pools too long already. Too much talk is wearying to the soul and evades the spirit of things. Longing is the true measure of a man or woman and alone has the power to draw us out of ourselves and into the vast air of eternity. But we shall not rely only on the winds of longing, for they can be fickle and unpredictable. We shall also need the fire of intent—that fine-tipped arrow of courage flying true and straight to its goal, piercing through the fabric of our dreams as it goes.
This is as fair a day as any to begin the journey back to your origin. So lift your foot together with mine and we will step off the well-trodden paths and into the uncharted woods where the essence of things lies waiting for you to open your eyes.
It is time to begin watching your steps, dear companion. For you have already wasted the goodness of too many days stumbling along with the unconscious drove. Today I bid you to place no foot upon the earth without feeling the sinews, skin, and bone of your feet with each step. How awake you are to the least of things will determine how awake you become to the greatest in due time. For in the play of time, the great and manifold diversity of things in the end proves their unity. And it is toward the end that we are headed, for it is only by means of the end that we arrive here, on this spot, free and immortal.
I can see in your eyes a fear and confusion. All this talk of endings brings a tremble to your bones. But fear not, for I do not speak of death or chaos except to point out that you have already fallen prey to both. No, I talk of awakening from the death of sleepwalking in dreams and veiled imagination. Beyond the veil all is well, and more well than I can attest. Within the immortality of what you are, there is a contentment and peace born only of your true identity.
Have you not been told how grand you are, how uncontained, how limitless? I for one maintain that you are as unseen and eternal as the space that spans beyond the myriad universes. I praise the immortal self—not one self among many, but the self within all selves. For everywhere I go, and in each and everyone I meet, I greet my secret and unseen self. For I know each man and each woman as I know myself, none greater or lesser in essence or worth.
I have no desire or pull toward the gods, nor sacred relics, nor holy books. For I have waded through the various dogmas and found them lacking the essential vision, the unitary glance that reveals God’s hand within every gesture. Why should we go looking for more than we are, when we are what we are looking for? Beware of a misguided longing, for it leads in the end to brutality. How much blood has already been spilled in God’s name and how much more to come?
I bid you, dear companion: Throw off the yoke of belief, for to arrive at the nobility of truth you must be cleansed of all borrowed knowledge till you are as innocent as the day before you were born. You must forge from within your longing a fiery sword of discrimination, unsheathed from the past—starting now on this hill we stand upon, determined to never again take anything secondhand, but instead prove true or false each statement yourself.
For truth belongs to neither man or woman, nor holy book, nor well-reasoned philosophy or belief, but only to itself—immortal and pure. I seek only to remove untruth from your mind so that you may be restored to the unitary vision which is your everlasting inheritance.
© 2006 by Adyashanti.
Inexplicably it comes. When you least expect it. For a reason you can never know. One moment you are striving, figuring, imagining, and then, in the blink of an eye, it all disappears. The struggle disappears. The striving disappears. The person disappears. The world disappears. Everything disappears, and the person is like a pinpoint of light, just receding until it disappears. And there’s nobody there to witness it. The person is gone. Only, only awareness remains. Nothing else. No one to be aware. Nothing to be aware of. Only that remains itself. Then it’s understood, finally and simply.
Then everything—all the struggle, all the striving, all the thinking, all the figuring, all the surrendering, all the letting go, all the grabbing hold of, all the praying, all the begging, all the cursing, too—was just a distraction. And only then is it seen that the person was, is, and ever will be no more than a thought. With a single thought, the person seems to reemerge. With more thoughts, the world seems to reemerge right out of nothing. But now you know.
The incarnation is nothing more than a thought. A thousand incarnations are but a thousand thoughts. And this amazing miracle of a mirage we call the world reappears as it was before, but now you know. That’s why you usually have a good laugh, because you realize that all your struggles were made up. You conjured them up out of nothing—with a thought that was linked to another thought, that was then believed, that linked to another thought that was then believed. But never could it have been true, not for a second could it have actually existed. Not ever could you have actually suffered for a reason that was true—only through an imagination, good, bad, indifferent. The intricacies of spiritual philosophy and theologies are just a thought within Emptiness.
And so at times we talk, and I pretend to take your struggles seriously, just as I pretended to take my own seriously. You may pretend to take your own struggles seriously from time to time, and although we pretend, we really shouldn’t forget that we are pretending, that we are making up the content of our experience; we are making up the little dramas of our lives. We are making up whether we need to hold on or surrender or figure it out or pray to God or be purified or have karma cleansed—it’s all a thought. We just collude in this ridiculous charade of an illusion pretending that it’s real, only to reveal that it’s not. There is no karma. There is nothing really to purify. There’s no problem. There is only what you create and believe to be so. And if you like it that way, have at it!
But we cannot continue this absolute farce indefinitely. We cannot continue to pretend this game we play, indefinitely. It’s impossible. Everything comes back to nothing.
And then it’s a bit harder to hold a straight face consistently for the rest of your life.
Transcribed from a talk in Pacific Grove, CA, June 9, 2006.
© 2006 by Adyashanti.
Look around you; there is only one reality. The reason that you are here, wherever here is for you, is because it is the only place that you can be right now. But even though reality is right here, and even though there is quite literally nothing but reality, it is very possible for you to miss it altogether. By miss it I mean to imagine that reality is something or somewhere other than here. As strange as it may sound it is very possible, even probable, that even though you have eyes to see, you do not see. And even though you have ears to hear, you do not hear. What you see and hear is not exactly what is actually here, but what you imagine is here.
Our imagination is a very powerful force in determining what we perceive. If we imagine that the world is teeming with evil forces, we will surely perceive the world as evil. But if we imagine the world to be essentially good, we will perceive it as good. Either way it is the same world that we are looking at. But the world is neither good nor bad in and of itself; it is simply what it is. And if we see the world as either good or bad, we will not be able to see it as it actually is. We will only be able to see it as we imagine it to be.
Now take this idea and apply it to everything and everyone in your life. Try it for a moment, or an hour, or a day. And if you do, you may begin to notice that the world you imagine to exist does not exist at all. This may cause you some fear, or possibly the thrill of discovery, but either way the important thing is to get some distance from the habitual way the mind contorts and creates perception.
But even though our mind imagines the world and everything in it to be other than the way it actually is, the reality of existence remains eternally untouched by our misperception of it. This is both relatively good and bad. It is good in that existence is eternally what it is. We need not worry about reality becoming something other than reality. But it is bad in the sense that the world we imagine to exist is always colliding with the world as it actually is. This collision is the cause of immense human suffering and conflict.
So we are trapped within our illusions and misperceptions. And the greatest illusion of all is to believe that we are not trapped. But even when we realize that we are confined within a prison of our own making, we are trapped because all the ways we struggle to get out of our illusions are illusions themselves. So, yes, we are trapped, and helpless to boot.
But there is a very strange thing that can occur at exactly the point where you realize that there is no escaping the imaginary world of your illusions. You bare your heart open to illusion, surrender your eternal struggle against it, and admit to being bound by its cunning imagination. I don’t mean that you become despondent or resigned to your fate. I mean that you truly let go in the face of your utter defeat and stop struggling.
And when all the struggle ceases, we realize that the prison of our mind cannot hold us in anymore, because the prison was all along something we imagined into existence. And imagined things aren’t real, they don’t exist. But we could never really see this as long as we were fighting the phantoms of our minds. We needed the one thing that our imaginary minds could not bring about, could not fake or create: the genuine surrender of all struggle.
In the blink of an eye, we are no longer confined within illusion nor our attempt to avoid illusion. When all struggle ceases, there is nothing to bind us to a distorted perception of existence and we can finally see. What we see is that we do not simply exist within existence, but all of existence exists within us as well. And although everywhere we look we see the endless diversity of life, we also now see our own true face in everything under the sun.
© Adyashanti 2010
Human beings have a drive for security and safety, which is often what fuels the spiritual search. This very drive for security and safety is what causes so much misery and confusion. Freedom is a state of complete and absolute insecurity and not knowing. So, in seeking security and safety, you actually distance yourself from the freedom you want. There is no security in freedom, at least not in the sense that we normally think of security. This is, of course, why it is so free: there’s nothing there to grab hold of.
The Unknown is more vast, more open, more peaceful, and more freeing than you ever imagined it would be. If you don’t experience it that way, it means you're not resting there; you’re still trying to know. That will cause you to suffer because you’re choosing security over Freedom. When you rest deeply in the Unknown without trying to escape, your experience becomes very vast. As the experience of the Unknown deepens, your boundaries begin to dissolve. You realize, not just intellectually but on a deep level, that you have no idea who or what you are. A few minutes ago, you knew who you were—you had a history and a personality—but from this place of not knowing, you question all of that.
Liberated people live in the Unknown and understand that the only reason they know what they are is because they rest in the Unknown moment by moment without defining who they are with the mind. You can imagine how easy it is to get caught in the concept of the Unknown and seek that instead of the Truth. If you seek the concept, you'll never be free, but if you stop looking to myths and concepts and become more interested in the Unknown than in what you know, the door will be flung open. Until then, it will remain closed.
I’ve seen people who have never meditated come to satsang and have a deep experience of the Unknown, and I've known many who remain in the trance because they stay with the mind's techniques and strategies. There is no prerequisite for experiencing the Unknown. Everyone has equal access to it.
© Adyashanti 2002. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from “Full Circle Enlightenment,”
December 5, 2019 ~ Pacific Grove, CA
We have a certain idea of causality: “This happened because of that.” Or “I am the way I am because I was born in this particular family, in this particular culture, and raised in this particular way.” That does have a reality. It’s only an infinitesimally small part of the picture, but it’s the way we tend to live life.
We have this view of how things are caused—the reason anything is the way it is. Take a grain of sand, for example. Conventionally we’d say a grain of sand is there because ocean waves stir up the water, bash against rocks or rub against them at the bottom of the ocean, and particles collide. Occasionally little particles break off and wash up on the shore, and then you have sand. That’s all well and good; there’s obviously a truthfulness to it. But that hardly tells the story.
What does it take for there to be a grain of sand? It takes an earth. It takes colliding tectonic plates, currents, water, wind, exploding stars to make little hurling rocks like earth go into space, and huge suns for them to orbit around and be warm enough so life can form. All of those things depend on other things to exist. It would be an infinite regress to connect all the dots, but basically, without an entire cosmos, there would not be a single grain of sand. So our conventional idea that “this causes that” is rather silly. Actually, the cause of any one event is every other thing that has ever happened throughout all of space and time. Some of the effects are so subtle, so slight, so infinitesimal, that one could not possibly measure them or track them.
This is what interconnectedness really means. It’s not a fanciful spiritual idea. Even people who believe in interconnectedness usually think of it within certain narrow confines. They fail to get the immensity of the interconnectedness of existence. This is part of what spiritual practice is meant to help open our minds to. It doesn’t actually matter beforehand whether you believe it or don’t believe it. It’s best to live as a living, breathing question mark until something is extraordinarily clear.
It also takes a cosmos to create a single human being. Literally every moment is the product, the outcome, of an infinite variety of causes and effects throughout all of space and time. This moment is the outcome of innumerable, untraceable influences. The way that everything “inter-is” is unfathomable. When you really see this, it’s an immense thing to take in, to understand with your blood, bones, and marrow, not just your mind. It’s the release of a tremendous amount of energy. It certainly changes the way one sees the world, oneself, and each other. Then mountains and rivers are no longer mountains and rivers. A mountain includes all of space and time—each thing does, actually—a river, a squirrel scampering across the forest floor, whatever it is. Then our own idea of ourselves as something separate is toast. It cannot survive that seeing.
In spirituality, often there is a suggestion that we look for or come to our truer identity, a truer sense of being. Maybe all of a sudden one day there’s a shift, and we sense ourselves to be something more like awareness. It’s much, much freer to be awareness, to be consciousness, than to be some little idea floating around in consciousness. It’s more expansive. It’s generally filled with more positive feeling. We may think, “Ok, that’s it. I’ve got this whole thing nailed down. I’ve come to a preferable identity now.” That’s good—I’m not discounting that. But there’s more to the story than that.
“The interconnectedness thing” does away with so much blame: “Why did you do that to me?” “Because of everything that ever happened in all of existence.” That’s on a cosmic level. On a human level, even if you know that, it’s entirely appropriate to say, “I’m sorry for doing that to you.” You and I are not isolated pieces—we’re the happening of all that interconnectedness. That opens up an immense number of possibilities and ups the scale of responsibility immensely.
In the end, it’s as if you have one foot in eternity and the other foot in the relative world. In eternity it’s all connected sameness and it’s perfect, even with all of its absolute horror and disaster, as well as its beauty. There’s something that is perfect about it—not as a philosophical statement, but as an experience of being. We think of the Absolute as the unchanging, the undying, the unborn. I call it the domain of pure potentiality at the Ground of being. It’s true and it’s real.
The other side of the Absolute is that this is it, showing up like this. Therefore you, me, the world, and all that’s happening here takes on cosmic value, an infinite significance and unimaginable value in each being. A theistic way of saying that is not to believe, or hope, or anticipate, but to actually see that everything is the face of God. What happens if you really see that? How are you going to move in a world where everything is God? Where sometimes God is clear and sometimes God is confused? Sometimes God shows up in an infinite variety of ways.
Then that true nature has awoken in the human domain. Now mountains are mountains again and rivers are rivers, and they are not—they’re both. It’s like coming full circle. You’re back in ordinary life, right where you started. But of course, the journey changes the experience of it. Now ordinary life and the face of God are the same thing. The whole idea is to be unlimited. It means you can experience yourself as pure consciousness, and you can experience yourself to be an ordinary little sentient being. You can experience yourself to be the totality, and you can experience yourself to be a part of it. But you don’t have to only experience yourself as part, or the totality, or pure consciousness. You can experience yourself as all that at the same time. That’s really the most beautiful thing, when that within us which tries to fixate—“I am this as opposed to that”—when there is no more this and that. You aren’t limited anymore. That’s the freedom where nothing is left out.
© Adyashanti 2019
A participant writes: I am a 56-year-old black woman, and a particular feeling of unworthiness appears in the form of internalized “racism.” It is often/mostly subtle these days.
For example, going into predominantly “white” spaces and relationships (which in the Pacific Northwest is pretty much everywhere), I find myself going out of my way to present myself as nonthreatening to make others feel comfortable with my presence.
You spoke about unconscious choices in the exercise. I don’t know how to look at this because in some way it feels like “whiteness” and “otherness” in the form of culture, institutions, and people are to blame for this particular feeling of unworthiness.
Adyashanti: Thank you for your question. It brings to mind an incident I had many years ago in my early twenties. I was traveling out of town with a friend of mine to compete in a bicycle race. Late at night we pulled into a roadside motel hoping to get a room. I went in and booked a room from an elderly white woman who was working at the desk. Just as I was about to leave, my friend came in and asked if I was able to book a room. As soon as the woman behind the desk saw that my friend was African American she suddenly looked very disturbed and claimed that she had made a mistake with the booking. She claimed that actually there were no rooms available and tore up the paperwork that I had just given her.
I was so shocked and dumbfounded that I didn’t know how to respond. It was the first time that I had encountered such overt racism first hand. It was deeply disturbing. We ended up leaving and driving to another motel where we booked a room without incident. I was enraged at the woman’s racist behavior and when I talked to my friend about what had happened, he simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “When you’re black you encounter this sort of behavior all the time. It’s part of what it is to be black in this culture.” I wanted to go back and confront the woman, but my friend convinced me to let it go and go to bed -- we did, after all, have to get up early the next morning to drive out to the race. This was my first personal encounter with a form of overt racism that shook me to my core.
I can only dimly imagine what it is like to be so defined by the color of one’s skin and the effect that has on one’s sense of self-worth. To internalize such a painful and destructive cultural shadow is painful indeed. It does however seem as though anyone’s experience of unworthiness, whatever the color of their skin, begins in great part as an internalization of outward influences that are sustained by identifying with the images in one’s own mind of an unworthy self. In this sense, at least, we are dealing with a universal phenomena of incorrect self-identification.
If in fact our true identity originated in some outer influence, we would all be destined to be unavoidably impoverished by the limitations of perspective and love of those around us. Fortunately this is not the case. And because this is not the case, it is up to each of us to seize upon the fierce power of discernment and love, and begin to bear the dark light of our solitude where we encounter the unformed nature of our presence. For as long as we choose to remain defined by either inner or outer images, no matter what our race, upbringing, or gender, we end up only imprisoning ourselves within the profound limitations of our own internalized self-image.
That is why it is up to us, and only us, to cast aside everything that is false, painful, and limiting, by facing into the profound mystery of our being. We must take that one profound step beyond everything that we think we are (no matter where it came from), begin to face the formlessness of our presence, and open once again to the invisible and silent ground of our being. It is there that all of our masks will be stripped away by the great impenetrable silence, if only we can bear its voiceless command to surrender all that we know of ourselves and embrace the benevolent light of our unborn nature. We must throw out of our consciousness everything that is not essentially our own, by being absolutely willing to be a light unto ourselves where we -- not someone or something else — encounter the fullness of our nothingness.
Then, and only then, can we embody the fullness of our own skin, and be a clear and benevolent presence in this often confused world. Then we in our humanity embody the sanity, freedom, and love that is the only hope for humankind, and can consciously and lovingly participate in the outer work of healing the cultural wounds of racism (and all forms of division) that distort the indistinct unity of our shared human and spiritual nature.
Excerpted from Adyashanti's “The Way of Liberating Insight” Online Course Q&A
© Adyashanti 2015
There is a wonderful story about a young man who checks into the monastery, full of juice and ready to be enlightened yesterday. He asks the abbot, "How long will it take me to be enlightened?" To which the abbot answers, "About ten years." The young man says, "Ten years! Why ten years?" The abbot replies, "Oh, twenty years in your case." The man asks, "Why do you say twenty years?" The abbot says, "Oh, I’m sorry. I was mistaken…thirty years."
If you really get it, you realize that to even ask the question gets you ten years. As soon as the thought, "When will I really be free?" comes up, time has just birthed itself into existence. And with this birth of time you have to think, "Probably at least ten years, maybe forever." Where can you go in order to get here? Any step takes you somewhere else.
This is surprising to the mind because the mind always thinks of freedom, or enlightenment, as some sort of accumulation, and of course there is nothing to accumulate. It’s about realizing what you are, what you have always been. This realization is outside of time because it’s now or never.
As soon as your idea of enlightenment becomes time-bound, it’s always about the next moment. You may have a deep spiritual experience and then ask, "How long will I sustain this experience?" As long as you insist on the question, you remain time-bound. If you are still interested in time and the spiritual accumulations you can have in time, you will get a time-bound experience. The mind is acting as if what you are looking for isn’t already present right now. Now is outside of time. There is no time, and the paradox is that the only thing that keeps you from seeing the eternal is that your mind is stuck in time. So you miss what’s actually here.
Have you ever felt that you really didn’t like being here very much and that you wanted some wonderful eternal experience? That’s what is often thought but not said when the teacher says, "Be here right now." Inside you are feeling, "I am here, and I don’t like being here. I want to be there, where enlightenment is." If you have a really true teacher, you will be told that you are mistaken, that you have never been here. You’ve always been in time, therefore, you have never actually shown up here. Your body was here, but the rest of you went somewhere else.
Your body has been going through this thing called "life," but your head has been going through this thing called "my fantasy about life" or "my big story about life." You have been caught in an interpretation about life, so you have never really been here.
Here is the Promised Land. The eternal is here. Have you ever noticed that you have never left here, except in your mind? When you remember the past, you are not actually in the past. Your remembering is happening here. When you think about the future, that future projection is completely here. And when you get to the future, it’s here. It’s no longer the future.
To be here, all you have to do is let go of who you think you are. That’s all! And then you realize, "I’m here." Here is where thoughts aren’t believed. Every time you come here, you are nothing. Radiantly nothing. Absolutely and eternally zero. Emptiness that is awake. Emptiness that is full. Emptiness that is everything.
Spiritual people often want unconditional support and understanding from their friends, family, and mates, but all too often seem blind to their own shortcomings when it comes to the amount of unconditional support and understanding that they give to others. I have seen many spiritual people become obsessed with how unspiritual others are and assume an arrogant and superior attitude while completely missing the fact that they themselves are not nearly as spiritually enlightened as they would like to think they are.
Enlightenment can be measured by how compassionately and wisely you interact with others—with all others, not just those who support you in the way that you want. How you interact with those who do not support you shows how enlightened you really are.
As long as you perceive that anyone is holding you back, you have not taken full responsibility for your own liberation. Liberation means that you stand free of making demands on others and life to make you happy. When you discover yourself to be nothing but Freedom, you stop setting up conditions and requirements that need to be satisfied in order for you to be happy.
It is in the absolute surrender of all conditions and requirements that Liberation is discovered to be who and what you are. Then the love and wisdom that flows out of you has a liberating effect on others. The biggest challenge for most spiritual seekers is to surrender their self importance, and see the emptiness of their own personal story. It is your personal story that you need to awaken from in order to be free.
To give up being either ignorant or enlightened is the mark of liberation and allows you to treat others as your Self. What I am describing is the birth of true Love.
© 1998 by Adyashanti. All rights reserved.
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
Excerpted from the book “Sacred Inquiry: Questions That Can Transform Your Life”
Life is an enigma spread across a landscape of nearly unimaginable unknowns. The immense terrain that even a single human life traverses is inconceivable. And yet here you are, right in the middle of navigating, and being navigated by, the great totality of life. This naturally and unavoidably gives rise to all manner of questions: Who am I? What is life? What is the meaning of life? What is the fundamental nature of reality? What is God, if there is a God? These existential questions live just below the surface of our painful habit of denying entry to the essential mystery of existence, and therefore subvert the one thing that has the capacity to transform human consciousness and unlock potential few dare to even imagine.
What makes sacred inquiry sacred? We can, after all, inquire simply as a means of gathering information, much like we do as schoolchildren. And while gathering and learning information is useful and even necessary, it is not a sacred act in and of itself. What makes inquiry sacred is that it is primarily a way of plunging consciousness into itself, into the hidden dimensions of the psyche which remain in darkness until we make an intentional effort to follow our questions beyond the periphery between the known and the infinite unknown. In sacred inquiry we are looking to evoke experiential insight and wisdom, not merely to collect more information or form yet more beliefs with which to delude ourselves.
Sacred inquiry is not simply about finding simplistic answers to life’s big questions; it is about transforming our consciousness so that we are living the answers, not simply knowing them as pieces of information. The state of our consciousness determines our entire experience of being, as well as what we are capable of knowing and perceiving. Sacred inquiry aims at the transformation of consciousness, for consciousness is perhaps the biggest mystery of all. And yet we take consciousness for granted, rarely stopping to notice or acknowledge, much less appreciate, that consciousness is the one indispensable ingredient in our entire experience of being. Contrary to our most basic human assumption, we are not human beings who possess consciousness—we are consciousness having a very human experience, with all the ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies that this entails. . . .
We are each an aperture through which the world knows and experiences itself. Each person embodies the infinite nature of life and consciousness within the finite form of their particular human life. Our questions are life’s questions, and our spiritual instinct toward connection and freedom are life’s deeper instincts. You and I, and the entirety of existence and beyond, comprise a single spectrum of being. This is to say that the words you, I, and existence refer to different perspectives within the totality of consciousness. And if conscious life is anything, it is naturally curious and questioning. Our questions—about ourselves and each other, about life and death, and about whether there is something that can rightly be called sacred—belong not only, or even primarily, to each of us. These questions belong to the immensity of life and the consciousness which we are each individual embodiments of. Your big life questions belong simultaneously to you and to the totality of existence functioning through and as you. The essence of your consciousness turns out to be the essence of all consciousness. . . .
We must be willing to suspend the compulsive drive of the ego for quick and convenient answers to our deepest questions and be willing to live in the creative tension between the known and the unknown. This creative tension, when deeply relaxed into, reveals itself to be the source energy of insight and revelation. As counterintuitive as it sounds, we come to greater insight by a willingness to not know—the greatest light is always found in the darkest region of our silent confusion. To sink all the way down into the unknown within you is the way to awaken the greatest leaps of insight and clarity.
© Adyashanti 2020
Many seekers do not take full responsibility for their own liberation, but wait for one big, final spiritual experience which will catapult them fully into it. It is this search for the final liberating experience which gives rise to a rampant form of spiritual consumerism in which seekers go from one teacher to another, shopping for enlightenment as if shopping for sweets in a candy store. This spiritual promiscuity is rapidly turning the search for enlightenment into a cult of experience seekers. And, while many people indeed have powerful experiences, in most cases these do not lead to the profound transformation of the individual, which is the expression of enlightenment.
In speaking regularly with spiritual seekers, it dawned on me one day how addicted so many of them are to the power of charisma. They swap stories about how powerful this or that teacher is and compare experiences. They get a charge from it, many mistaking charisma for enlightenment. Charisma attracts at all levels: political, sexual, spiritual, etc., and it feeds the ego's desire to feel special. The ego loves getting hits of power—it's like a form of spiritual candy. The candy may be sweet but can you live on it? Does it make you free?
Freedom is not necessarily exciting; it's just free. Very peaceful and quiet, so very quiet. Of course, it is also filled with joy and wonder, but it is not what you imagine. It is much, much less. Many mistake the intoxicating power of otherworldly charisma for enlightenment. More often than not it is simply otherworldly, and not necessarily free or enlightened. In order to be truly free, you must desire to know the truth more than you want to feel good. Because if feeling good is your goal, then as soon as you feel better you will lose interest in what is true. This does not mean that feeling good or experiencing love and bliss is a bad thing. Given the choice, anyone would choose to feel bliss rather than sorrow. It simply means that if this desire to feel good is stronger than the yearning to see, know, and experience Truth, then this desire will always be distorting the perception of what is Real, while corrupting one's deepest integrity.
In my experience, everyone will say they want to discover the Truth, right up until they realize that the Truth will rob them of their deepest held ideas, beliefs, hopes, and dreams. The freedom of enlightenment means much more than the experience of love and peace. It means discovering a Truth that will turn your view of self and life upside-down. For one who is truly ready, this will be unimaginably liberating. But for one who is still clinging in any way, this will be extremely challenging indeed. How does one know if they are ready? One is ready when they are willing to be absolutely consumed, when they are willing to be fuel for a fire without end.
If you start playing the game of being an "enlightened somebody," the true teacher is going to call you on it. He or she is going to expose you, and that exposure is going to hurt. Because the ego will be there, standing in the light of Truth, exposed and humiliated. Of course, the ego will cry "foul!" It will claim that the teacher made a mistake and begin to justify itself in an effort to put its protective clothing back on. It will begin to spin justifications with incredible subtlety and deceptiveness. This is where real spiritual sadhana (practice) begins. This is where it all becomes very real and the student discovers whether he or she truly wants to be free, or merely wants to remain as a false, separate, and self-justifying ego. This crossroad inevitably comes and is always challenging. It separates the true seeker from the false one. The true seeker will be willing to bare the grace of humility, whereas the false seeker will run from it. Thus begins the true path to enlightenment, granted only to those willing to be nobody. Discovering your "nobodyness" opens the door to awakening as beingness, and beyond that to the Source of all beingness.
Do not think that enlightenment is going to make you special—it's not. If you feel special in any way, then enlightenment has not occurred. I meet a lot of people who think they are enlightened and awake simply because they have had a very moving spiritual experience. They wear their enlightenment on their sleeve like a badge of honor. They sit among friends and talk about how awake they are while sipping coffee at a cafe.
The funny thing about enlightenment is that when it is authentic, there is no one to claim it. Enlightenment is very ordinary; it is nothing special. Rather than making you more special, it is going to make you less special. It plants you right in the center of a wonderful humility and innocence. Everyone else may or may not call you enlightened, but when you are enlightened the whole notion of enlightenment and someone who is enlightened is a big joke. I use the word enlightenment all the time—not to point you toward it but to point you beyond it. Do not get stuck in enlightenment.
Ego is the movement of the mind toward objects of perception in the form of grasping, and away from objects in the form of aversion. This fundamentally is all the ego is. This movement of grasping and aversion gives rise to a sense of a separate "me," and in turn the sense of "me" strengthens itself this way. It is this continuous loop of causation that tricks consciousness into a trance of identification. Identification with what? Identification with the continuous loop of suffering. After all, who is suffering? The "me" is suffering. And who is this me? It is nothing more than a sense of self caused by identification with grasping and aversion. You see, it's all a creation of the mind, an endless movie, a terrible dream. Don't try to change the dream, because trying to change it is just another movement in the dream. Look at the dream. Be aware of the dream. That awareness is It. Become more interested in the awareness of the dream than in the dream itself. What is that awareness? Who is that awareness? Don't go spouting out an answer, just be the answer. Be It.
Enlightenment means the end of all division. It is not simply having an occasional experience of unity beyond all division, it is actually being undivided. This is what nonduality truly means. It means there is just one Self, without a difference or gap between the profound revelation of Oneness and the way it is perceived and lived every moment of life. Nonduality means that the inner revelation and the outer expression of the personality are one and the same. So few seem to be interested in the greater implication contained within profound spiritual experiences, because it is the contemplation of these implications which quickly brings to awareness the inner divisions existing within most seekers.
Spiritual people can be some of the most violent people you will ever meet. Mostly, they are violent to themselves. They violently try to control their minds, their emotions, and their bodies. They become upset with themselves and beat themselves up for not rising up to the conditioned mind's idea of what it believes enlightenment to be. No one ever became free through such violence. Why is it that so few people are truly free? Because they try to conform to ideas, concepts, and beliefs in their heads. They try to concentrate their way to heaven. But Freedom is about the natural state, the spontaneous and unselfconscious expression of beingness. If you want to find it, see that the very idea of a someone who is in control is a concept created by the mind. Take one step backward into the unknown.
There is nothing more insidiously destructive to the attainment of liberation than self-doubt and cynicism. Doubt is a movement of the conditioned mind that always claims that “It's not possible,” that “Freedom is not possible for me.” Doubt always knows; it "knows" that nothing is possible. And in this knowing, doubt robs you of the possibility of anything truly new or transformative from happening. Furthermore, doubt is always accompanied by a pervasive cynicism that unconsciously puts a negative spin on whatever it touches. Cynicism is a world view which protects the ego from scrutiny by maintaining a negative stance in relationship to what it does not know, does not want to know, or cannot know. Many spiritual seekers have no idea how cynical and doubt-laden they actually are. It is this blindness and denial of the presence of doubt and cynicism that makes the birth of a profound trust impossible, a trust without which final liberation will always remain simply a dream.
All fear comes from thought in the form of memory (past) or projection (future). Thought creates time: past, present, and future. So fear exists and comes from the perceived existence of time. To be free of fear is to be free of time. Since time is a creation of thought, to be free of fear you must be free of thought. Consequently, it is important to awaken and experience your Self outside of thought, existing as eternity. So question all notions of yourself that are creations of thought and of time—of past, present, and future. Experience your eternalness, your holiness, your awakeness until you are convinced that you are never subject to the movement of thought, of fear, or of time. To be free of fear is to be full of Love.
Many spiritual seekers get "stuck in emptiness,” in the absolute, in transcendence. They cling to bliss, or peace, or indifference. When the self-centered motivation for living disappears, many seekers become indifferent. They see the perfection of all existence and find no reason for doing anything, including caring for themselves or others. I call this "taking a false refuge." It is a very subtle egoic trap; it's a fixation in the absolute and all unconscious form of attachment that masquerades as liberation. It can be very difficult to wake someone up from this deceptive fixation because they literally have no motivation to let go of it. Stuck in a form of divine indifference, such people believe they have reached the top of the mountain when actually they are hiding out halfway up its slope.
Enlightenment does not mean one should disappear into the realm of transcendence. To be fixated in the absolute is simply the polar opposite of being fixated in the relative. With the dawning of true enlightenment, there is a tremendous birthing of impersonal Love and wisdom that never fixates in any realm of experience. To awaken to the absolute view is profound and transformative, but to awaken from all fixed points of view is the birth of true nonduality. If emptiness cannot dance, it is not true emptiness. If moonlight does not flood the empty night sky and reflect in every drop of water, on every blade of grass, then you are only looking at your own empty dream. I say, “Wake up!” Then your heart will be flooded with a Love that you cannot contain.
Maybe I can point you to the great Reality within you. Maybe you will awaken to the direct experience of Self-realization. Maybe you will catch the fire of transmission. But there is one thing that no one can give you: the honesty and integrity that alone will bring you completely to the other shore. No one can give you the strength of character necessary for profound spiritual experience to become the catalyst for the evolutionary transformation called "enlightenment." Only you can find that passion within that burns with an integrity that will not settle for anything less than the Truth.
Enlightenment has nothing to do with states of consciousness. Whether you are in ego consciousness or unity consciousness is not really the point. I have met many people who have easy access to advanced states of consciousness. Though for some people this may come very easily, I also notice that many of these people are no freer than anyone else. If you don't believe that the ego can exist in very advanced states of consciousness, think again. The point isn't the state of consciousness, even very advanced ones, but an awake mystery that is the source of all states of consciousness. It is even the source of presence and beingness. It is beyond all perception and all experience. I call it "awakeness." To find out that you are empty of emptiness is to die into an aware mystery, which is the source of all existence. It just so happens that that mystery is in love with all of its manifestation and non-manifestation. You find your Self by stepping back out of yourself.
Ramana Maharshi's gift to the world was not that he realized the Self. Many people have had a deep realization of the Self. Ramana's real gift was that he embodied that realization so thoroughly. It is one thing to realize the Self; it is something else altogether to embody that realization to the extent that there is no gap between inner revelation and its outer expression. Many have glimpsed the realization of Oneness; few consistently express that realization through their humanness. It is one thing to touch a flame and know it is hot, but quite another to jump into that flame and be consumed by it.
First published in the Inner Directions Journal, Fall/Winter 1999.
© 1999 Adyashanti.
(Excerpted from Falling Into Grace: Insights on the End of Suffering)
The real search isn’t a search into tomorrow, or to anywhere other than now. It’s starting to look into the very nature of this moment. In order to do that, you have to “stand in your own two shoes,” as my teacher used to say. What she meant by “standing in your own two shoes” is you have to look clearly into your own experience. Stop trying to have someone else’s experience. Stop chasing freedom or happiness, or even spiritual enlightenment. Stand in your own shoes, and examine closely: What’s happening right here and right now? Is it possible to let go of trying to make anything happen? Even in this moment, there may be some suffering, there may be some unhappiness, but even if there is, is it possible to no longer push against it, to try to get rid of it, to try to get somewhere else?
I understand that our instinct is to move away from what’s not comfortable, to try to get somewhere better, but as my teacher used to say, “You need to take the backward step, not the forward step.” The forward step is always moving ahead, always trying to attain what you want, whether it’s a material possession or inner peace. The forward step is very familiar: seeking and more seeking, striving and more striving, always looking for peace, always looking for happiness, looking for love. To take the backward step means to just turn around, reverse the whole process of looking for satisfaction on the outside, and look at precisely the place where you are standing. See if what you are looking for isn’t already present in your experience.
So, again, to lay the groundwork for awakening, we must first let go of struggling. You let go by acknowledging that the end of struggle is actually present in your experience now. The end of struggle is peace. Even if your ego is struggling, even if you’re trying to figure this out and “do it right,” if you really look, you might just see that struggle is happening within a greater context of peace, within an inner stillness. But if you try to make stillness happen, you’ll miss it. If you try to make peace happen, you’ll miss it. This is more like a process of recognition, giving recognition to a stillness that is naturally present.
We’re not bringing struggle to an end. We’re not trying to not struggle anymore. We’re just noticing that there is a whole other dimension to consciousness that, in this very moment, isn’t struggling, isn’t resentful, isn’t trying to get somewhere. You can literally feel it in your body. You can’t think your way to not struggling. There isn’t a three–point plan of how not to struggle. It’s really a one–point plan: Notice that the peace, this end of struggling, is actually already present.
The process is therefore one of recognition. We recognize that there is peace now, even if your mind is confused. You may see that even when you touch upon peace now, the mind is so conditioned to move away from it that it will try to argue with the basic fact of peace’s existence within you: “I can’t be at peace yet because I have to do this, or that, or this question hasn’t been answered, or that question hasn’t been answered, or so–and–so hasn’t apologized to me.” There are all sorts of ways that the egoic mind can insist that something needs to happen, something needs to change, in order for you to be at peace. But this is part of the dream of the mind. We’re all taught that something needs to change for us to experience true peace and freedom.
Just imagine for a moment that this isn’t true. Even though you may believe that it’s true, just imagine for a moment: What would it be like if you didn’t need to struggle, if you didn’t need to make an effort to find peace and happiness? What would that feel like now? And just take a moment to be quiet and see if peace or stillness is with you in this moment.
© Adyashanti and Sounds True 2010
CURRENTS OF POSSIBILITY
A participant writes: How do you define “Acceptance of what is now,” and how does that differ from resignation to what is now? How can I get to real acceptance rather than resignation?
I am in great gratitude for what I do have and experience, but often life now seems quite flat. The more I have released, the more empty I have become. Nothing in the world seems of real interest now, yet my heart is desiring something it cannot clearly define but longs to feel.
Adyashanti: To be resigned to What Is can still be an act of resistance, in the sense of there being a sort of standoff or deadlock between you and your inner state.
Redemptive Love blooms when you as an ego let go of your resistance and your resignation, and allow room for something to arise that the ego cannot create. The key here is to completely and absolutely let go without reservation. Only then can the divine power of Love gain access to your heart and mind. You have to completely let go of what you cannot control and utterly depend on the loving presence of Grace. This is not an act of resignation (which is of the mind); it is an act of surrender (which is of the heart).
We go through life walking in the immense darkness of unknown realities with a little flashlight in our hands, imagining that only what our little light makes visible is real. We generally see and experience only an infinitesimally small sliver of what actually exists and remain strictly within the confines of what our tiny light illumines. The true power of life does not lie within the confines of our tiny light, but in the immense darkness of unknown realities that are the greater story of our lives.
Our lives are much more immense than we know, and connected to vast currents of hidden influences and possibilities. But we must stretch out into the darkness with the full measure of our longing, and surrender to the greater unknown context of our lives in order to begin to embrace and be embraced by a Love that is awaiting our invitation. And it is not only an invitation in word but also in deed—the act of offering our Being and the fullness of our lives to the darkness of the unknown currents—eternal possibilities that we cannot control but must instead invite with heartfelt surrender.
THE TRUE CONNECTION
A participant writes: It seems that a direct connection between the spiritual teacher and the student is very helpful and necessary for guidance. Is there hope for those of us living so far away from you?
Adyashanti: The direct connection between the spiritual teacher and the student is a matter of the heart, not proximity. Think of all of those who are transformed by their connection to Christ or Krishna. The true connection happens within the human heart. When the connection is profound, it makes the transmission of the teaching infinitely easier. So focus within your own heart; there you will find great connection and ultimately the living truth that we are one and the same.
Sometimes it can be quite advantageous to not live in close proximity to your teacher because then you are thrown back again and again into your own resources and can develop your own intuitive awareness and wisdom. Many people think that the primary function of the teacher is to answer their questions and tell them what to do, but actually the teacher is a living presence that you open to. That presence is there to reveal you to yourself.
The above Q&As are excerpted from an online course with Adyashanti.
© Adyashanti 2014
Excerpted from “The Awakened Connection to Soul,” February 8-9, 2020 ~ Portland, OR.
It’s not at all uncommon that people today feel some sense of disconnection from their soul. I use “soul” in the sense of our experience of meaningful depth, something that’s vital to us, even if we don’t think of it in a religious context. It’s like a source of meaning you can’t put into words, but you can feel it—especially when you lose it. Everybody knows the experience of becoming disconnected from the source of meaning and deep connection within themselves.
We’re living in a culture where people are suffering mightily because of the loss of their soul—not only individually, but also culturally as a whole. This is a part of modern life that we haven’t come to grips with. It’s one of the things that leads us to look for some deeper connection, however we define that for ourselves. It could be meaning, it could be God, it could be awakening, it could be enlightenment, it could be peace, it could be love—all these are words that point to a certain kind of connectedness and sacredness inside.
All of the external means of entertaining ourselves and connecting us don’t really take the place of this inner connectedness. There doesn’t seem to be a technological stand-in for the soul, for that source of vital being and meaning that gives one’s life a sense of significance—not just in terms of accomplishment and what we can put on a resumé, but a much deeper sense of significance. A soulful significance.
Each of you has your own experience of how sacredness feels to you and when moments of sacredness have visited you. You’ve had those experiences, as hard as they are to explain or convey. You know the sense of words like vitality, source, meaning, and soul. These are all words that attempt to convey the actual human experience of the sacred, which is quite apart from the ideas of the sacred—although ideas, images, stories, and myths can all be part of transmitting a living sense of the sacred to us.
In spiritual awakening, we experience that the source of the sacred—the suchness of the sacred—is actually essentially ourselves. When we experience the sacred, we’re experiencing something true and profound about ourselves—if we understand the word “ourselves” in the biggest possible context. As a teacher, I think one of the things that is vitally important is to attempt to give people practical means to engage in this reconnection. Sometimes I’ll talk about this reconnection in the most essential possible way. Spiritual awakening, for instance, is one version of that, such as awakening revealing that the source of the experience of the sacred is not separate from your own innate self nature or true nature. At other times I’ll talk about the experience of soul connection. Whenever you experience a living sense of sacredness or timelessness, you are connecting with the soulfulness of your true nature. Our soul connection also gives us an intuitive sense of guidance. It is the inner teacher reorienting our attention away from the surface of things to their depth. And you don’t have to be spiritually awakened to have a connection to the soul—you just need to attentively and humbly listen to your silent depth. Your presence is deeper than your relative personhood.
It’s also important to have a sense of what it means to be connected in many small ways as well as noticing when you deviate from your soul—not according to an exterior standard, but according to your own inner and intuitive standard. Holding integrity with your soul is a profound, challenging, and wonderful practice. It’s essentially an inner listening and attuning to the presence of being. It’s choosing to live in one’s depth rather than in surface and conditioned mental and emotional reactivity. This is an essentially devotional orientation; it is more of the heart than of the head.
It would be extraordinarily arrogant of me to think that I know the means of your own connection to the sacred. My suggestion is to think of soulfulness as an instinct that even transcends spirituality per se—the instinct to connect, in great awe, with the mystery of existence. When I say “connect,” I’m talking about something visceral, not something abstract.
There are tiny moments throughout the day when we move away from embracing that which gives us the most vital experience of meaning there is. Every time we don’t listen to our depth, or inner presence, we take a little step away, but we can’t actually step out of our true nature even when it feels like we have. We cannot ever lose our true nature, because we are our true nature.
One of the most challenging things is to actually get all of ourselves, for a moment, into our immediate experience of being. We can think we’re being in our experience, but we’re generally running our experience through immense filters of assumption, judgment, and belief. Most people are not having direct experience that often—they are having experience distorted through innumerable mental filters. But when you see a thought simply as a thought, it becomes just part of the scenery and your attention can orient toward the awareness of the thought. This can break the trance of reactivity and open the heart to presence and clarity—a reconnection with the soulfulness of true nature.
When you look into a mirror, there’s an irreducible presence of being, a conscious intangibility, that can’t be reduced to the old memories, identities, and personality characteristics. This is where real spirituality begins—noticing that, encountering it, not even necessarily trying to understand it—and realizing that the same thing is looking through your eyes right now. It’s like an intangible presence, and the more you connect with that, the more your soul lights up and your heart opens. It’s a very simple, direct, and powerful practice.
© Adyashanti 2020
What is it like to live an awakened life?
While the world is trying to solve its problems and everyone around you is engaged in the same, you’re not. While everybody around you is trying to figure it out, trying to arrive, trying to “get there,” trying to be worthy, you’re not. While everyone thinks that awakening is a grand, noble, halo-enshrouded thing, for you it’s not. While everybody is running from this life right now, in this moment, to try to get there, you’re not. Where everybody has an argument with somebody else, mostly everybody else, starting with themselves, you don’t. Where everybody is so sure that happiness will come when something is different than it is now, you know that it won’t. When everybody else is looking to achieve the perfect state and hold on to it, you’re not.
When everybody around you has a whole host of ideas and beliefs about a whole variety of things, you don’t. Everyone on the path is getting there; you haven’t gotten anywhere. Everyone is climbing the mountain; you’re selling hiking boots and picks at the foot in the hope that if they climb it and come back down, they may be too exhausted to do it again. When everybody else is looking to the next book, to the next teacher, to the next guru to be told what’s real, to be given the secret key to an awakened life, you’re not. You don’t have a key because there’s not a lock to put it in.
When you’re living what you are in an awakened way, being simply what you’ve always been, you’re actually very simple. You basically sit around wondering what all the fuss is about.
When everyone is sitting around saying, “I hope that happens to me,” you remember when you did that. You remember that you didn’t find a solution to that. You remember that the whole idea that there was a problem created all of that.
When you’re being what you are, when you’re living the awakened life, there’s nobody to forgive, because there’s no resentment held, no matter what.
The truth of your being doesn’t crave happiness; it couldn’t actually care less. It doesn’t crave love, not because you are so full of love, but because it just doesn’t crave love. It’s very simple. It doesn’t seek to be known, regarded highly, or understood. When you’re living what you are in an awakened way, there’s no ideal for you anymore. You’ve stepped off the entire cycle of suffering, of becoming; you’re not interested.
It’s a curious life you find yourself in. You find yourself . . . where you are. Not where I am—where you are, where you really are, where we really are. It’s a curious place to be (especially in the beginning) not to be driven by anything—pleasure or displeasure, helping or hurting, loving or hating. The only thing that will move you (and I don’t mean to be too poetic about this) is the same thing that moves a leaf hanging from a tree. It’s simply because the breeze blows that way. So you always know what to do. The breeze blows that way, and that’s the way you go. You don’t ask questions anymore. You don’t evaluate why the breeze is blowing that way because you know that you don’t know why. And you know you can’t know why. There’s never been a leaf anywhere that knows why the wind blows that way on that day at that moment. That breeze changes the orientation of your life, moment to moment to moment, simply because that’s the way life’s moving. And when you’re living in your awakened self, you have no argument with the way it’s moving because it is the same as you are.
And you know that the breeze was always there, from the very beginning, and that it wasn’t reserved for special people. If you didn’t notice it at some point in your life, you know it was because you weren’t listening, or because you thought you had to figure something out before you could listen, or because you thought there had to be some conclusion before you could just listen so deeply, so without agenda, so without hope of a better future that you would feel the movement.
Many of you know what I’m speaking of.
Truth never explains why it’s moving that way at that moment. And if you ask, it won’t give any information. It would be like a leaf asking the wind, “Why are you moving that way right now?” The question doesn’t make any sense to the wind.
But your argument with the way the truth would move—whatever that way is—is no longer there for you. You’re no longer arguing with it. You’re no longer trying to figure it out. Mother Mary didn’t figure it out. Buddha didn’t figure it out. Ramana didn’t figure it out. None of them figured it out. They just became That. Simple. Ordinary, in the same way a leaf is ordinary.
When you’re living in your awakened being and living in an awakened way, power on any level is not an issue for you. It’s not interesting. The power to control another human being is not interesting. Intellectual power is not interesting. The power to control yourself is not interesting. The power that people want to give you is not interesting to you—not because it shouldn’t be; it’s just not. What would you want to do with it? You see that there’s nothing you want to do with it.
You realize, in the truth of your being, that you are the totality itself, but you have no interest whatsoever in doing anything with that knowledge, with using that knowledge.
Finally, you realize that you really don’t want to change anybody, not because you shouldn’t want to change them, because you just don’t. You might not want to be around everyone, but still you don’t want to change them.
None of this is an ideal—it’s the end of ideals. None of this is holiness; it’s the end of holiness. It’s the beginning of wholeness. None of this is something to achieve, because it’s not achievable. It’s simply what is in the truth of your being. It’s just what is. You can’t attain what’s naturally so. And nobody anywhere can ever tell you when or why, or to what degree you’ll let go of untruth; you will let go when you let go, usually when nothing else works.
When you’re living in the awakened way, in the awakened being that you are, you’re alone, and you’re finally comfortable with it. You’re alone, but you’re not lonely at all, because the only one who was ever supposed to meet you where you are—the only one who ever could meet you where you are one hundred percent—was you. Nobody else could ever fully meet you where you are—maybe ninety percent, maybe ninety-five. Nobody can meet you fully but you. When you finally do, then you don’t need anybody else to do it for you. Then you’re alone, more alone than you could ever imagine. And strangely—very strangely—you are more connected, more intimate, more at one with everything. More. And you would have never thought that those two could in any way be together: total aloneness and total oneness. You would have never guessed that that’s the way it would end up. But it does, and it always has.
And finally, when you’re just living in the awakened way that you really are, you’ll never form an image again of what it’s like. Even as it’s happening, you won’t form an image because you’ll know they’re all images, dust. The way it was yesterday won’t be the way it is today.
Awakened Living Intensive. Berkeley, CA. October 5, 2003
© Adyashanti 2003
When we are paying attention, we have a natural sense of awe. We are all here on this tiny planet floating in an immense and expanding sea of time and space. We are barely a pinprick, yet we are conscious beings. As far as we can look in this space, we can see a lot of things, but we have not encountered another intelligence with abilities that are like or beyond those of humans, at least not yet.
Of all the places we could be, of all the beings we could be, it is remarkable that in a certain sense we are the eyes and ears and the contemplating ability of the universe. Consciousness gives us this unique facility, not only to be aware, but also to be aware that we are aware. We can reflect on reflecting on things, and so what is happening is that the cosmos is reflecting upon itself. When we look at incredible mystery, spiritual awakening, or revelation itself, it will show that we—in the deepest sense of things—are the mystery that we are looking at.
The spiritual impulse—the impulse that motivates, drives, and inspires us to awaken to the deeper nature of reality—has a human element. In other words, as human beings we want whatever we want from that realization, whether that’s happiness or love or a relief from suffering. But the real drive of awakening lies within life itself. This agenda is bigger than the human one: it is life or existence seeking to be conscious of itself and to know itself. If my talking about this ability of consciousness to recognize itself sounds a little too cosmic, you have my sympathies, but if you are quiet for a moment you will find that there is the simple sense of being—the sense of “I exist” even before you form the words “I exist.” Even before thought defines that sense of being, there is a sense of existing and a sense of knowing that you exist. That is consciousness and what consciousness makes us capable of. . . .
Part of what gives any spiritual discipline its power is our ability to look in a precise way, not in a haphazard way. What is the nature of my being? Where is this self? What is it exactly? Does it exist? If I am not a self, then what am I? These questions are not meant to have quick answers; they are meant to open your mind and open consciousness so that you can experience both mind and consciousness more directly and intimately. No matter where we look—from the biggest of the biggest to the smallest of the smallest—if we are paying attention, we cannot help but experience the awe and wonder of existence, and the awe and wonder of existence is what drives spiritual yearning. In a deeper sense, life’s inherent inclination is to become fully conscious of itself: the feeling that you have of yearning or being driven spiritually is a desire that belongs to life itself wanting to be conscious of itself—to be fully awake and fully present. This is where the spiritual impulse is derived, from a place that is even deeper than our personal concern, deeper than what we hope for or what we want from our spirituality.
In other words, there is another game being played out on a completely different scale, and that is by life itself, by this immensity seeking to become as self-aware as it can. That is your connection to the mystery, and that is the origin of cosmic curiosity, whether it is curiosity about the vast scale of the cosmos that we find ourselves in or about the vast scale of the consciousness that we are. To engage with these things is so important; it is the reason why every form of deep spirituality emphasizes the ability to pay attention, to not walk through life on automatic pilot. One of the greatest potentials of spiritual practice, if we are doing it right, is that it takes us out of automatic pilot mode. It makes us conscious and aware of what is going on, of who we are, of what we are, and of how remarkable and unfathomable this world is and our being is. Consciousness itself is amazing—how it comes to life and how there is a consciousness of anything. That there is a consciousness of consciousness is mind-boggling.
Right down to the most ordinary events in life, everything is much more extraordinary than we give it credit for. To engage with the true nature of ourselves—with the mysterious and overwhelming quality of existence—requires us to pay attention, to be present, and to not sleepwalk through the next moment and the next day and the next week and the next year. It requires us to endeavor to bring even a deeper sense of consciousness and awareness to each moment. When we do, the quality of our consciousness itself transforms our whole being.
It is an incredible experience to go outside, look up at the sky, and contemplate the overwhelmingly vast distances that make up this universe that we find ourselves part of and that we discover ourselves to be the consciousness of. When we are contemplating the universe, we are the universe contemplating itself, and that may be the most wondrous and extraordinarily profound aspect of our whole life.
From Adyashanti's book, The Most Important Thing
Published by Sounds True
© Adyashanti 2019
When you start to look at your idea of yourself, it’s all layers, like peeling all the layers of an onion until there’s no onion left. You might ask, “Will the true entity of me show up, the sterling spiritual version of me?” And at any moment that you peer beyond the layers, it’s disconcerting, because you keep finding, “The more I look for myself, the more I can’t find myself. I keep peeling through the layers looking for the core of me, and there’s no core.” In a sense, there is a core, but it’s not the core as we think of it. Because there’s still something, or more accurately, there’s still “nothing” that recognizes that there’s nothing. That recognition is consciousness.
Consciousness isn’t a thing. It’s not an entity. It’s not a little core piece of you. It’s that which sees and experiences, and it makes every experience possible. It lights up the world. No consciousness, no experience of the world.
Most of ego’s problematic aspects revolve around a condensed experience of being, where it makes us feel like we are simply a separate entity. A lot of spirituality has to do with unraveling that until we see there’s nothing there. But it’s not true to just say, “There’s nothing,” because there is something. It’s not a thing though; it’s that which lights up the whole universe. We’re all utilizing it right now. It’s perfectly functioning in this moment as much as it will ever function.
The ground of being, sometimes called the Absolute, the Godhead, or Dharmakaya [the body of Truth], in and of itself is unconscious of itself. It’s aware, but it has no awareness of itself. It has no self-consciousness. In fact, we might just call it Awareness since there’s really nothing to it in a conventional sense. It’s a domain of pure infinite potentiality.
If you imagine what pure infinite potentiality would look like, it wouldn’t look like anything, because it hasn’t become anything yet. So it would be like an abyss of nothing, but not your ordinary nothing—the potentiality of all existence, like supernovas and galaxies and universes. We’re talking about a lot of potentiality, including the potentiality for human beings to develop self-consciousness.
This Absolute that’s aware, but not self-aware, uses the human being’s consciousness to become self-aware. It’s conscious, but it’s not self-conscious. It needs consciousness to light it up, so it becomes self-aware. And that’s a moment of awakening. If awakening penetrates to that depth, it’s the absolute depth of being, which you could say is the absolute totality of the psyche becoming conscious of itself: I AM.
The deepest domain of your psyche, the most unconscious domain of your psyche, needs consciousness to become self-aware—hence the spiritual impulse. It comes and gets you. Then we attach our agenda to it, like “I hope this makes me feel better, and makes my life more complete.” And that’s fine. It will use that, too. It’s understandable that we add on our human hopes not to suffer so much. But this impulse actually originates beyond the pleasure principle. It’s about something else.
The journey is actually in both directions. We need the divine, and it needs us every bit as much as we need it. It needs the consciousness. That’s basically what spirituality is: You’re making conscious the domains of human experience that are generally unconscious. That’s why you feel the pull, and you don’t know where it is coming from or where is it going. You wonder, “Why do I care about all this?” It means it’s coming from a domain of your being or your psyche that’s unconscious to you. You’re just conscious of the pull or the yearning. That yearning is not just yours; it actually originates from its completion.
So when we go into that deep domain, some dimension of consciousness comes in, and all of a sudden it’s like the lights come on. It’s awake, and when it’s awake, all the yearning ceases. The seeking ceases. The seeker ceases. It all just drops away, because it’s been satisfied. It's not so much the human that's been satisfied; that dimension of consciousness has been satisfied. Of course, then they go together. You recognize it’s all the same thing, because in that dimension, we realize that what we call the unconscious is far vaster than we think it is. The unconscious in this dimension is connected with all of existence. That’s why when you get to a sufficient depth, you experience “I am That.” And “That” means everything from a teacup to every star that you see in the sky. It’s a direct experience of being.
From Adyashanti’s Kanuga Retreat, 2018
© Adyashanti 2018
Spiritual seekers are some of the most superstitious people on the planet. Most people come to spiritual teachers and teachings with a host of hidden beliefs, ideas, and assumptions that they unconsciously seek to be confirmed. And if they are willing to question these beliefs, they almost always replace the old concepts with new, more spiritual ones, thinking that these new concepts are far more real than the old ones.
Even those who have had deep spiritual experiences and awakenings beyond the mind will in most cases continue to cling to superstitious ideas and beliefs in an unconscious effort to grasp for the security of the known, the accepted, or the expected. It is this grasping for security in all its inward and outward forms which limits the perspective of enlightenment and maintains an inwardly divided condition which is the cause of all suffering and confusion.
You must want to know the truth more than you want to feel secure in order to fully awaken to the fact that you are nothing but Awakeness itself.
Shortly after I began teaching, I noticed that almost everyone coming to see me held a tremendous number of superstitious ideas and beliefs that were distorting their perceptions and limiting their scope of spiritual inquiry. What was most surprising was that in almost all cases, even those who had deep and profound experiences of spiritual awakening continued to hold onto superstitious ideas and beliefs which severally limited the depth of experience and expression of true awakening.
Over time I began to see how delicate and challenging it was for most seekers to find the courage to question any and all ideas and beliefs about the true nature of themselves, the world, others, and even enlightenment itself. In almost every person, every religion, every group, every teaching and every teacher, there are ideas, beliefs, and assumptions that are overtly or covertly not open to question. Often these unquestioned beliefs hide superstitions which are protecting something which is untrue, contradictory, or being used as justification for behavior which is a less than enlightened.
The challenge of enlightenment is not simply to glimpse the awakened condition, nor even to continually experience it, but to be and express it as yourself in the way you move in this world. In order to do this, you must come out of hiding behind any superstitious beliefs and find the courage to question everything, otherwise you will continue to hold onto superstitions which distort your perception and expression of that which is only ever awake.
© Adyashanti 1999. All rights reserved.
We revere the great divine individuals, but we are terrified of being one ourselves, and so we try to copy them. Buddhists try to be Buddha, Christians try to be Christ, Muslims try to be Mohammed, and so it goes, as if by copying a divine individual we will become one. The problem is this: There’s only one Buddha, one Christ, one Mohammed, one Ramana, one Nisargadatta. There was nobody quite like them before and there will be nobody quite like them afterward. So all of the relentless effort to try to be like any divine individual is delusion in its highest.
We all have an instinct toward true individuality. This is the challenge, the instinct that is a part of everyone: “Why can’t I just be myself—freely, easily, smoothly, unselfconsciously, unapologetically?” We go along worshipping the divine individuals in some conscious or unconscious effort to copy them. But the thing that made them what they are is they didn’t have a mind to copy anybody, to be like anybody.
That’s what the symbol of Buddha under the bodhi tree really means. It means someone who was sitting down in his aloneness, not trying to be like someone or something else, but being completely true to his own yearning, his own search. It took him a long time and a lot of spiritual practice to purge hundreds of generations of conditioning out of his system so that he could finally sit under that tree. He could finally embody his aloneness, and we revere him for doing so.
What would it be like to divest yourself of this immensity of human conditioning? Some conditioning is very useful. If it wasn’t for conditioning we wouldn’t be here, and our hearts wouldn’t be beating; they’re conditioned to do so. That’s the conditioning of our biology that over millions of years has evolved so that mostly we run on automatic.
What we’re dealing with is more of a psychological conditioning, that once it gets set in your system you become afraid of your own aloneness, mostly because it’s so unimaginably unknown. Who would you be if somehow all that unnecessary psychological conditioning was to drop out of your system? It’s unimaginable, of course, until it happens. But something like that is exactly what happens to anybody who rediscovers what I’m calling divine individuality. I say “divine individuality” not to make it sound spiritual or to put it into some hierarchy, but because I don’t want to confuse it with what we often think of as individuality, which is pretty constrained.
You can wake up from your form, from your humanity, from your body and mind. You can quite literally wake up and out of all your identifications, your grasping onto form and memory, all of it right down to gender and race. It’s not because they don’t exist—they do exist—but they don’t actually define our essential being. You can have this wonderful waking up out of all of that constraint and feel the great freedom and the inherent feeling of truthfulness about it. When it happens, it’s self-confirming. So that’s one-half of awakening. That’s one kind of freedom—but you can wake up from that and still have many of the overly constraining impulses happening in the body and mind that you just woke up from.
There’s another side of awakening which isn’t just waking up from form, body, and the identifications of the mind—it’s getting that awakening down and through all of that, and that’s like a clearinghouse. That’s the difference between someone who’s had an awakening and ultimately someone who has discovered their divine individuality. It’s not just the waking up from body and mind, but awakening all through it. In order to really do that, there has to be a deep embrace of one’s aloneness. It doesn’t mean what we conventionally think of as aloneness, which is an association with loneliness. You can contemplate it in a quiet way that starts as a sort of intuition of really letting yourself embody your aloneness.
Inquiry is one of the tools we use to dislodge our rigid adherence to unnecessary beliefs, opinions, and ideas. It‘s not the belief, the opinion, or the idea itself that‘s the problem. The problem is finding an identity in the point of view and then being attached to the point of view—becoming a rock in a world that only works in fluids. Life is fluid, it‘s moving, it‘s changing. So if we didn‘t derive identity through our ideas, beliefs, opinions, and our points of view, then we would be fluid. We wouldn’t feel threatened if somebody disagreed with us.
As you see through beliefs, you start to embody your own nonseparate individuality, because we are all one. At the ground of being there’s a sameness, an interconnectedness with all beings and all life. When we sense that in life, we feel at home in the world. If we look at a tree, a cloud, the sky—you see it’s all just various forms of life, but those forms are totally unique. They’re individual without being separate from life. Their individuality, their uniqueness, doesn’t separate them; it doesn’t confer otherness upon them. It’s just what life does—it’s unique in all its expressions. That’s what you feel as the desire to be free. At first you want to be free from yourself to some extent, but there’s also the instinct to be free from within yourself.
As a teacher, I’ve never wanted to try to create copies of myself. I think one of me is plenty. I hope what we’re all doing here is to find our unity, yes, but also to find the way that unity shows up called “your life,” and to let go into that aloneness enough to find it. Because then something in you is finally deeply at home in your own skin, and as a benefit to the world, people like that tend to allow other people to be their own unique expressions of being. They don’t demand that people go around agreeing with them or being like them. It’s a gift that we can give each other.
From Adyashanti's Kanuga Retreat, 2018
© Adyashanti 2018
How strange it is to look deeply into one’s true nature. We can all state with certainty, “I am.” That’s the starting point—not “I am this or that,” but simply “I am.” We have all been taught to add onto this sense of “I am” various defining characteristics and evaluations. But these are secondary at best, a collection of conditioned conclusions and evaluations, most of which were inherited from the people and the world around us; put simply, they are nonessential. The “I am” is essential to being self-conscious; it is the quintessential articulation and confession of self-consciousness itself. Everything that gets added unto this primary sense of “I am” obscures one’s essential nature.
Another way to approach the “I am” sense is to simply attend to your immediate sense of being. This is not as simple as it sounds because we are so accustomed to thinking about our experience rather than simply experiencing our experience. This is exactly where good spiritual practice comes in. The essence of any good spiritual practice is to focus on direct experience rather than on what we think about the experience. To focus on the immediate sense of “I am” devoid of all interpretations and evaluations is itself a powerful spiritual practice. The immediate sense of “I am” is like being a simple conscious presence, prior to being a someone or something with a history in time. In fact, with a little practice and willingness to let go of clinging to one’s familiar identity, this simple and immediate sense of “I am” will reveal itself to be the same underlying conscious presence as all other conscious beings.
This then forms the basis of a transformed relationship with all beings, where our essential sameness becomes the ground of our relatedness with others, even as we have a newfound respect and appreciation for our human differences. The universal “I am” wears an infinite variety of masks that we human beings call our personality. But connecting with the universal “I am” in oneself and in other beings allows us to connect from a universal and essential basis, rather than from being exclusively entranced by surface appearances and conditioned reactions.
The “I am” is a doorway into the essential, the universal, and the sacred. To gain entry into that doorway requires us to step into the realm of not knowing—which is simply to say that we must unknow, or temporarily suspend, everything that we think that we know about ourselves. We must enter into a state of innocent unknowing just prior to all egocentric identification. We must not only think about doing this, or imagine doing it—we must actually do it! We must let go and not know who or what we are. Then, and only then, can we directly sense into the “I am,” the conscious presence which pervades any and all perceptions and experiences. Then we dwell as that conscious presence. The rest of the unfolding will happen by itself, in its own time. Patient persistence is the key.
Eventually, even the “I am” sense will fall away . . . and self-consciousness will dissolve into its source. But for now, let’s not define this source, for there is no substance to the source to grasp hold of. Everywhere the supreme reality is on display, but nowhere can it be grasped. Follow the “I am” to its source, to that dark light that sees but cannot be seen, and knows but cannot be known. When the eye that never sleeps awakens—yes, this is a contradiction to the intellect—the dharma wheel of enlightenment turns everywhere. This, at least, is how it feels and has always felt.
Copyright © 2021 Adyashanti.
What I learned from all my years of Zen training is that the essence of spirituality is attention and intention. After all, spirituality is the practice of perceiving the spirit of things, meaning the essence or inner reality of things, whether that be one’s own essence, or the essence of life, or the essence of a teacup. They are all the same. There is also the spirit, or essence, of an action or activity. That is why in Zen they talk of “the Zen of tea drinking,” or of flower arranging, or of sweeping the porch. What they mean when they refer to “the Zen of” a particular activity is to point out the selfless, embodied, and enlightened expression of that activity. Any truly enlightened action has four characteristics: selflessness, spontaneity, clarity, and wholeness.
The practice of attention (or mindfulness as it is often referred to in spiritual circles), is a way of redirecting attention away from the habitual focus on one’s inner narrative, and placing it instead on precisely what one is doing, on the nonconceptual nature of immediate experience and perception. Without this shift of attention—from concept to immediate experience and perception—spirituality tends to degrade into magical thinking, fantasy, and/or fanaticism. It is only by redirecting attention away from the surface level of the mind’s narrative, and towards the pure immediacy of the present, that we can break the trance of ego-identification and fall into conscious connection with our true nature. Attention is the secret elixir that one is working with in all spiritual awakening practices.
During my years as a Zen student I also learned the importance of intention. Intention has to do with what you are aiming at, and what your life-orienting values are. That is why when I first meet someone coming to me as a student, I ask them, “exactly why are you here and what do you want?” Such a direct question will often take people by surprise, which is good. When I can surprise someone a little, I know I have their attention, which is exactly what I want to elicit with such a question. Until there is great burning attention, we cannot truly begin. And when there is great attention, we then need to aim it. We need to employ intention in order to direct attention.
The intention that I am really talking about is not so much focused on what you want, but rather on what you are being inwardly called to. A spiritual journey is a calling. It is something initiated from somewhere beyond the ego, from a depth within the psyche that the ego has no access to on its own. Our spiritual journey will take as much or as little time as it needs to take. Our egos have no say in the matter at all. The ego’s part to play is to respond wholeheartedly (devotedly, even) to the calling of our true nature when it comes. And the ego must remain devoted to true nature, for if the ego tries to possess spiritual breakthroughs, or aggrandize itself with spiritual attainment, it will one day be surprised to discover that it has only ever been worshiping itself.
Our spiritual intention (that which we aim at and are devoted to) is not something that we, as egos, create. It is a calling, or instinct, that the ego receives. It is not a transactional calling where you give something expecting to get something in return. It is a calling to that which is undivided, whole, timeless, sacred, and beautiful. . . for its own sake. It is a call received by the ego, to discover and return to its source. It is also a call from our formless true nature to embody itself in, and as, the form of this very human life, as consciously as possible.
When dedicated attention and inspired intention work together as a whole, our spiritual practice will naturally acquire depth and reveal great wisdom. May our wisdom always be held in the great heart of compassion and love.
Copyright © 2021 Adyashanti.
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