Spirituality is about waking up, reaching in, finding, and identifying the things that are unconscious within you—things that you don’t want to see or deal with. If you want to come even close to enlightenment, you don’t get to hide from anything. You have that unquenchable thirst for truth and love, and you will look into anything in order to bring truth to it, in order to bring non-separation to it. There’s no hiding. No form of self-deception will work. All along the way, it requires this willingness to access your experience of where you are and what’s happening, and to make the necessary adjustments.
This is one thing that no spiritual teacher can give their students—they can’t give this kind of desire—the desire for the truth and nothing but the truth, all the way through, come what may. You either have it, or you find it, or you don’t. You can’t be in any kind of wish-fulfillment strategy with your enlightenment.
If we really want to live an awakened life, we’ve got to approach it in a very pragmatic way: What’s working? What’s not working? One of the illusions we let go of is just sitting around hoping and dreaming. This is a kind of resistance.
Just open your eyes and open your heart and encounter whatever is there. See what’s under it, and see what’s under that, and see what’s under that—until you see it all the way through. If you have that as a high value, then as far as enlightenment is concerned, you have the necessary and most important ingredient.
From Adyashanti's broadcast The Miracle of Any Moment, December 2017
© Adyashanti 2017
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
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
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"
Leslie writes: Several years ago, while on retreat with you, the insight suddenly hit that what I had thought of as "me" was just an illusory boundary. I laughed and cried as beliefs seemed to pop and dissolve like soap bubbles. Awareness or presence, well, just simply is.
A lot of seeking has fallen away, but the perception of unity or "Everything is one" still remains not really experienced. Any pointers or inquiries you would suggest for unity to move beyond intellectual understanding? I somehow intuit that it's another layer of "illusory boundary" that hasn't been seen through. Sometimes it feels like I'm trying to crack an unsolvable riddle!
Adyashanti: Here is the direct answer to your question: Simply contemplate the question “What is the world?” By contemplate, I mean to simply form the question in your mind. Don't think about it. Just present the question and relax your awareness as much as possible. That’s the “how.”
Experiencing unity is a bit like getting a joke. The "getting" of a joke is what causes the laughter. In a sense, the getting is the laughter. But we don't laugh because we have analyzed the joke and come to understand it; we laugh because the joke exposes something about ourselves. It removes the seriousness of the boundaries that we believe in and live by. It reveals that they are absurd and therefore funny. The same is true of the beliefs that cause us to experience boundaries. In a very real sense, beliefs are the creators of the experience of boundaries. They are absurd, even if at times useful, fictions, but only experienced as absurd when we see that they are absurd and worthy of a good laugh.
Every description, every name, every belief -- good or bad -- every concept, creates boundaries where there are in fact no boundaries at all. Even to say “I” instantly imposes a boundary upon what is actually a unified field of being. To say “I” instantly creates what is not “I.” “Big” is always in relationship to “small,” “up” in relationship to “down,” “good” in relationship to “bad,” “heads” of a coin in relationship to “tails.” Words imply that these opposites exist separately from one another, but they do not. They are simply different ways of looking at the same thing. You cannot have the crest of a wave without also having its trough; they are in reality one dynamic process.
As I have often said, each thing is its total environment. Remove the environment in which anything exists, and the thing will also not exist, which is to say that there is no such thing as a thing. To call something a thing, or to give it a name, is to conceptually impose boundaries upon it where they do not actually exist. A tree does not exist independently of its environment; it is its total environment. It takes a cosmos to produce a tree -- no cosmos, no tree. To say “tree” implies the entire cosmos. The same is true of you.
When we give any aspect of the cosmos a name like tree, or human being, or rain cloud, we forget that we are imposing boundaries where there actually are no boundaries. There are, of course, practical uses to doing such a thing, but practical usefulness does not mean that what we are naming actually exists independently from the dynamic process of life. Even to say that we are presence or awareness mistakenly implies that we are not what we are aware of. It is an intermediate level of realization, and is much more freeing than experiencing ourselves to be a separate someone, but is still defined and experienced as its own form of formless separateness. It is formless presence as opposed to the world of forms. But formlessness and form appear together, and beyond even together. They are ways of looking at one dynamic process. They are simply two different points of view from within that process.
When we drop whatever point of view we are entertaining, the illusory experience of separateness and having conceptually imposed boundaries disappears. Concepts, names, descriptions, beliefs, and opinions are nothing more than abstract ideas that have the power to create very real feelings and experiences within our bodies and alter our perception of the world to an extraordinary extent. So even though concepts are a part of daily functioning, and necessarily so to some degree (though not to the degree that we imagine), when we forget that the boundaries they impose upon our perception is an illusion, we take the conceptual game of naming and believing far too seriously and lose not only our sense of humor, but also any deep sense of freedom and love. We stop taking ourselves lightly and become like an unbendable blade of grass forever bracing itself against the slightest breeze.
In truth we are the All, as is everyone and everything else. There is simply nothing else to be. The All is not here to be understood as a noun; it is a process, and not even that. It is the process of existence and nonexistence as well. It cannot be known in the conventional sense, because all that is known is an idea, an object within consciousness. And by the way, ideas are it too. But it is not defined or limited by its ideas. The All that you are can only be lived, either unconsciously or consciously. It has a simple intuitive regard for itself, from within all of itself. If you want to find yourself, just open your eyes, and there you are. Or close your eyes, and there you are: something, nothing, someone, no one, everything, not-a-thing. Living, dying, smiling, crying -- one Self experienced as many selves. The entire cosmos awake to itself, and not even that, and all of that.
Quick now, where is the Buddha?
With Great Love,
© Adyashanti 2016
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
Excerpted from Adyashanti's Online Course, "The Philosophy of Enlightenment"
Every spiritual teaching has a philosophical structure that the teaching rests upon. While the word “philosophy” may imply stuffy academic musings about the nature of reality, in the context of a spiritual teaching it refers to the ideas, principles, and metaphysical claims that are derived (ideally) from direct spiritual experience and insight.
The importance of the philosophical structure of a spiritual teaching is that it helps to orient you towards the proper relationship to have with the teachings as a whole. The philosophical structure of a teaching will also show you how that teaching, or teacher, interprets spiritual experiences and insights.
Often so much emphasis is given to having some form of awakening experience that we fail to investigate very deeply the myriad ways that awakening experiences can be interpreted, and what constitutes wise and useful interpretations as well as unwise and useless ones. These interpretations, often uncritically examined and unconsciously applied, become our new life philosophy that guides our actions as well as our relationship with all of life.
© Adyashanti 2016
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
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
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
Excerpted from Adyashanti's “The Way of Liberating Insight” Online Course Q&A
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.
© Adyashanti 2015
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
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