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#1937 - Thursday, September 30, 2004 - Editor: Jerry  

    This issue features a page from Arjuna and Chameli Ardagh's website:    


The Journey to Awakened Love

by Arjuna and Chameli Ardagh



Confessions of a Recovered Guru

I walked up the wet stone steps through the open front door, into a large room. It was full to capacity. Close to the door, and cascading out in every direction, were the shoes. Like their owners, every color, size, style and shape of shoe was represented here. Some people were sitting in chairs, some cross-legged on the floor, most had their eyes closed. All were facing an impressive antique chair at the far side of the room, something like a throne from Neuschwanstein. Next to it was a table, with two framed pictures, a vase of flowers, and a glass of water. Soft music was playing. I left my shoes with the rest, and made my way carefully along the outside wall of the room, trying not to step on the meditating people. I made it to the front, walked over, sat down on the throne, and closed my eyes.

How had I come to be sitting in this big chair, playing this role of spiritual teacher? Even as a young child I intuitively felt there was something more possible to this life than what I saw around me. Growing up in London in the late fifties, in my mother my father, my school-teachers, my extended family I felt a sense of restriction and compromise, surviving a lifetime rather than really living it with zest. I knew there was something more.

Out of this longing, for what I could not name, I learned meditation at age 14. Over the next twenty years I explored many styles of meditation, radical therapies, and communal living. During the same period I did EST, primal scream, tantra weekends, long meditation retreats, you name it. I even once ate tofu.

In 1991 came a radical shift. I had heard of a little known teacher in Northern India named HWL Poonjaji. Finally I succummed to the tremendous pull to visit him. He lived in a very modest house on the outskirts of Lucknow. Within a second of entering the room, meeting his eyes, I knew the game was up. Rather than asking me to do this or that technique, he asked me one very simple question. “Who is the one trying to become free? Who are you, really?”
It took a few days, I was a tough case.

I woke up in my hotel room one morning, and tried to find me. For real. For the first time. There was nothing there. Where there should be an I, an entity, there was only open space, absolutely at peace, always and eternally free. I burst out laughing there in the hotel room, and did not stop for twenty minutes.

That was the end of seeking. It has never come back.

I stayed with Poonjaji for about a year, and then he sent me back to the West, to “share the secret with my friends.” One thing grew into another, and here I was, sitting on a throne, with a whole bunch of new friends.

“Arjuna, please teach us how we may trust.” She was in her mid sixties, with short grey hair, and eyes like a small bird. I looked into those eyes, and felt the purity and commitment of her heart, that would settle for nothing less than the real deal. I looked around at the others there. Some children were sitting at the front, some elderly people in chairs at the back. Between them were baby-boom hippies, smartly dressed executives, artists, healers, computer wizzes, all gathered here for the same reason, out of their love of something mysterious, which the mind could not name, but which the heart would not give up on. The enormity of innocence, of sincerity, of longing filled the room like a heavy sweet perfume. Every pair of eyes was turned to me, they were all waiting for a wise response. I checked back, to find one. Suddenly I knew that something was not right about the theatre of the place. I knew beyond doubt that the old lady knew just as much about trust as I did. Wisdom was swirling everywhere in the room like smoke, only the gestalt of the room suggested a hierarchy of knowing, provoked people to ask for answers from outside.

That moment marked the beginning of the end of my life as a guru.

Most of the people who attended satsang had an awakening in the first meeting or two, no different than I had in Lucknow. They came back again and again because it was not sustained in their day-to-day life, and they assumed I could help. Work, family, busy schedule, relationship, all of it seemed to sabotage the awakening. They longed to embody their realization more deeply. But if I was really honest, the longing for more tangible embodiment was just as strong in me as in them. I had the chair out of an accident, a divine joke, a randomly bestowed gift of eloquence. Both the realization and the longing to live it, for real, were everywhere in the room.

This moment initiated a process, sometimes painful and sometimes illuminating, that went on for many years. I kept teaching, and I could not avoid also looking at my life: my relationship with my children, with my wife at that time, with my friends and with the earth. Just like those who turned to me as a teacher, I also felt a schism between the depth of realization, and the quality of my life. The realization was of oneness, but habits were still loyal to separation. The realization was of limitlessness, but mental habits were still loyal to fear and not enough. Divorce from my sonsī mother only quickened the process.

I was fortunate to have many deep friendships with other teachers, and we were able to investigate our condition in dialog. Isaac Shapiro, for example, is clearly a very deep and awakened man. Thousands of people look to him as a teacher. He too has gone through not one divorce during his teaching career, but two, and was also looking with breathtaking honestly at the old habits that create separation. I found many others who were clearly awake and also willing to get down from the pedestal of guru long enough and to be honest about their humanness in this way: Catherine Ingram, Satyam Nadeen, Sandford Perrett, to name just a few. In each of us we were faced with the ideas about enlightenment we had inherited from the orient, and the actuality of this life as it is.

Over the years, enlightenment has become irrelevant to me. Some goal of absolute freedom from the mortal realm seems now to be a fetishism of escape, usually the preoccupation of men who desperately need good sex. It has become much more important how much this life, today and now, is reflecting the realization that is already here. Is the love that is already awake in the heart being lived and expressed in a way that really makes a difference to other people, to those I am close to? The embodiment of realization has become a thousand times more important than the degree of realization itself.

My intimate relationships have always been the pivotal barometer of this embodiment. In loving, being loved, making love, we all taste the most vivid ways that this personal life can be a dance of divinity, or the most painful and opaque distraction from it. In our openness to intimacy we find out just how real our spirituality has become.

I entered a transformed relationship to relationship itself, a phase of being very much alone. Besides the essential duties of fatherhood, I stayed with myself. I did many hours a day of silent sitting, and physical practices. I was willing to stay alone and celibate for the rest of my life, but if I were to enter intimate relationship again, it would only be as an expression and embodiment of the love I found in my innermost core. I knew that there was a mountain of habits that needed to be faced with honesty for love to be real and clean.

I did not know what that would look like. I did not know if I would be able to find someone interested to meet in that way, but I knew I would stay alone until I could trust myself to love with all of me.


The morning was crisp, a warm wind was coming up the valley. The river of Ganga was overflowing with aquamarine colored water. The contour of the mountains was crystal clear after the night rain had cleansed the air.

I was sitting with my teacher Shantimayi and about twenty others in a small temple, big windows to the vista of big nature. The air was filled with the smell of incense and with the sound of the Gayatri mantra, a prayer for everybody to wake up to their nature beyond the personal self.

Dissolving completely into this song, this chanting, this prayer for all of us, for the first time I truly had no sense of a separate me. It was absolutely completely gone; I became the prayer, a total prayer for everybody. There was nothing missing.

I had been traveling to India and to other places around the world for many years, following different teachers and schools and techniques. All of them had been created by men. I was seeking for enlightenment. I had numerous spiritual experiences, openings, but since I strongly believed in concepts of what enlightenment should look like, I would every time throw myself back onto the “path.” I had been fully occupied with seeking the ultimate void, a place where all human expression should stop. This search had led me to be very fulltime occupied with my own process with my own development, with my own enlightenment.
Simply sitting here, singing for the awakening of all, at the foothills of the Himalayas, this cool winter morning, was freedom. There was no more concern to get rid of anything or to reach some kind of end.

It was a pure expression of love, which made me disappear completely.

From then on it was clear as the morning air, that this love was and is who I am at all times, and that there was nothing more important to me in the whole of existence than to make my life an expression of this love.

When I returned to Europe, I saw this would mean that a lot needed to change in my life in order for the outer expression to be in alignment with the deep love inside.

Life itself pushed or supported these changes to happen, very fluidly, falling off like dead leaves in autumn. Some changes were more painful and frightening. But the more my life became an expression of the realization, I felt a profoundly deep satisfaction, different than the fleeting feelings when I get what I want. It was the deeper satisfaction of actually living aligned with my true heart. Even though this is an ongoing process where I often stumble and fall I have since than had a strong sense of purpose and co-creation with the whole of the existence.

One of the areas where I saw most incoherence with the realization of being love was ironically in my intimate relationship at the time, and very soon it came to an end. That arena we assume to be the naturally ground for love, was the area I found myself most often caught in power struggles, preoccupied with my own personal agenda, in conflicts, and getting distracted from what was truly important.

The whole world situation brought forth urgency in me, a responsibility to not let another minute go by without being a vehicle for this great love. It was clear that my commitment was to love itself, a love so much bigger than our small personal dramas, so if I should enter a relationship again it had to be supporting this commitment, not distracting me from it. And if I should not meet somebody with the same commitment I was willing to live alone, but no more compromise.

Very shortly after this I met Arjuna, who was to become my husband. He happened to be in a similar state of decision and commitment as myself and we started a thorough investigation of how to create an union, a relationship that would support this gifting of love to emanate through each of us and out to the rest of the world.

We experimented intensely to find out in a practical way what it takes for the undercurrent of love in this moment to have space to breath and become stronger than the habits that we have inherited from ancestors and family and our past experiences.

There is a strong vision in my heart of fully embodying this love, of being a true gift to the planet in a down to earth tangible way. Not as a concept but as a love people can feel for real. Not to escape life but to enter life fully, allowing love to be expressed through this body and through these feelings in all the mundane day to day activities.

And here I truly see the need for practice. To practice in a way that makes me recognize the habits that sabotages love and that allows the body to reflect and radiate more and more of this presence, of this divine love.

The practice needed is different than all my eastern male teachers had taught me. Although I still sit silently and watch the breath for a period each day, the main focus of my practice I do now is on expression, in prayer, and in interaction with my husband. I don’t practice for any future reward; I practice to open up into more and more and more love, right here, right now.

The feminine quality in all of us is fully in the moment, relishing the full spectre of life with all its colors and all its smells and feelings, and birthing and dying. The feminine laughs at a future state of enlightenment and sees it as nothing but a concept of the mind, and she asks;

do we really have the time to postpone living the love in our hearts?


We began an inquiry into what would allow us to live as awakened love instead of the habits. It began as a purely personal investigation; we explored many exceptional teachers and developed many tools ourselves. After some time we discovered that the way we were practicing was working. Habitual tendencies would arise, but most of the time we could find ways to play with them creatively, humorously so they became fuel to the fire of love instead of a wet blanket to extinguish it.

As we began to marvel at what was happening for us, our friends also joined in. A dinner here, a walk there, people began to ask us; “what is it you are doing?” We found we could share many of our discoveries with others, that they could use the same tools with the same effect. After a time we began to give talks in public and to offer weekends for people whether they are single or in a couple.

We support single people by helping them to feel deeper than loneliness into their true heart, and to feel into the true longing, to not compromise, to stay true to that vision rather than settle for just anything, to avoid loneliness.

We support couples to allow the depth of their spiritual realization and their intimate relationship to become the same. Instead of meditating or going to retreat or satsang, and then bring the fruits of that to relationship, to allow relationship itself to become a form of spiritual practice. Our relationship is without doubt the arena where our greatest deepening happens. It is our meeting that now is the guru, is the force that dispels darkness, that pushes us to expand into awakened love.

The gift that we offer people is more of an art form than a science. Its not a step by step, one-two-three do this technique and live happy ever after. It’s much more of a soft responding to situations as they arise and transforming them through awareness, compassion and humor. Some artists go to the recycling yard, they find broken machines, and they take the parts and make them into art. We take the broken old habits of personality, and reuse them as sacred art.

There are some very general principles to this art form, which guide our work with people in sessions and weekend gatherings:

1- Vision
In every arena of life it’s easy to forget why we came, to forget original intention and vision. In a business, for example, it is easy to forget the noble vision you started with, how to make a contribution, how to stay in integrity, and to just get lost in profit. We also forget why we entered relationship, the deeper commitment already in the heart to love, to be honest, to be open, to give. We support people to find ways to rediscover natural vision, why you are alive.
This is a very private personal and solitary process, something better done alone than together with your partner.

2- Commitment
Out of this general sense of vision we connect with the place in us where we can take a stand. Where we can step up and say; okay I am committed to bring forth these qualities in my life. You can only take a stand once you have a feeling of core vision. Then it is possible to say; I am committed to staying open no matter what; I am committed to deepening in meditation; I am committed to generosity of spirit. As we discover our commitment, so we can also be honest about the obstacles, our old habits. So we can say; “I am committed to honesty, but I have a habit of withdraw and hiding; I am committed to living with humor but I have a habit to take my self seriously and become self-righteous.”

Now we can begin to make real and reliable agreements with our partner. We make agreements in order to support our deeper commitment and practice our way through the habitual obstacles. If you are in a couple, you can make agreements with your partner. If you are single, you can make agreements with your friends, or even with yourself.
Within the crucible of our marriage, we have agreements about honesty, about physical and meditation practice, about how we give and receive feedback. We have agreements about specific ways to practice our way through the old habits of separation, and to return to the Big Love. And we regularly review these habits to see if they are doing their job as we intended.
Committed intimate relationship will bring to the surface all your hidden wounds. It is a universal treatment for the psyche: every tiny contraction that you hold about reality, will reliably come to the surface in the ocean of intimacy. So before the heat is on, you need very clearly defined agreements of how you are going to work through things as they arise. How you are going to transform old habits into the current of love.

We view honesty not so much as a moral virtue, but as a powerful transformational tool to let go of separation and melt into something bigger than the personal. Dishonesty, whether it’s lying or distorting or simply just withholding, keeps the personal identity and agenda intact. It keeps “my truth” distinct from “the truth”.
By disclosing everything to our partner, even if it is humiliating or embarrassing, even if we are afraid of hurting the other, we die to the old, and stay in the Now. This doesn’t necessarily make relationship more comfortable or harmonious, but the personality becomes more transparent and fluid.
We do not mean that we constantly are going to blurt out anything that is on our mind at all times. This would create chaos. We practice honesty in structured way. In our workshops and individual consultation we teach short structures that helps people to communicate in a clean and disentangled way. It takes less than five minutes.

5- Humor and Art
We have both spend many years involved in deep psychotherapeutic possessing. We have tried most of what’s on offer in the advertisements in Connection magazine.
The practice of real love is not therapy in its conventional sense. Our practice is not to improve or mend or heal the personality, but to make it loose and transparent. The pivotal difference between relationship as a therapeutic process and a relationship as a spiritual practice is humor. So if Chameli notices that Arjuna is contracted in control she is not going to try to change it, or to analyze if it has to do with his mother. She will just playfully ask him to march around the room imitating a British sergeant Major in the army. We transform old habits into a humorous flowing art form.

6- Gifting
We live together in a contract of deepening. Something like practicing martial art or any other discipline, our practice is to continuously open into and become a stream of generosity of spirit, through which love can flow to everything in the universe. We use intimate relationship as the most effective immediate available tool for this.
For us, that starts with noticing the difference between being in a relationship to get something, whether its security, comfort, sex, or alleviation of loneliness, or whether we are in a relationship to gift our partner way beyond their habitual limits.
When you drive your partner to an ecstasy beyond where they can go on their own, you are practicing the Big Love, you are practicing a new relationship with all of life.
We all of us get caught trying to get something from the outside. We think we long to get love, to get security, to get respect. In our work with people we have discovered again and again that deeper down, everyone is longing to give, to be a true gift to the world in a unique way. It would be a tragedy to die without that gift being given totally.

7- Presence
One important exercise we teach people is how to open the current of love through the body in such a way that other people can feel it.
In all our relating, what we say and do is much less important than where we say and do from. When you show up completely present in the body, so your whole body is open, vibrating with conscious presence, more or less anything you say or do will become a channel for that presence to be received and will be experienced as love.

8- Appreciations
Probably the most overlooked and underused muscle in our personal relationships is the art and practice of appreciation. If we could give people one thing to do each day, that would make the most difference, it would be to express five appreciations with your partner, or with your friends and family, every day.
We teach couples a practice we call Couples –Puja. Before you start the day, bow to your partner, and shower them with thanks and appreciation. Start the relationship fresh each day and recommit yourself to go as deep as you can together in honesty and love.
From the reports we get from the couples who do this practice, and our own experience, we would say that this practice is one of the most transformative gifts to an intimate relationship.

9-Relationship as Guru
The word “guru” comes from the Sanskrit roots; Gu and Ru, witch literally means “that which dispellers ignorance and darkness.” It has come to mean a person (most often oriental and male) who can tell you how to live your life, what to eat, and where to mail your donation.
We both have had our share of the traditional concepts of a Guru and we are both tremendously grateful for the gifts that we have received. But the greatest opportunity for Guru in your life, for the force that can continuously pull you back to yourself, that can continuously remind you of your deeper commitment, and can bring your contractions again and again to transparency and art, is the person sleeping on the other side of the bed.
Underneath the forgetfulness that often colors our relationship, your partner loves you totally; otherwise they wouldn’t have chosen to be with you. Your partner also can see your blind spots immensely much better than you can see them yourself. If you are willing to give your partner the benefit of the doubt, they can guide you out of the swamp of separation better than you could ever do so yourself, and most probably better than someone with a long white beard and a fleet of expensive cars.

10-Welcoming everything
The greatest work we had to do, as couple, was to let go of all our images of what love should look like. We’ve come to realize that many of the values that we instinctively assumed, like harmony, not hurting someone’s feelings, being nice and sweet, letting people do their own thing, are only a very narrow band of what is available as an expression of real love. We’ve learned, often painfully, that what is actually happening between us is imbued with a much richer love and depth than any model that we could arrive at in our mind of what should be happening. Many of the practices we live and teach are designed to dispelled notions of how relationship should be, to free up our energy to be absolutely present, welcoming and playful with what is actually occurring.

Seeking may have an end in time. But love is endless. Who can say, “Now I know all about love, I have taken it to its outer limits.” There is always much more waiting on the horizon. If you have tired of chasing the carrot of absolute enlightenment, as a goal in time, its time to relax from the path into the long grass, and live today as love. We know of no better way to practice the Big Love than in the white-hot fire of intimate relationship

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