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#1985 - Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - Editor: Jerry
Adyashanti in Arlington
by John Jablonski
Friends and Family,
I attended a 2 hour satsang with a very good Advaita/Zen
night in Arlington. The guy goes by Adyashanti. His web site is linked
[The guy is actually doing one more meeting tonight,
Wednesday, at 7:30
at the same spot in Arlington. If you are inspired to attend, I can
give you some tips about where to park.]
[This is a long one, but it has been enjoyable to write,
please read in
a spirit of inquiry and please ignore the spelling mistakes. The spell
checker gives up after a page or so.]
[Since I got on such a fun rif, I'm sending this to a wider
than my usual spiritual retreat stuff. For those to whom this stuff is
new, Welcome. This is the kind of stuff I've been studying for 12 years
now. It started with Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers and "The Power of
Myth", moved on to Nisargadatta Maharaj and "I Am That", and more
recently features Eckhart Tolle and "The Power of Now".]
I actually tried to do a little reading at his site before I
found the writing a bit dense. I am happy to report that the man in
person is very clear and personable. Accessible and direct the way
Eckhart is. He comes from a Zen background, so the language he used was
kind of flavored with that tradition, but the concepts map very nicely
into the Power of Now and other Advaita teachings I've seen.
One more disclaimer. The pictures on his website seem to
guru-ish image. Again, happily, the man in person put on no heirs and
was just a regular guy (who happens to have a very short haircut, but
that's actually pretty popular in the general population these days).
The haircut does give him a little bit of a Zen monk appearance, but it
wasn't too distracting (smile).
The format was fun and kind of nice for such a large
group. There were
maybe 100 people in the Theater style venue. The stage was set with the
usual spiritual teaching setup, chairs, flowers, table holding a cup of
hot tea. But there were two chairs arranged mostly facing the audience,
but at a small angle toward one another. Adya, as he is known, did
about a 10 minute silent meditation, that's about the max for such a big
group, and then did maybe 30-40 minutes of a talk. The rest of the time
was done with a volunteer from the audience sitting in the second chair.
A nice kind of question and answer conversation would happen
participant. There were maybe 5 people who went up in the time we had,
and they represented maybe 5 very different places in the spiritual
search. A lot of great material came out in the context of these
conversations, and you could really sort of put yourself in the place of
the questioner and relate to what was being said.
The basic technique was a kind of inquiry into the nature of
A deep look inside to really see who is in there seeking or asking the
questions. At first someone might say "well, inside I find me, I am
asking the questions". Asked to look a little deeper, "what is this
me", the answer starts to become a bit vague, "the ego", maybe "a bundle
of thoughts", and pretty soon the answer might become "I don't know".
"Yes!", Adya would say, the essence of the self is
nothing that the mind
can grasp. The mind tries to put a concept around this void and it
comes up confused. The questioner sits in confusion and and Adya says,
"you've found the answer, but your mind is not willing to accept the
truth, relax into the answer... The answer to the question is that the
essence of self is nothing, void, emptiness", or as the Zen teaching
puts it "no-self". This no-self is the very aware but non-self-referential state that
Eckhart talks about as being in touch with your being or being in the
now. What was going on while I was so absorbed in that programming task
I was working on? Where did that time go which seems to have flown
right by? What is the characteristic of that state of supreme presence?
The self was not there. There was no thought "I am programming", "I
must type these commands now". Programming was just happening. There
was no concept of a "me" doing it.
The inquiry such as that with Adya is a great technique to
into that state of presence. As the question goes deeper and the mind
relaxes into the notion that the answer might be unfathomable to it. We
begin to experience ourselves as the nothing, the silence, the
stillness. Notice that this nothing is very aware, it is looking out
through your eyes, it is taking in an image of what is happening now.
It is feeling the air blow by your face or the fingers hitting the
keyboard. This very awareness is what we really are in essence. It is
nothing, in the sense that it is no-thing, but it also has a vastness
about it, a universal nature. It's not personal. There is actually no
self to it.
The very awareness that I am, looking out my eyes, is the same
looking out yours. This is the essence of love, when we recognize in
the other person the one awareness looking back. Biologically, the
awareness looking out my eyes is attached, in a sense, to a system of
memories, thoughts and perceptions based in the chemistry of my
particular brain and body. That universal awareness, forgetting it's
vast nature and associating or identifying with this particular
biological system is my very personhood being born. Self realization,
or enlightenment, is simply the realization that this identification is
a mistaken identity.
I am actually the vastness, the oneness, the nothing.
But the thinking
mind has taken over ownership. I believe that I am these thoughts which
run through this physical brain. Really I am the awareness which
experiences the thoughts. This is the point of meditation and other
awareness exercises, to notice that you are the awareness, not the
thoughts. You can come to a point where you simply watch the thoughts
float by, like puffy clouds on a sunny day. The vastness, the sky,
behind it all, clear and blue.
Having had this realization, you still might have a cloudy
day, the sky
completely obscured by dense thoughts (I mean clouds)(smile). Maybe
most of your days are cloudy, but the vastness, the sky remains, clear
and blue, behind the clouds. The silence that you are remains, even
when the thoughts are making a lot of noise. The noise actually
manifests out of this silence and retreats back into it during the
little quiet intervals you might be able to notice. Another aspect of
meditation or practice is to notice these intervals and start to
lengthen them. The portals into being, which Eckhart talks about, put
you in touch with these intervals, this void or vastness, whichever you
prefer, underneath the noise made by thought.
Adya was very clear; enlightenment is not some kind of
of bliss or sustained experience of the-oneness-of-everything. Many of
us have had spiritual experiences, either spontaneous or brought about
by reading the truth as people try to express it in words, or feeling
the connection of love, or that very deep meditation, but these are
experiences, just like all experiences, they are impermanent, they fade
and leave us wanting more. Real enlightenment is much more subtle, so
subtle that you might just miss it. In fact most people miss it and
keep seeking for years. In reality, the awareness that we are never
goes anywhere, it never leaves us.
So, step one, we are not a human body which is aware, we are
itself. This is the realization. This universal awareness has nothing
to fear and does not get born or die. When operating out of awareness,
we don't fear death, that is simply the dropping of this one particular
body. The vastness that we are has no beginning and no end. Nothing
that is real is ever lost. Only temporary forms coming and going in the
cycle of life. Moni at the retreat a few weeks ago had a nice visual
metaphor for this: referring to different people, she explained that we
are all the same light, only different lamp shades. This lamp shade
might get old and worn. the light within, or spirit, shines with the
same intensity all during our life and after our death.
Step two, move more and more into the position of living as
awareness, being in the moment. It's one thing to realize our identity
with awareness, as Adya said, declaring, "I am That" in the fashion of
the famous Hindu gurus, but quite another thing to actually live your
life from/as this awareness. Don't simply think about awareness and get
wrapped up in all kinds of stories and drama about this aware person you
think yourself to be, but be the awareness.
You will find that more and more, the person falls away and
you have the
experience of life living itself. Things you used to puzzle over and
worry about happen as if automatically, like the heart beating or the
breath going in and out. Your breathing is almost always below the
threshold of your thinking. Stop giving so much weight/importance to
your thoughts and you will find that life itself has the built in
intelligence to proceed as much below the threshold of your thoughts.
"But I use my thinking to decide what to do next", I can hear you say,
"will progress simply stop?" The answer is, don't worry, come from
stillness and the next thing to do will become obvious and in fact will
become done, without all the overlay of worry and self analysis, without
any effort at all.
Wow. This has been fun. I've been going to that
still place and typing
what comes up for the last hour or so and it only occurs to me now to
look back and see how long this note has become. In reality it's kind
of a fusion of the stuff from last night, the stuff from the retreat with
Moni, and stuff I've read and studied for a long time. I've enjoyed the
writing. I hope you've enjoyed the reading.
SWE - Sent with only minimal editing (smile)
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