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#3007 - Wednesday, December 5, 2007 - Editor: Gloria Lee
Nondual Highlights - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NDhighlights
By being aware that what is fundamentally mysterious doesnt become any less mysterious because weve put it into words. Words, words, writes the poet Robert Creeley, as if all worlds were there. Which is to say, a menu wont fill our bellies; a love poem isnt a kiss.
- Sy Safranksky, editor of The Sun Magazine
When my December issue of The Sun Magazine arrived with a fresh new interview of Adyashanti, I so wanted to share it here. Hoping to not need to type it myself, I'd been waiting to see if they might put some of it online. Today, Mark Scorelle posted an excerpt on his list (Thanks, Mark!), and remarkably, the entire interview is now available on their website. Not only is The Sun a first rate creative literary magazine, but it is also an advertising free oasis. Look it over next time you are in a bookstore, but meanwhile, please enjoy this interview. I also especially like the honest, real life stories of the Readers Write section. And Sy Safransky writes a very thoughtful editor's essay each month. Here's an excerpt:
The dream reminded me that, at sixty-two, Ive spent the better part of fifty years as a writer and an editor. I guess I should be impressed, but I tend to be suspicious of authority, even when the authority is me. There may be no substitute for experience, but experience can never be a substitute for living fully in the present. I can take pride in all the back issues of The Sun on my shelf, but I cant take refuge there. My passion for this work lives in the here and now, not in the imagined future, not in the romanticized past, and not in the story of The Sun: an astonishing story, genuinely inspiring just a story. Passion doesnt live in the story. Nor does it live in the satisfied smile of a maverick publisher taking a bow. Well, if thats what you want. . . , Passion says, slipping out the door.
So how do I keep my passion alive?
Who Hears This Sound?
Adyashanti On Waking Up From The Dream Of "Me"
During our weekly meetings in the Sun office, editor Sy Safransky and I occasionally stray into philosophical territory. One day, knowing that I'd once studied meditation at a Buddhist monastery in Thailand, Sy handed me a couple of videos of talks by the spiritual teacher Adyashanti. At the time, my ardor for the spiritual life was at a low point. My reading of spiritual texts was infrequent, eclectic, and disorganized, and I'd stopped meditating regularly. But late one night, unable to sleep, I watched the videos and was drawn to the simplicity and clarity of this man's teachings and his playful yet no-nonsense manner.
Adyashanti was born in 1962 in Cupertino, California, a small city in the San Francisco Bay Area, and his given name is Stephen Gray. As a teenager he had a passion for racing bicycles and worked in a bike-repair shop. At the age of nineteen, he came across the idea of enlightenment in a book, and it ignited a desire to experience that ineffable state. He built a hut in his parents' backyard and practiced meditation there with all the vigor of a competitive athlete, training under the guidance of Zen teacher Arvis Joen Justi. When he was twenty-five, he experienced an awakening, which he describes as "a realization of the underlying connectedness and oneness of all beings."
For the next eight years he continued to meditate though he says that all sense of effort and anxiety vanished and work in his father's machine shop. In 1996 Justi encouraged Gray to start teaching on his own. He gave his first talks in his aunt's spare room above a garage to just a handful of students. Sometimes no one would show up. Over a few years the small gatherings grew, until there were hundreds of students in attendance each week. During this time Gray took the name "Adyashanti," Sanskrit for "primordial peace."
These days Adyashanti gives talks and weekend "intensives." He also leads five-night silent retreats, which have become so popular that registration now takes place by random lottery. His teachings seem rooted in the loose, folksy style of the early Chinese Zen masters, as well as in the "nondualistic" tradition, whose basic tenet is that a separate self, distinct from the rest of the world, is an illusion. The nonprofit organization Open Gate Sangha supports his work and sells his books and recordings of his talks (www.adyashanti.org). When he's not traveling around the country teaching, Adyashanti lives with his wife in the Bay Area, not far from his childhood home.
When Sy and I heard that Adyashanti was coming to Asheville, North Carolina, we arranged to meet with him for an interview. On the drive there, as the terrain changed from the rolling hills of North Carolina's Piedmont region to the steeper slopes of the Appalachian Mountains, Sy and I wondered aloud if Adyashanti would say anything we hadn't heard before. As we neared the house where Adyashanti was staying, the trip began to resemble a spiritual pilgrimage: we climbed a narrow road that snaked up the side of a mountain, then descended a treacherous, unpaved path, muddy after a recent rain. When we finally arrived, Adyashanti greeted us in a casual shirt, jeans, and sandals, asking us to call him "Adya." At the outset of the interview, he frequently shifted in his seat and laughed a little uncomfortably. Eventually he relaxed and reclined on the couch, a glimmer in his piercing, crystal blue eyes.
During a pause to change tapes in the recorder, Sy asked Adyashanti about his years as a competitive touring cyclist. "I have a blue-collar body," Adyashanti said. "It likes to be worked. When I'm at home, I'll ride my bike two, three, four times a week. I'll lift weights." He certainly appeared fit, with veins bulging from his forearms. His demeanor seemed blue-collar as well, with his no-frills attitude and his down-to-earth language, nearly free of spiritual jargon. He said of himself, "I'm a truth guy, not a comfort guy."
After the interview, Sy and I went to a talk Adyashanti gave at a nearby church. Adyashanti's talks are unscripted and draw largely from examples in his own life. But on that evening, what struck me most, beyond his words, was his presence between the words. Sometimes he'd pause for a few seconds and close his eyes. His face would become tranquil, and the room would swell with silence.
Following the talk, Adyashanti answered questions from the audience. A woman sitting near us, whose hands had fidgeted in her lap through most of the evening, took the microphone and said she was feeling a tremendous sadness because she feared that she'd never have an awakening experience. Adyashanti asked what her deepest spiritual yearning was. The woman answered, "I want to know God."
Adyashanti asked the woman, whose name was Nancy, momentarily to stop her search for God and go in search of Nancy instead. "Where is Nancy?" he asked. "What is Nancy? If I ask you where is your hand, where is your foot, you can answer. But if I ask where is Nancy, where is she? She pretends to be the center of this whole life, but where is she? Is this Nancy anything more than a thought?"
"No," she said.
Adyashanti described the tendency of the human mind to believe in a limited notion of "me," a separate self at the core of our being. But when we go in search of that "me," we discover something deeper and more vast. "What is looking through your eyes right now?" he asked the woman.
After a pause she answered, "It feels like life."
"OK," he said. "Let's go with that. It's life peering through your eyes. So what is life? Is life male or female? When is life's birthday? Does it have an age?"
"No," she responded.
"So, at the very center of this thing called 'you' is nothing but life," he said. "It's not Nancy; it's life that's peering through. Now, just for fun, let's remove the word life. I like the word life. It's very unspiritual. But since you're in search of God, what if we replace the word life with God? Isn't God life, the essence of all existence?"
"Yes," the woman answered.
"God is peering through right now," said Adyashanti. "In this moment."
The woman seemed profoundly moved. "Whoa," she said, her eyes widening.
"Hang with that for a while," Adyashanti told her as she quietly took her seat and the next questioner approached the microphone. I noticed that Nancy's hands had stopped fidgeting and were folded together peacefully in her lap.
The actual interview can be read here:
Who Hears This Sound?
Adyashanti On Waking Up From The Dream Of "Me"
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