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The wind carves shapes into the beach sand

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#3291 - Tuesday, September 16, 2008 - Editor: Jerry Katz

The Nonduality Highlights -    

A poem for the hurricane season by Alice Gardner.  

An article about the Himalayas as Guru.  

A list of nine additional gurus by Kenton Whitman.    


Hurricane Season
By what hand
Are these winds stirred
To spinning
Around their still center?

What force could give
Such power as this
To crush the structures
Of our lives?

These winds move
With violence
Against our human ideas
Of progress and security
Sweeping away
As impertinent desires
Our wish to have peace
On our own terms.

Have we been dreaming
Of a world peace
That doesn’t include storms?
Can we step outside of
Our ideas about the peace we want
Enough to notice the peace
That already rests in the center
Of this wild world?

A peace that rests gently
While the storm winds
May strip our lives bare,
Leave us homeless, and
Disengaged from our settled lifestyles.

A peace right in the center of
Our questionable survival
In any other moment than this.

This stillness in the center
Emerges with the violent winds.
The two exist as one,
inextricably connected,
Two sides of a coin, inseparable.

Can we accept this invitation
To welcome a peace that includes
What we have labeled as trouble
And strife, and been frightened by?

Can a wild wind
Flattening our landscape
Externally or internally
Be a part of something
Beyond our comprehension

And perfect, just as it is?

We don’t know. 

But we notice
In hurricane season,
The power of resting openly
With such unanswerable questions.
And we notice,
(Even while the winds of change
Are blowing violently)
What doesn’t spin—
The peace beyond understanding
In the internal
Eye of the hurricane. 

By Alice Gardner 2008

author of Life Beyond Belief, Everyday Living as Spiritual Practice


The Himalayan Lure  

by Swahilya  

Groups, satsangs, gurus, disciples, gatherings with a few hundred to a thousand people – there is a different kind of mental chatter, different paths in Yoga-Hatha, Bhakti, Gnana and Karma Yoga-religious cults with competitive followings – all the noise stops at Haridwar mostly and finally at Rishikesh.  

Up in the Himalayas, as one begins to travel several thousands of feet above sea level, the silence of the Pahad takes over. There is no human Guru here. The towering mountains and the flowing rivers become the teacher of the truths of existence, of the universe, of nonduality or advaita.  

All the concepts and ideas dissolve and there is just plain experience that remains while seeing the mountains, feel the cold winds blowing from the snow-capped peaks, the warm sunlight that fills the slopes during day and gently retires in the evening giving all the glowing orange, silver, gold, blue and purple as its gifts to the eyes that watch, the clouds that seem so still like the mountains over which they rest.  

As I sit here on the verandah of the Bharat Sevashram Sangha‘s Yatri Nivas at Ukhimath, the view of the mountains begin with the green slopes dotted with villages to my right and left right in front of me. The sun is setting and excited tourists to Badrinath, Kedarnath, Tungnath, Madmaheshwar and Kalimath are taking quiet walks up the lonely roads. For the local villagers of Garhwal, the mountains hold nothing new. It is yet another hard day of work and they are retiring into their homes.  

I ask Brahmachari Sudhir who looks after the Yatri Nivas and the Swami Pranavananda Vidya Mandir School nearby “Why do people come to the Himalayas?” He speaks with the clarity of the crisp and pure mountain air – Three things. First, the ear gets rest. There are no extra noises of the city life that distract our attention and fray our nerves.  

Second, the eyes can see for 3 km at a stretch, without any disturbance of hoardings or buildings that are the lot of city dwellers.  

From where I sit now, I can see mountain peaks stretching to at least 15 km if not more.  

The third and the most important aspect is, there is a homogenous oneness of the inner mind and the outer environment.   All these and the feeling of peace and restfulness draw the seeker to the Himalayas.  

Once they go, it is a constant attraction that keeps pulling, a memory that never does slip out of the mind through one's lifetime.  


Writer and speaker on human resources   (    


9 Great Non-Dual Teachers

One of the questions I receive most often is a request for additional resources to learn about non-dualism.  I recommend different things to different people based on a variety of factors, but I thought I might set down a few of my most common recommondations so that they are available to everyone.

Below you’ll find a list of nine great resources for encountering non-dualism.  I’ve added comments to outline the strengths and weaknesses of each resource, and I’ve written them in hierarchical order, with number nine being the weakest and number one being the strongest.  Note that I don’t actually do a lot of reading on the subject of non-dualism, so these recommendations emerge only out of my own experience.  I’ve also decided not to include blogs on this list.  Here then are nine resources to aid you in your journey.

9 — Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.  This well-known contemporary teacher writes a very lucid explanation that guides us toward ‘un-doing’ our concept of time.  It’s a great place to start if you’re beginning to challenge your usual views of the world by breaking down one of the most basic ‘objects’ (that being our idea of time) that we usually assume to be an unassailable reality.  Unfortunately, the book also creates a number of new objects for us, and doesn’t adequately challenge any of our other basic ideas about the world, such as Self, Cause/Effect, or our idea that we exist as individual entities in a world of many things.

8 — David Schiller’s The Little Zen Companion. The power of this tiny bathroom reader is that it approaches non-duality from a whole array of angles.  It’s filled with little poems, insights, and quotes.  It best serves as a guide, showing us that non-duality can be reached by many traditions and via many routes.  In effect, it breaks down our idea that there is a ’single path’ which must be followed toward awakening.  It’s not going to lead you directly to awakening, but it will open a lot of doors to exploring different authors, teachers, and Zen folks who have a lot more to offer.

7 — Sheri Huber’s That Which You Are Seeking Is Causing You To Seek.  Written in a playful style, Sheri delivers a personal, fairly direct, and rather fun approach to non-dualism.  This crosses the border into personal development, because she applies Buddhism to emotional issues and life problems.  Although some may think it’s too ’self-helpy’, she is actually quite vital in her approach to awakening.  Her broad-based approach challenges a lot of our usual mind-sets, and uses a positive approach to introduce us to Buddhism’s basics.

6 — Steve Hagen’s Buddhism Plain and Simple.  Rarely can an orthodox teacher break free of dogma so effectively as Steve has.  He strips Buddhism bare, and lays down the essentials in easy-to-understand language.  His book does follow in the tradition of Buddhism (outlining the eight-fold path, for instance), but he manages to do it without becoming bogged down in non-essentials.  Very lucid, this book should be essential reading for anyone interested in Buddhism or awakening, even if you’re not Buddhist.

5 — Alan Watts’ The Book.  This book has tremendous depth.  It’s not written in contemporary style, so don’t look for six-step guides for achieving emotional balance or stories of people who have ‘awakened’.  This book is perhaps the ultimate tool for gaining a clear understanding of the basic model we use to view the world.  And it challenges that model at every step.  Your idea of Self, of Time, of Cause/Effect, and of Duality will be challenged, and if you think through what he’s written, this book has the potential to pull the rug out from under your dualistic model of the world.  Alan was very sure of what he wrote, so you have to be ready to deal with his personality, but if you’re not afraid of conviction and if you can deal with a non-contemporary writing style, this book can rock your foundations.

4 — Paul Reps’ Zen Flesh, Zen Bones.  This book contains a remarkable collection of Zen’s offerings.  It is remarkable to read through the koans or stories, many of which will make no sense at all, and then discover that a year later they make perfect sense (though you’ll likely not be able to explain just how).  There is so much in this book.  It’s weakness doesn’t lie in itself so much as it lies with our contemporary approach to spirituality, where we expect our offerings to be clearly outlined and personalized (such as we find with number 9).  Zen Flesh, Zen Bones is a place to explore, and its forests are deep and uncharted.  There is nothing missing here, but none of it is offered up easily.

3 — People Around You.  This isn’t a book.  I’m actually talking about the people who surround you every day.  They are better teachers than any guru or writer or Zen master.  Their first lessons usually are presented to you as you look at others and judge them.  Most of us will do this as we begin to study non-dualism.  We’ll observe others and note how miserable they make themselves, how they repeat the same patterns of suffering over and over, and how they create their own dualistic world which only serves to give them grief.  These are judgments, of course, but there is nothing wrong with them.  Eventually we’ll apply these observations to ourselves, and note that we, too, repeat the same cycles we observe in others.  This is a bitter pill to swallow, but it begins the process of noting that we are creating our lives, for better or worse, out of the fruits of the model we’re using.

When we tire of judging, it’s time to allow people to become a different kind of teacher.  This happens when we realize that we’re the only ones who aren’t awakened — that everyone else is acting perfectly ‘awake’ and ‘in the moment’.  When this realization strikes us, we’re close to seeing that we, too, are perfect right now.  In this way, other people serve as powerful teachers, no matter who they are or what they’re doing.  This transformation, when we can see others as perfect teachers, will shift our lives forever.

2 — Nature.  We’re an intimate part of nature, and spending even a little time outside can wake you up to a level of awareness you never knew you had.  My own awareness sprung from an extended stay in nature, but even a few hours wandering in the woods or fields will begin to show you how much mental baggage we carry with us wherever we go.

Nature frees us of the constant stimulation that distracts us from our awareness.  Without cell phones to answer, email to check, or a schedule to hold to, our mind is free to shake loose and wander about.  Soon we’ll find that our mind is rampant with thoughts, flying this way and that with wild abandon.  If we sit down under a tree, we can watch those thoughts, and we’ll soon discover how exhausting our usual mind-set really is.

If you commit to a longer stay in nature, say a few days or a couple of weeks, your mind will automatically spin down, and as you slow down, your awareness will kick in.  It’s important not to bring a watch, radio, or cell phone along if you want to free your mind.  If you’re safety-prone, you can bring the cell but keep it off, using it only for emergencies.

Nature engages us on a primal level of awareness, where we learn to engage our senses, clear our minds, and discover our innate ability to awaken without any effort.

1 – You.  By far, you are the best teacher you will ever find.  Your power of teaching lies in your natural awareness — an ability that is covered up by force of habit.  Books and gurus come and go, but your perception is always with you.  Your mind is constantly thinking and moving, and if you pay attention to those motions, you’ll begin to discover some amazing things.

Granted, watching your mind is an art, and if you don’t meditate, you’ll at least need to stop for a moment and observe your mind’s motions.  The more you observe, the more your natural intelligence will begin to see patterns, to trace out the framework through which you observe the world (or, perhaps more aptly, the framework through which you create your world).

Left to run wild, our minds will dominate our lives.  They will toss us about in a chaotic frenzy of emotion, unconnected thoughts, and unexamined preconceptions.  But if we only take the time to observe the wild motions of our mind (no need to try to tame them — just observe), we’ll begin to see how very fabulous and amazing those motions are.  In our observing, we’ll become aware of what’s really going on in our heads, and our own realizations will guide us more effectively than the wisdom of any teacher.

Like the list above, we often seek things out in a descending order, beginning with the hope that some teacher such as Eckhart Tolle or Kenton Whitman can weave a magical spell with their words, so that all we’ll have to do is read a book and we’ll ‘wake up’.  Eventually, we’ll begin to seek things out in less obvious places, such as in the stories laid out in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones.  And the real liberation begins when we start to seek wisdom in the everyday world around us — in the people, things, and thoughts which make up our daily life.

The ‘answer’ lies just as clearly in a blade of grass, in another person’s angry outburst, or in the very thought moving through your brain right now, as it does in any text, on any website, or in any teacher’s words.  There is nothing wrong with teachers — I recommended each of the above ‘teachers’ because they all have something to offer.  But the greatest teacher of all is you.  Yes, you’ll encounter self-deception, but it is only in discovering the root of our delusion, which is constantly created by our own efforts, that things will come clear.  So take the journey as an adventure, with many guides to follow.  Have fun!

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