Life is full of twists and turns, falls and crescendos. Even in meditation, one can be faced with a myriad of movements of body and mind, and surfacing emotions or gifts of grace. Born into this world of time and space, we are spatial beings, and we regularly sense for direction and most certainly place . . . for ourselves and nearly all we encounter. When I first heard that to come upon the liberated state was to move beyond the duality of referencing subject and object, I wondered if it was even possible. As I gave time to meditation and my mind began to quiet enough that my powers of observing became clearer, I noticed the initial motions of my thinking mind moving toward the back of my head with thoughts about the past and moving forward with thoughts about the future. I’d observe other consistent spatial pathways, such as movements of mind upward when daydreaming and downward when becoming sleepy. With each movement of mind, my inner gaze—or spotlight of attention—would follow.
At first I would give these movements of mind and attention free reign, intuiting that to resist them would not be conducive to peace. I could feel that holding the body aligned in meditation posture was helping align even the movements of mind. Even so, the movements continued to map thought and experience in a multitude of directions, seeking place, order and understanding for each.
It was the times when I gave the inner gaze a place of its own that peace became more potent. As one to experiment, I’d direct my inner gaze simply forward, at the level one might look out at a vista on the horizon, yet with eyes closed. At other times, I would hold my inner gaze at the third eye. I have also meditated with my eyes open and my gaze toward the distant floor beyond the tip of my nose, as instructed in Zen. In each case I would practice zero strain and repeatedly return when my mind and gaze would wander. Each approach offered nuances of change in the state of body-mind consciousness.
With my body and gaze learning sense of place in meditation, my attention needed the same sense. As I would listen and register the world around me, my attention would slow and unfurl from tracking objects, as it realized it did not have to place them at a spatial distance or outside itself. It began to sense self as unboundaried awareness, an awareness in which the surroundings arise. It began to sense that it need not work so hard to reference all things as objects because it could express as the primary object of aware space in which all things appear.
Meditation has now become a forum to recognize the moment’s pristine simplicity. Even the movements of mind and body notice the peace of this simplicity in contrast to the contractions and complexity of patterning to which they had become habituated in their less conscious states.
This simplicity is available to you now, as ever. It is not of subject or object, although one might say it is of both. Above all, no conclusion or words are needed when the referencing of mind and body settle into simplicity, for in simplicity all find true return.
© Mukti Gray 2022
I once was asked in an interview, “What is an emotion?” Spontaneously, a wide grin spread across my face, and I responded, “That’s a mystery!” I went on to share how I feel emotions very deeply, but what they are remains a mystery, a mystery to be encountered.
I’ll say more about encountering the mystery of emotion soon. Now I invite you to draw upon your direct experience of emotion and to compare my observations with your own. Emotion seems to arise first as a constellation of energy, that is then sensed and registered as feeling. Often the word “emotion” is used when the atmosphere of sensation and feeling become a state. Frequently, the state is then identified with, shaping consciousness; “I feel sadness” becomes “I am sad.” In states of identification, the senses of experience and experiencer are intertwined. In movements toward liberation, this intertwining becomes unlinked.
Inquiries like “Who is sad?” or “Who feels sadness?” are commonly asked to allow the mind to shift focus from the experience and to displace the sense of experiencer (if no experiencer is found) or to encounter presence, free of identity. As identification is relinquished, it is possible to clearly see and observe the remaining emotion (if any does remain) and to intimately encounter it.
In observing emotion, one may come up short when trying to locate who is experiencing emotion. Yet even without a sense of subject, there can still be a host of thoughts that create a narrative about the emotion. Most narratives either stoke or mitigate the emotion, or do some of both.
I clearly remember a statement that Adya made to me not long after we met, while at a café on one of our early dates. I was sharing with him about a shock I’d received at work that day. A boss that I was very close to and a true mentor was let go, despite the person who let him go telling me two weeks earlier what a wonderful salesman my boss was and how I should pay close attention to all that he had to teach me. This same person’s decision to replace my boss with a V.P. of Sales more well-known in the industry, landed as “wrong” in me. Adya asked if he could share something that might help, and when I gladly agreed he said, “In Zen we are taught not to see things in terms of right or wrong.”
I had never heard, or truly heard, such a statement before. I felt the ground shifting out from under my conclusion of “wrong” and my whole narrative coming to a halt. I could sense unknown, open possibility. In that openness, I was available to join in a new direction of conversation and to listen to more of Adya’s sharing. Looking back, it was upon hearing his statement that I became a student of Zen.
Studying emotion involves clearly seeing through labels and narratives overlaid upon feelings. These overlays need not be rejected out of hand, but it can be helpful to suspend them in order to look afresh. Encountering emotion often begins simply with acknowledging that feelings are present and with allowing oneself to feel what is felt without indulgence or resistance. In my conversation with Adya in the café, I was indulging (stoking) and resisting the feeling of “wrong.” Even if the feeling that’s present is noted to be resistance itself, it is possible to allow that feeling without resisting its occurring and with an openness to seeing it anew.
Bearing witness is to see through what I like to call “the eyes of Spirit.” It is to observe with the sense of what has been silently looking through your eyes and witnessing all of the experiences of your life with constancy and without reference to time, preferences, or conclusions.
When narrative is set aside and when feelings are witnessed and regarded with care and love, they are supported to energetically unfold and to express of their own accord. This is how feelings and emotion move toward their own liberation, without interference. Adya modeled and stated a path to emotional transformation that night in the café many years ago. Through willingness and care, you too can be a model for others by engaging this transformation within yourself, in the here and now.
© Mukti Gray 2022
“Be here now” was a big catch phrase and powerful spiritual pointer in the ’70s, made popular from the title of a book by Ram Dass published at the time. I remember Adya having a chuckle about the phrase during a talk he gave about 25 years ago, after which he said, “As if there was anywhere else you could be!” It is funny, and not so funny, how we can have the experience of not being “here,” but “there”—caught up in our mind, in the past, or in the future—all the while missing what we are and what’s before us. Sometimes it can feel like we must journey back to where we already are, back to finding a greater appreciation of arriving and being present, without the pulls to “there.”
A sense of “rightness” registers when being both conscious of the present (personally unifying) and being the consciousness of the present (universally unifying). This is true alignment.
A powerful pointer that Adya uses to this end, is to “Allow what is.” He is speaking of meeting the actuality of what’s unfolding (within or without). When our attention narrows and is pulled into thought or emotion and you recognize what is happening, you can then orient out of resistance and into allowance.
Refraining from resisting our experience (even resisting resistance) can be like dropping your end of the rope in a game of tug of war.
To allow what we don’t like to be happening is not to condone it, but to take a step toward peace. What is happening is no longer fueled by unconscious or reflexive resistance, and energy is freed up to mobilize toward more fully meeting the moment, and toward effective response.
Meeting the moment offers a fresh perspective of what is before us, and also of what is perceiving. In its fundamental essence, what is perceiving is free of resistance and is always and ever allowing, simply because it cannot function otherwise. Being conscious of this fundamental expression of unconditional allowance opens one to both a wider field of possibility and to one’s nature as the eternal, that only ever dwells in the here and now: true home.
© Mukti Gray 2022
Each of us is unique in our journey of awakening and in how we express Spirit. Our individual temperaments and varied life experiences make us one of a kind. I once heard Adya say, “In all of history, in all of time, there will only and ever be one of you. Eternity only expresses uniquely as you this once.”
Adya has also encouraged us to question, to ask, “Who or what is living this life?”
One way of approaching this inquiry is to turn toward the foundation of your uniqueness, toward the inner atmosphere of your personal depth . . . whether that be in your heart, your core, or your mysterious body form.
As your inner gaze and attention resides in this atmosphere of depth, become curious: “What is this ‘I am’?” or “What is it to intimately know this depth, this essential being?”
Our essential being registers each unique and sincere call, each whole-hearted offering of devoted attention and present availability. As we carry such attention inward and offer our consciousness to depth, our call or query ripples through essential being, awakening the unconscious to its consciousness in form.
Realization is entering the doorway of your own uniqueness to discover the totality and to be seated in the One. Embodiment is the totality, the One, coming home to its seat in personhood, to be known and expressed uniquely as you. The one and the One return home.
© Mukti Gray 2022
Here in the northern hemisphere, it is early spring—a reminder of the nourishment of renewal. I write to encourage you to receive the energy of spring into your spiritual practice and to renew your dedication.
The spirit of fresh beginning that is associated with spring reminds me of a term used in Zen, “beginner’s mind.” Beginner’s mind expresses much like your open hand when it carries nothing and grasps at nothing, yet is full of readiness to receive or respond. With clearing out and spring cleaning being a custom of the season, why not take time to empty your mind and, with a fresh heart, discover what remains?
I have pointed to beginner’s mind when giving instructions for self-inquiry. One can put down ideas and approach the question, “What am I?,” openly. By not insisting to know the mystery of existence in thought, one can encounter mystery through the intimacy of direct experience. By dwelling in the sense of mystery that is pregnant with possibility, one is dwelling in the ground in which all acquired knowledge is relinquished, and in which all Self-knowledge is born.
The green sprout, symbolic of spring, grows toward the light because it is its nature to do so. It does so without any gaining idea. Being free of gaining ideas is an expression of beginner’s mind. In supportive conditions, below the disturbances of the winds of change, the seed breaks open and the sprout gains momentum.
Outer life is not free of disturbance. We have only to open our eyes to see this in our midst or in the midst of our world brothers and sisters. Inner life is not free of disturbance either, but the innermost life is. As practitioners, we take time to gather ourselves into the seed. Return your consciousness to essential being, so that it might vitalize and renew again and carry forward the perfume of peace that comes from union with the Root.
Spring Equinox, 2022
© Mukti Gray 2022
Excerpted from Mukti’s self-guided course Got Juice (Q&A)
Q: I would like to ask about the nature of love. I think one reason I have felt a disconnection from my heart is that I started dismissing the feeling of love as just a passing phenomenon. In particular, I find myself mistrusting the love that arises in response to directed attention, as if I have manipulated or even manufactured my experience. How does love relate to that which doesn’t come and go?
A: Your question “What is Love?” is one that can be more meaningful without a fixed conclusion, as it invites the questioner more fully into the living mystery (of oneself, another, life, and love). There is a beauty in leaving the question open-ended, so that its response continues to reveal itself over the course of a lifetime. As I speak more to your question and risk “pinning it down” to give context, please remember the importance of letting the response to your question live on.
Your sharing and question, as to how love relates to That which does not come and go, brings forward some tricky juxtapositions along the spiritual path. When one becomes more conscious of the workings of thought, one can see how it can shape experience. There can be a discounting or shying away from any experience that seems created or referenced in thought. There can even be a subtle conclusion (conscious or unconscious thought) that what does not come and go is more important to embrace than impermanence is. Upon hearing or following pointers to That which does not come and go (or the Eternal), impermanence can be rejected. (Like some hear pointers to go beyond ego and then reject ego.)
When dualistic thought is still, the choosing of one position over its opposite quiets. In the absence of position, the knowing (in one’s being) of what is permanent and impermanent are revealed to be inseparable. This can set the stage for awareness to wake up to itself as all that it is aware of, to the perspective that nothing is apart from awareness. Such a realization can be called awakening to oneness. From this universal consciousness, That which does not come and go knows itself as the comings and goings and can love itself as them. Love feels to be awareness in relation to itself, through intimately recognizing and knowing itself. This is a knowingness of being, of the manifest made conscious (aware).
Your sharing leads me to believe that you may be interested in my sharing the following: You may have heard Adya speak of head awakening being associated with “freedom from,” heart awakening with “freedom to,” and gut or hara awakening with “freedom from freedom.” You could think of head awakening as freedom from boundaries of thought (especially identification with the “I” thought) and expressing as clarity, and heart awakening as freedom from distance (especially identification with “inside” vs. outside) and expressing as intimacy, and gut awakening as freedom from referencing or identifying with freedom, expressing as fluidity within stillness.
These awakenings may occur suddenly and/or gradually. From my past and current experience, the expression of these awakenings factor in one’s finite, imperfect human expression. Thus, it is helpful to come to love and be at peace with imperfection as another expression of awareness loving itself.
© Mukti Gray 2018
In last month’s newsletter article, “Living Spiritual Autonomy,” [November 2021] I shared that this article would further explore the embodiment of spiritual autonomy. As a point of reference, I again offer Adyashanti’s definition for spiritual autonomy, taken from his “Taking the One Seat” course: To be a simple force of nature, a selfless and creative expression of the whole, possessing an independence of spirit capable of manifesting the enlightened condition in daily living for the highest possible good.
In Buddhism and in Zen, in particular, there is a directive: take the one seat. In this pointer, we have the key to embodying spiritual autonomy. It’s a pointer that conveys simplicity, while also speaking volumes to body, mind, and spirit.
Along my journey, this pointer has been an encouragement to first seek to know the one most important direction for living and then to see that my sense of self and Self is established in that. As I know it, this most important direction has been to align with life, as life. From a more personal perspective, this has meant dropping the arguments about what I want and don’t want, and navigating away from this push and pull toward a discovery of foundational stillness. It has meant that I’ve needed to align “my will” with “God’s will”—and God’s will, simply put, is: whatever is happening. In sensing this alignment with what is, I discovered that what I wanted most was to not want, and to be at home in what is. This discovery and shift helps free vision to see what is, to see the moment, more clearly.
It has meant “my life” and “my being” sync to a greater orchestration of life and totality of being, to the One expressing as beingness. Being or beingness is the primordial expression of what you are and we are, what life is, what the moment is. The more we shift from the mode of grasping at life to fill a sense of internal lack to the mode of giving ourselves to life, joining in the moment . . . the more we know the wholeness of being. This is the human’s journey to awakening and the embodiment of that awakening.
Realization is not just about a person’s journey to awakening. It’s also a journey of immaculate spirit, empty of the qualities and conditions of form, waking up to itself within you, and recognizing Itself as all of form through you. This is Emptiness waking up to its expression as fullness in being. This is spirit’s journey of awakening and its embodiment.
Together, the journeys of spirit and human are: the totality finding Its place—known and expressed through the individual, and the individual finding its seat, its home, in the totality: the One in the one, and the one in the One.
Copyright © 2021 Mukti Gray.
I invite you to reflect upon and sense into expressing “spiritual autonomy.” Adya has defined spiritual autonomy for us beautifully in his Taking the One Seat course.
Definition by Adyashanti: Spiritual Autonomy ~ “To be a simple force of nature, a selfless and creative expression of the whole, possessing an independence of spirit capable of manifesting the enlightened condition in daily living for the highest possible good.”
Presently, please take a moment to call forward any images, sensations, or orientations of mind and body that come forward as you read his definition and step into its expression—in whatever ways it is known to you. And please continue to sense what you’ve just called forward as you read on.
To express spiritual autonomy, you must fully occupy your own life, even consciously consent to inhabiting your incarnation. And you must intend to align with life as a whole. Engaging these actions (occupying, consenting, aligning) begs several questions, such as those below. As you sense into expressing spiritual autonomy, see if exploring any of the following questions shift or deepen your sense of it.
To express spiritual autonomy, it is not necessary to be perfect, but it is necessary to consciously reside within your own person and within being. Being is the primordial expression of what you are, what life is, what the moment is.
Autonomy in general, spiritual or not, is expressed well by those who have a healthy ego, or a quiescent ego—certainly one that is free of a sense of inflation or lack. When lack is sensed and believed, a person is often under the illusion that lack can be put to rest by acquiring from the outer world—whether the acquisition be material or emotional (as in the seeking of love, attention, and approval). Inflation often occurs when one presumes or takes undue personal pride in possessing or outwardly displaying strength, wealth, or social position. Often simultaneously their inner life (where true power, wealth and identity lie) is being dismissed or avoided. In each case, the person is disconnected from their inner worth and is preoccupied externally.
When you assume that you are “more than” or “less than,” you will feel a push-pull relationship with life. Whether in overly asserting or displaying yourself (push) or grasping to fill yourself (pull), to be enslaved in a push-pull relationship with the external world for your happiness is inherently dissatisfying. Freedom in spirit as well as fulfillment arise from a deep connection with your self, especially with the inner peace that develops from withdrawing from the overdrive of push-pull and turning your interest and consciousness toward primordial being. Such peace makes it possible to perceive and know the real. Without this peace, perceptions are forever filtered through what is to be acquired and displayed. With this peace, autonomy expresses as spiritual autonomy.
If not peace, what do you experience when you suspend belief in lack and suspend movements to reject or resist? What remains? Whether it be quiet, stillness, openness, clarity, or even disorientation . . . how might you encounter what remains? How might your steady, intimate attention touch into, even fall into what arises?
What I now speak of does not sound like the independence typically associated with autonomy; it likely sounds and feels more like joining, like orienting toward unity. I propose that unity be one of the aims and hallmarks of spiritual autonomy, differentiating it from other expressions of autonomy. In such a union, the separate self may give way and be fundamentally changed by its return to and recognition of the ground of being. This ground, which is the space from which all things arise, upon which all things take shape, and to which all things return, may then become conscious of Itself through you—through your senses, your body and mind, and your heart and soul.
In this union, realization of the interrelated self that is conscious of the oneness of reality becomes possible—perhaps even dominant . . . until it integrates with its co-arising expression of the autonomous, individuated self. In this integration of the One as wholeness as well as specificity, autonomy of the individual is established in spirit. Such establishment in the Way of things, offers a “place” so primary it has the power to subplant ego-centricity and to bring division and lack to a remembrance of wholeness, to true healing.
Copyright © 2021 Mukti Gray.
From the time we are small, we are told that plants need light and water to grow. To grow in spirit and wakeful, conscious being, we need engaged attention and true intention very much like plants need light and water. In fact, I associate attention with light and intention with water.
“How might intention be associated with water?”, you may ask. True intention is born of the deeper waters within us, arising as wisdom that guides us in form. It acts as an organizing principle of energy that guides the direction of growth—for oneself and one’s life. If, for example, your intention is to be loving, then it becomes possible to learn love and grow in living love, within and out. The stronger the intention, the more powerfully one’s life flows in its direction.
As powerful and important as true intention is, my intent for this article is to focus primarily on its power partner: attention.
In spiritual circles, there’s lots of talk of awareness. Attention is simply directed awareness. Your mind’s eye functions as a lens of consciousness with its light’s direction determined by placement of your attention. Attention has great power; it brings life to form. What was unseen appears, and what is latent comes to life.
I imagine you have observed how much a child lights up when they are given loving attention. Adults perk up too! Clearly, it helps us thrive. Focusing your attention gathers your powers of perception so that you become more conscious of what you are focused upon, while what you are focused upon can shine more brightly.
Attention is not only expressed through seeing or hearing, it also functions through the whole body. Think of how the whole body attends to recognizing the activity of a busy mouse in the house. Mouse or no, when we cast our attention into our surroundings in a global manner, we attend to the larger body of life, engaging boundless awareness as well as local body awareness.
A harmonization of boundless awareness and body awareness can occur, especially in peaceful environments. This harmonization does require the stewarding of attention, as energy and attention are intimately linked. Think of times you may have been on a beautiful walk in nature but caught in thought. Once your attention shifts from its narrow focus to the beauty of your surroundings, energy is freed up, and opens and harmonizes.
Energy and attention just go together. From the simple annoying clock tick or alluring “me” thought to great suffering and yearning, when attention arises from a place of wrongness or lack, energy becomes resistance or desire, fueling the push-pull of division.
When engaging attention free from division, it furthers clear seeing. When we turn such attention within, it energizes the intelligence of being. This intelligence can present as wisdom and intuition, which can inform intentions that help you steward your actions and powerfully engage in life.
Engaging the outer successfully, frequently starts with engaging the inner. Inner magic happens when energy and attention come together. That’s the basis of healing, of liberation, and of conscious action. Healing happens when you turn attention within to an emotion that’s been calling, waiting for its trapped energy to be allowed to take the lead and express and release in the light of awareness. Peace comes when you turn attention into the felt sense of yearning (e.g., for spirit), and lead attention to the root of sensation, to yearning’s beginnings in a place that is free of want. One-pointed attention has the capacity to rectify; the stillness within such attention, when attending to strong energetic movement, can calm and pacify. Or, the power within one-pointed attention can further energize the movement toward spontaneous expression, release, or completion.
When identification as “the one doing such things” is at rest, abdicating itself to the whole offering of attention, attention can join with what or who it is focused upon. Separation disappears and union expresses. These disappearances and appearances are what we love about magic, are they not? I hope so. May you come alive for the magic show and enjoy wearing your magic hat ;-)
Copyright © 2021 Mukti Gray.
When I consider Adya describing the sense of “I am” as a doorway to the essential, the universal, and the sacred, I am reminded of some powerful self-inquiry questions he has given instruction on. In particular, he has suggested different variations on the question “What am I?”
Before I recount these inquiry variations, I would first like to share one foundational approach to engaging in any self-inquiry question, an approach that Adya has taught. That is to drop a question into one’s system such that it registers not only in mind and intention, but also in one’s body and in one’s whole being. He has used the image of one’s body sitting still in meditation, presenting as a calm lake, and the question being imbued within a smooth stone that could be dropped into this lake of being.
Here’s how I would put it: As the stone, or inquiry, moves from one’s head (mind) to below the neck, into the dark waters of stillness (when the body is settled), it can ripple in the unknown, thereby illuminating mystery, while also expressing one’s intention to know, illuminating curiosity. Curiosity causes one to metaphorically “lean in” and “hold forth” with attention as the inquiry evokes the mystery of being, causing it to come forth as well. The sense of mystery may come forth primarily as the questioner shifts into sensing and receptivity.
While sitting quietly, engage the question, “What am I?” Drop it into “the lake of your being,” letting it slowly descend from head to chest to lower belly: “What . . . am . . . I?” (Pause indefinitely.) Let the question carry your consciousness and orientation to silent sensing, to being, to resting in being as being.
After a time, you might also drop the question in reverse, “I . . . am . . . what?” (pause indefinitely) into the silent sensing and mystery. Or, in the spirit of Adya’s article, The Doorway of I Am, and his specific encouragement to focus on the sense of “I am,” you might instead ask, “What . . . is . . . I . . . am?”
This last variation of “What is this ‘I am’?” can be more of an evocation than a simple inquiry—though you are asking the felt sense of being/existing, or the felt sense of mystery (the first perhaps feeling more essential and the second perhaps more sacred) to reveal itself and become more conscious in body and mind—as if to say, “What are you, ‘I am?’ Reveal yourself.” The important thing is to go with what resonates for you, and to make the question your own.
Something else that can be very helpful is to rest in meditation with a sense of general, global awareness, as well as settling in your specific local body. This pairing of universal awareness and body-awareness offers insight for both types of awareness, as the self-inquiry question is at work. So inquiry is then not just about the sense of one’s person engaging in a personal inquiry, but is also about the sense of a global, unbounded awareness being anchored in the question, such that it becomes embodied as the inquiry “stone” drops into the “lake of being,” harnessing awareness that is without specific location to know itself in form, in your body-mind-being, as “I am.”
There are other ways to work with “I am,” but these are ways I have taken Adya’s pointers about inquiry and worked with them myself. Each variation has its own power, and one may resonate for you uniquely. I encourage you to listen within to stirrings of curiosity and to hold forth and call forth.
Copyright © 2021 Mukti Gray.
One of the great koans of a spiritual life is “What is a spiritual life?” Such a question can take form in one’s being before such words even register, often on the heels of a series of other questions. As I mentioned in last month’s newsletter (May 2021), Adya has often spoken of putting first things first in our questioning, one example being, “Instead of always asking what to do and how to live your life, might you ask, ‘Who is it that is living this life?’”
Some of the earliest questions about life and living that I began asking as a child in Catholic school revolved around the notion of God. I had been told that God is within, and I also had been told that God is everywhere. I was even told that God walks by our side, as the great Comforter. The very notion that there was not one orientation toward God left me disoriented, and thus I fell upon my first koan in life, the “God koan,” if you will. At the time, I had no idea that koan practice had existed for centuries in the East, to purposefully disorient and push one beyond concepts and orienting references.
That was my first blessed push deeper into being, although I didn’t much care for my confusion at the time. It was likely the beginning of my spiritual life, a life in which conceptual discomfort yields to a comfortability with not knowing and then to even greater comfort in the great unknown, the great mystery of being. What kept me going may have been the confusion itself, but also some overriding sense that God was of paramount importance and that I must therefore orient toward God, even as I had little satisfactory understanding of what God is. How does one proceed when they don’t understand? With our confusion, yes, but also with our eyes, ears, minds and hearts open, to the best of our ability. Which is exactly what I did.
Looking back, I believe that my disorientation in the God koan paradoxically gave me a tremendous orientation, an orientation toward God. The notions I was given of the great significance of God, something greater than any one individual, instilled a desire to know God and to serve God, to serve something greater than myself. From there, over years, I began to see what in that desire was born of egoic coping, and what was a call beyond myself altogether.
The story of the unfolding of any spiritual life has layers that give way to other layers, above and below, inside and out. My story is too long to go into further here. But in its moments of disorientation fraught with insistence upon orienting, there has always been comfort to be found in stopping, a comfort born of encountering the living moment with an open heart.
© Mukti Gray 2021
When Adya first began in his teaching role, I decided to attend his evenings of instruction. Little did I know that my meditation practice, which had been largely oriented inward in techniques of concentration and intimate listening and sensing, was about to change dramatically.
He spoke on many of the topics he does today, including “awareness,” “letting everything be as it is,” and of essentially putting first things first. I clearly remember an example of the latter when he said, “Instead of always asking what to do and how to live your life, might you ask, ‘Who is it that is living this life?’”
With each topic, I was learning to ease my way out of identifying as the one in the driver’s seat, as the one at point A focusing on and steering to point B. I became more cognizant of a sense of awareness that did not identify as the driver or the seeker, meditator, or doer. And as significant and foundational as all of this was, I believe what may have been the most revolutionary to my meditation practice and spirituality as a whole were his simple instructions on global listening.
Are you familiar with global listening? Really familiar? The kind that begins with a listener listening to sounds and gives way to non-separation, to a seamless being of existence? If you feel that auditory skills are not your strength, not to worry, for global listening is more of a global sensing and engages all skills of being actively present. Unlike many other inward approaches to meditation (sitting, standing, or living meditation), global listening also avails itself of an outward approach.
Please join me now, as I point to global listening as I have come to know it. See how you come to know it in yourself, as your Self. To begin, I recommend you find a comfortable seat and invite your body to come to rest. Briefly observe your body, as it shows you what it inherently knows of settling.
Now, let your attention widen into the room and become more acutely aware of the sounds around you. At first you may notice thoughts, and the labeling of sounds such as “fan,” “breath,” “cat.” See if you can settle into listening in a soft, receptive way. You may pause to invite your body to settle once again. As your body relaxes and softens, and holdings of energy and tension settle downward creating greater ballast, you may notice that your attention in the space of the room becomes receptive more easily. The functions of tracking and labeling sounds relax further. Mind and attention become clearer. This phenomenon is much like silt in the body of a pond settling and the pond water becoming clearer.
As attention softens, you may also become aware of life beyond the room, perhaps hearing “car,” “bird,” or “wind” even without the mind labeling them . . . more bubbles, more notes in the song of the moment. Continue on in this way, listening to life, not only with your hearing but with a global sensing, a being with, much like when your senses settle into harmony with nature when you lie down on the beach or grass at your leisure.
Now pausing this guided exercise, I want to point out for this article that what I call “spatial mind” often assigns location to sounds in different areas of the room (and beyond the room) when globally listening and sensing, especially at first. Spatial mind also often places your sense of physical self or your sense of separate ego-self at the center of its spatial map. As you continue to be receptive to sounds in the room and beyond the room, less attention and energy will go to the separate ego-self at the center. (Wink. Don’t tell the ego, but this is much like a parent, skilled in the art of distraction, who eases a small child from distressed self-concern by pointing out wonderful things to see and hear in the environment.) The sense of self at point A listening to sounds at points B, C, D, etc. gives way to a sense of self locally listening to the outer world as a whole. This may initially feel like point A, bounded by the physical body, listening to the larger body of life, free of edge or boundary—a global point B, one could say. Yet, as the tensions and energies of one’s physical body settle downward in the system, the local physical body becomes more still, like the earth. One’s mind becomes more clear, like the sky. The inner body harmonizes with the outer, larger body of life.
If a remaining sense of the observer or meditator remains at the center of experience, you can ask if it might too recognize its arising as another arising in the song of the moment, that it too might soften and receive the harmony of life’s unfolding, appearing as arisings in movement and as settlings in stillness (point A giving way to B, and B to A).
In closing, I encourage you to continue to discover the power of global listening and sensing. We are never more present than when we are deeply and intimately listening, and yet, curiously, our sense of ego is never more absent. Intimate listening, sensing, and being allow the distancing of ego, with its grasping toward and pushing away, to come to rest and yield its hindrance to the vital, clear expressions of life and living.
Copyright © 2021 Mukti Gray.
Mukti originally wrote this piece for Open Gate Sangha Gathering groups around the world,* but is extending it here to you and to all as an invitation to join others in nurturing realization of universal being.
“We stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us,” I have heard Adya say when speaking of spiritual lineage. His words conjure connection to sincere practitioners throughout history who have nurtured and embodied spirit, keeping it alive and well in themselves, each other, and in the coming generations.
Attunement to their dedication and its fruiting can bolster each one of us—as we practice together or in seeming solitude—and can knit us into universal consciousness as it echoes within and beyond us as individuals. The great mystic and sage Paramahansa Yogananda, one of my beloved teachers, puts the following words to this echo in his poem “I Am He”:
I am He, I am He, blessed Spirit, I am He!
When we gather together to attune to Spirit in its expression as “I am,” with sincere intention to recognize and embody this as our essential nature, the “I am” echoing in each individual reverberates more loudly, joining a chorus of “I am” to carry in greater strength and transformative power. Such transformative power is no small thing, for it liberates separation and division, ushering in wholeness.
In stopping and abiding as aware space, the Spirit that animates the silent room, the brook’s burble, and the bird’s chirping can ever more deeply be known as the “I am” that animates our essential being.
When we gather in the spirit of “I am,” we make it a priority to allow oneself and others to be as they are. Moreover, we can endeavor to recognize essential being in each other and to nurture it by offering wordless listening, open seeing, and intuitive sensing, which are all essential expressions of being.
Expressing in these ways could be summarized as “recognizing,” but also “realizing.” In other words, when we truly see, hear, and know another, it is not only immensely valuable to them and to the vitality of their expression as Spirit, but it is also tremendously beneficial to oneself, especially to one’s own realization—a realization that can be nurtured through actualizing our nature as essential being by expressing its capacities.
In time, the “I am” can more firmly take up residence in the heart, animating its capacity to more keenly recognize life’s movements of great intelligence, resilience, beauty, and love. This recognition nourishes Spirit, keeping it alive and well—and even more so when we gather together and stand in recognition, not only on the shoulders of our prior lineage, but also side by side in the present.
Bless you in your gathering, for your gatherings in themselves, like each of you, are a true blessing.
Copyright © 2020 Mukti Gray.
When I speak about optional suffering, I’m speaking about our relationship to difficulty and hardship. It’s largely the inner narrative and stance, like an energetic posturing with what is happening. It can manifest as a push and pull of resistance and aversion, a kind of organizing dualistically with respect to what should or shouldn’t be—this is right or this is wrong, this is good or this is bad. At one level, that perspective may have relative value. As it concretizes in our system, these narratives or conclusions can often become rigid or be on overdrive to a point where they start to create a great sense of division with life or others, or division within ourselves and different parts of ourselves.
That concretization goes counter to our movement toward well-being, our movement to embrace life and to really live life to the best that we can in a vitally engaging, embracing way. That inner division can also bring about a sense of separation and isolation, and a kind of forgetting of our nature that is of oneness, that is indicative of the whole of humanity. Even larger, our nature is the whole of this play of consciousness that we see before us, which includes the seer and the seeing itself—not only through these eyes that have been bearing witness to our whole life, but also through the seeing eyes of the heart, and that which would want to always say yes to the embrace of life.
Some of the optional suffering is based on two primary movements. One is the forgetting of our nature as Spirit, especially in times when we concretize around events in our lives and move into dualistic positions that are for or against, pushing and pulling, toward right or wrong or good or bad. This forgetting can feel like it leaves us bereft of the inherent fullness and repleteness of our nature as the divine, and it can lead to greater entrenchment in an ego identification that’s really founded upon a sense of lack and something being wrong, and our view being that of problem.
In large part, one of the two movements that this optional suffering revolves around is this forgetting of our Self that is always and ever okay, that nature of what you are that is eternally present. It’s been eternally present, bearing witness to your whole life, but even more deeply to become known and realized is this nature of the eternal that has the capacity of the unconditional that is present and shows up, you could say to personify it, for every expression and event of our lives. It has never been harmed at that level of our essential being. It’s sometimes called the unborn or the undying, the uncreated, in the sense that it’s not defined by our narrative of birth, life, suffering, death.
This forgetting of our nature is not your typical forgetting, like forgetting your keys or something of material value. It can be an entering into the identification of our nature as a separate ego or as something that’s lacking, and it can be a departure from being firmly rooted in our essential being that has never been lacking.
There have been parts of this teaching series where I’ve been pointing back and back and back to the sense of what is prior to the narrative, the words—what is even behind the sense of witness, or that sense of witness softening its position into a general awareness. As our bodies become more still, inquiry or meditation may seem to open and fill out our body awareness, the awareness of our entire being, and in a sense, anchor this pure unboundaried consciousness into boundaried form and give it a home here in our incarnation.
The second movement that I believe largely contributes to this optional suffering isn’t so much a forgetting of our essential nature and that knowingness of being of our nature as Spirit, but it’s a tendency to not act upon our knowingness of being, our inner knowings, those tugs on our conscience, those tugs at our heart that are guiding us or trying to get our attention to attend to things that we’re not attending to. Some of this optional suffering is a kind of pushing aside or giving second place—or third or fourth place—to some of these things that we know are deeply important, and yet we might be choosing other things first.
It can be just daily things on the smallest level. Let’s say it’s physical suffering that we might be going through, and there are those little tugs on our conscience to get up and stretch in the morning, or hydrate more, or not eat this particular thing, or not be on our devices so much, or to connect more with people, or whatever it might be. We may have many knowings of what would bring us greater physical well-being, for example, that we may keep setting aside and not paying heed to. And that can bring about a lot of unnecessary difficulty that could be avoided if we acted on what we are conscious of—even if it seems to be just outside the forefront of our consciousness—when there’s a commitment to listen more deeply in life and to act upon these movements to guide us. Then things can go a lot better.
This is not only something that plays out on this basic simple level of self-care, but also, navigating in this way really leads us to a greater sense that when we care for ourselves, we’re caring for the whole. And when we care for things outside of ourselves, it also is supportive to our own nature, in its myriad of levels of expression—of Spirit, of soul, of purpose.
From the May 26, 2020 Mukti Teaching Series Re-Visioning Suffering, Part 4.
© Mukti Gray 2020
From Toronto Silent Retreat Day, April 2018
Here we all are, being exactly who we are. And yet, there’s this opportunity to discover and know it ever more deeply. It’s not that we don’t know that at some level, but the deeper knowledge of being, our nature as Spirit, or Spirit incarnate in human expression, is sometimes more hidden or less conscious. This is an opportunity to bring that into consciousness, a consciousness that registers not only in our mind, but also in our body, in our heart, and in our whole being.
You could think of this as an opportunity to really nurture the fullness of all that you are and bring that forward, especially with respect to the quality of being that cannot be contained in ideas or notions. Who we are is not beholden to our structures of memory, of who we’ve taken ourselves to be through the narrative of our life, or who we might hope to become. The essence of being that I’m pointing to and supporting is something that can’t be contained in such notions, yet it has been present throughout the entirety of our lives—bearing witness to our life and noticing all of the various chapters unfolding, both the highs and the lows.
You might call forward a sense of that observing quality that bears witness to all of the unfoldings. Maybe you can have a sense of yourself that’s been present from as far back as you remember. Maybe at times you recall sitting at the playground or on the beach, or just being out in nature when you were young. Sometimes it’s easier to access, from those memories, some sense of taking life in and observing and bearing witness to it all, with the mind not jumping in too much—creating conclusions, ideas, narratives, and interpretations—but an open seeing that carries through the whole range of senses.
There is a kind of open listening, open sensing—an innocent vantage point that’s not layered over by the conditioned learnings that we have. One of the opportunities is just to let that sense of pure being shine and come forward more, in whatever ways it might work its way forward, to help us return to a sense of greater wholeness and connection with ourselves and life. In this way, our nature as Spirit can have the capacity to come forward and recognize that it is, in a sense, the true residency of our person and the true resident inherently imbibing all of life and giving it vital expression.
The more we become at home with that aspect of life that orients toward stillness or silence, the more that can really be present to complement the birth and movement of Spirit more fully incarnating. So when realization is spoken of as a path of union, it’s really the joining of the movements of coming to rest from the ego identity. It’s as though that energy transfers to Spirit and vitalizes its birth into this world and into incarnate expression more fully. The more we can feel that as an integral expression of life, of all that we are, paradoxically, the more vitalizing our spiritual path can become. And the more Spirit can be incarnate.
Some people might say about this, “Okay, I’m just getting out of the way for Spirit to come through.” And you could say that, but it’s not necessarily this kind of either/or. It’s really the joining of the human and Spirit together in a way where the business of relinquishing and actualizing becomes more aright in our whole personhood.
© Mukti Gray 2018
When we’re relating with someone, it can be like Spirit to Spirit, or essence to essence, or heart to heart. But it can also be like connecting in stillness, connecting in a listening space, or a space where whatever is going to occur unfolds and appears to you. It’s as if you’re sitting back a little and just letting the whole interaction unfold to you. You’re in the front row seat, and they’re in the front row seat, but it’s more like a co-arising, and you’re letting what unfolds appear to you both as it’s unfolding.
Sometimes when people think of connecting, they might think at some level that their body and spatial energetics are moving toward and connecting, like moving forward or out. You can experiment with resting back and in, having that inward landscape be the connecting tone of what’s happening. It hinges on a sense of identity, not as the person connecting, but as the aware space that connects all things and expresses as all things.
There’s something that I call spatial mind. It’s a little bit different than thinking mind. It’s that part of us that references “big,” but it also references close or more proximal. It references out and in, just any directional kind of referencing. This is not only a referencing of the mind, but it’s a referencing of the heart and the entire body.
A common situation is in nature where people can feel like their whole energetics open into the woods or the beach, or wherever it is, and it feels like their energy body can relax and be as big as it wants, because it’s so soothing. You want to drink in the vitality of nature—not that you’re thinking about all this, but that’s just what the system is doing. It’s not only relaxing and connecting; it’s taking in and feeling the nourishment of it all. There are certain settings where our system feels more comfortable to do that, or we actually want it to do that or encourage it to do that in unconscious ways that we might not be knowing. Some people have a definite preference for being big and open over not attending to that.
In my experience, when I started focusing more on the hara and on the earth, a lot of this came into balance on its own. You might want to do the exercise about sensing the breath coming in and out, down in the lower abdomen, or the exercise about growing roots into the earth. I also have a free meditation online called Iron Mountain that gives you some basic principles about sensing what it is to feel more energetic ballast. You can contemplate that as a complement to what you've already developed.
It can feel really good to be in your body and be anchored, and your body will be happy. It will be like, “Ahh! She’s at home in me, and I’m being resided in.” It can feel really good. Most people report, “Wow, I haven’t felt this before. This feels great.” Sometimes it can be challenging coming back into the body, if the body is associated with past difficulties or trauma, but as it becomes more comfortable to settle in the body, it can feel really good.
That rooting will have a conserving effect, like self-resourced energy. You’ll feel more resourced in your local body, in your local self. It will conserve some of the energy that may be mapping to the sense of being vast, or maybe even having a slight preference for being vast. The goal, which is something more sustainable, is to know yourself ultimately as That which is not vast or small. It can appear as those things, but you really sense the place where identity doesn’t land so much.
Sometimes it’s helpful for the body to bring these different expressions online, such as “up and out” and “down and in,” so that all of the instrument is at the ready and available for freely flowing into these different expressions that all complement each other. After you bring it online and these things become resident in your architecture—like what it is to ground and what it is to open—once they’re all known in your being, then you can kind of forget about it, and Awareness just uses the instrument however it does. The referencing becomes a body memory, like riding a bike or driving a car. Once you’ve done it enough, you’ve got it and it’s in your body memory.
From Mukti’s Got Juice? Online Course, 2018
© Mukti Gray 2018
When you look through the eyes of Spirit, or listen from the sense of your Spirit nature, that very nature is always and ever receiving, available, and allowing things to be as they are, because it’s incapable of resisting or denying what is. That very perspective, that very aspect of what we are, can be invited forward into our experience when we contemplate and sense what it actually is to allow everything to be. What is it to allow that which is already in alignment with what is, to come forward in our experience? What is it that is already present that is not in resistance to what’s happening? This is a good inquiry to live with.
In that regard, there is an evoking or inviting into a more prominent consciousness or awareness the quality of seeing through the eyes of Spirit. This quality of seeing is expressive of our eternal nature. It has a sense of eternity, that which is always and ever present for the whole of our experience—the highs and the lows, the difficulties and the joys. That which is being evoked, which expresses as the eternal, functions through our body-mind instrument in the capacity of seeing, as well as hearing and sensing and feeling. It gives us a sense of seeing things more clearly, with a lot of the overlay of our interpretation of what’s happening receding to the background or being supplanted, so that this more quiet “allowing” seeing can predominate.
This can be challenging in moments when we really don’t want things to be as they are, and we might be investing a lot of energy in that resistance. It’s difficult sometimes to shift into a different energetic that might allow the sense of our eternal seeing to move forward, but as you sit with a pointer like this, it just naturally becomes easier to invite that quiet seeing forward in more and more situations.
This inviting is like a muscle that can become stronger and stronger. That’s where it begins to touch upon a sense of faith, a kind of strength in feeling a more steadfast commitment to wanting to see things more clearly as they are. It’s a faith in the intelligence of life, the unfolding of life, and how life is in service to itself in many ways. We may see examples to the contrary, but the challenge is to see where this is true, where life seems to be finding its way and has a certain order, an intelligence, that moves differently than we may have observed in realms of resistance and conflict.
This quality of faith, this intention to see things more clearly as they are—versus investing in how we wish they were or wish they weren’t—can be expressed as a steadfast commitment. The very commitment to see things as they are creates a sense of our own compass being pointed toward this intention. It can be an organizing principle that gives us a sense of alignment and energetic strength that helps us walk into the unknown before us, where we have at least this clear intention that helps guide us in the waters and territories where things may not be clear.
Part of that intention to see things more clearly as they are is a willingness to not have to always know in our minds, but to have a real commitment to knowing what’s important in our hearts and our beings at the level of our deepest intentions for living.
In addition, one of the aspects where faith and “allowing things to be as they are” sync up is continually sensing into the nature of what’s occurring, and the nature of what’s occurring within myself, especially with respect to noticing grasping or aversion that might create egoic mechanisms that obscure a sense of what is.
When you’re discovering a sense of faith that is based in really being in alignment with what is, a big part of that is becoming conscious of where that breaks down, where these resistances and graspings come into play. The more conscious you are of these overlays, the more you have a sense of choice to navigate differently, to take your hands off the steering wheel, so to speak. To take our hands off the steering wheel looks like a clear depiction of navigating life without a sense of control. That’s a real picture of faith. That’s the vantage point of our Spirit nature.
When you have the intention to see more clearly, one thing you can do is to register these things in an energetic way. You may become conscious of the thoughts, such as “I don’t want this,” “This shouldn’t be happening,” “I don’t like this,” “No, no, no.” Or “Gosh, I really want this and this and this, not that,” or “This is what I prefer, and it isn’t happening, and I’m concerned about it.”
You can not only become conscious of the narratives of grasping and aversion, but also how that translates energetically into the body with clenchings or a sense of no, where you feel like you have your foot on the brake in your gut, or your shoulders are hunched up to your ears. Or it could be the opposite, like insatiable hunger with an addictive quality to fill, fill, fill a sense of lack. To become more conscious of these energetics and how they register in the body is a great way of receiving input or indicators that can help you find a different way of being that is not founded in the paradigm of grasping and aversion.
Sometimes if I feel a quality of anxiety or overwhelm, I’ll ask myself, “What is it that I’m really wanting in this situation?” That can be a very open question, and it can have many answers. I’ve found that when I register grasping or resistance in my body, especially below my neck, I sense, “Okay, there’s some part of me that wants things to be different than how they are, and that’s why I’m feeling these energetic signatures in my system.”
Then I’ll ask myself, “What is it that I’m sensing is happening, and what is it that I really want to be happening?” When I ask myself that question, the answer that comes at the deepest level is that I either want not to want, or I want to have a deeper sense of faith in life. It’s faith in life’s intelligence, faith in how life might unfold, faith in other people’s process and their nature, and their process of learning and becoming more conscious. It’s also faith in my own nature, and faith to move toward a more conscious, refined expression.
When I reconnect with that desire, it really spells out a clear intention of how I might have a deeper trust in life. I feel that trust as a relaxing out of trying to control. It can be a kind of settling that registers low down, like landing right back in life, and being present, and looking afresh. It’s a sense of resting down and arriving back right here, even if it feels difficult. It’s sensing anew the possibility that life has an intelligence that I don’t have to be responsible for, that I don’t need to control and lead. Maybe I can free up those energies so that I’m instead more available to receive what’s happening and respond. For me that’s faith, a faith in the process of being able to see more clearly, and to sense that the very seeing has a wisdom that can respond in a way that feels less like leading life and more like having life live through myself. I encourage you to explore that as well.
From Mukti's Allowing Faith ~ The Spirit of What Is, 2019
© Mukti Gray 2019
Enlightenment is consciously being that which is entirely unmoving and yet moves all things. In order to know what is unmoving, consciously, one must end all investment in movements of mind and attend to what is always and already stopped.
When one no longer invests in movements of mind, the searchlights of your attention withdraw back to source. Abiding as source is true stopping.
This return to source—whether by letting energies withdraw and recede from outer attentions or by tracing movements of mind back to their origin—is the way Home.
Often in spirituality, there are teachings that assert the need to focus attention on given objects of perception. You may have been taught to focus your attention on a goal, a mantra, your breath, the third eye, the hara, or on sensation, but it is the very assertion of focus and the assertion of the focuser, the “me,” that keeps you forever at a seeming distance from the root of attention: your Self as pure Awareness.
In your natural state as Oneness, there is no need to focus in order to discover yourself-any more than point A can know itself by focusing on point B. Point A can only know itself by letting all focus, attention, and searching subside back to its origin.
This is an open invitation for a simple resting, a return to the ground of being you have always known.
© Mukti Gray 2016
Soon after I was married, I found myself busier than I’d ever been before. Working two part-time jobs, commuting to acupuncture school, and studying for my state licensing exams, I needed to feel some sense of quiet inside. So I decided to hold the question “Where is rest?”
The answer didn’t come to me in words; instead, I discovered that just asking the question elicited a sense of stillness and peace. Once my mind became calm, I could rest in the busyness.
My interest in stillness didn’t start, or stop, there. Since childhood, I’d wondered about the words from Psalm 46 that we learned in Sunday school: Be still and know that I am God. So when I began hearing Eastern teachings, I was intrigued by concepts such as samsara (continuous movement) and nirvana (cessation).
In the East, an image that’s referred to as the “wheel of samsara” has been used for centuries to depict the continuous cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, and the conditions that cause suffering. The conditions of ego that power the wheel are sometimes called the three poisons. They are desire, or attachment; hatred, or aversion; and ignorance, or illusion. When one’s life is lived free of these conditions, one is said to be freed from the wheel of samsara.
In my own experience, the first two conditions, attachment and aversion, are best remedied by addressing the third condition, ignorance. You could say that the root condition of suffering is ignorance of our true nature, ignorance of knowing ourselves as spirit. Attachment and aversion, then, cause day-to-day suffering.
Stillness, I have seen, is both the treatment for ignorance and the ultimate antidote to samsara. When your mind is still, you get a rest from the push-pull energies that drive the ego and cause suffering. In stillness, the energies of attachment and aversion can unwind. The sense of a “me” who desires can relax out of the center of experience and ultimately dissolve. That is the harmonizing quality of stillness.
To get a dose of what life is like divorced from stillness, try this experiment: Think a thought that has “push” energy, such as “I don’t want to go to work” or “I don’t want to have that difficult conversation.” Or think, “That shouldn’t be.” Now check in with your body. Can you feel it registering aversion? It may feel like there’s a hand in your gut, pushing away.
Next, consider a “pull” thought, such as “I want to meet someone who will love me” or “They should do what I want. ” Hold that thought, and then pay attention to your body. Do you feel a grasping fist in your gut? Tension in your shoulders?
Either way, push or pull, your body beautifully lets you know which thoughts will cause you constriction, inner division, or feelings of separation. It would seem, then, that if you could stop divisive thoughts, you’d be at peace with whatever presents itself in each moment.
But wait . . . having trouble finding the “off” switch? Yep, thoughts keep coming. The more you try not to think, the more aversion arises. And the more you try not to have divisive thoughts, the more attachment arises. Both efforts take you further away from experiencing peace.
A Better Way
But there is an alternative to push-pull thoughts. Again, using your body as a thought meter, feel your gut as you contemplate the phrase “Thoughts simply arise.” Let the words permeate your body. Do they make you feel more peaceful, or less so? My guess is that you feel more peaceful. Perhaps you can sense relaxation as you let go of assigning credit or blame for having a particular thought. When you align yourself this way with what life is presenting—with reality—the experience of inner division gives way to peace.
Thoughts themselves don’t create division, separation, and suffering. Rather, investing thoughts with belief, identifying with them, and taking them personally are what fuels the wheel of samsara.
When you identify with a thought, that creates a fixed position in time and space—like a star in the night sky. As you identify with more thoughts, you create more fixed positions, until you have an entire constellation of ideas and beliefs. The lines of that constellation continue to grow and overlap, creating something that begins to look solid, like an object. Those fixed points create an illusion of an individual “me,” with its own boundaries separating it from the whole.
You can live your whole life in ignorance, not knowing that suffering is a result of believing the thoughts that suggest you are separate from the whole. But if you examine your push-pull thoughts, discover which beliefs you’re investing in, and question them, you can slip into stillness and become your own medicine—the perfect antidote to the poisons of ignorance, attachment, and aversion.
What Is Stillness?
Connect with the quiet at the center of your whirling energies.
Begin by sitting comfortably. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and let your body settle, inviting relaxation. Observe your body as you allow it to cease moving. Lean softly into your experience and give it your whole attention.
Now drop this question into the space between your muscles and bones: What is stillness? Let your body experience the answer. Let the body’s response wash into every part of you, from the top of your head down to the floor or chair where you are sitting. As your body quiets and softens, notice the stillness gather and settle.
Maintaining a steady and intimate quality of attention, let the stillness widen and let your senses open globally to the outer world. Notice the space of your awareness and let it relax outward. Let sounds in the distance enter the space of your awareness, but don’t strain to hear or to make note of them. Notice any sounds that arise closer to you, between the edge of your body and the outer shores of your hearing.
While continuing to soften into stillness, rest a portion of your attention on the surface of your body, allowing it to stop there completely, allowing the stillness saturating you inside and out to soften any sense of boundaries between your body and the outside world.
Let any sense of a “me” who is aware relax out of the center, letting stillness dissolve all attachment, all effort.
Originally published in Yoga Journal
© Mukti Gray 2016
Some have a great interest in discovering their nature as vast, limitless being, and in transcending heavenward, away from the difficulties associated with this earth.
Contrarily, others have an interest in feeling at home in themselves, in what it is to land, rest, and no longer run away or strive. But they are not sure how to effect change.
Most have both interests, which can create an inner division: “I’d really love to be at home here, but actually I’d love to be out of here.” In both cases, the perspective is often “I am in state A, and there’s something else I want: state B.”
So what is it like to simply be and sense afresh, without striving for a new state? You can sense the energies of seeking stirring in your body and be curious about them. Ask: What is the felt sense of seeking? How does it appear? And from where? Then be still and continue to sense. Let the energetics that you feel change, shift, and convey.
By shining the still gaze of your attention upon energies of restlessness and discontent, the energies, or one’s experience and perception of them, change. With true investment of attention, such change can be greatly transformative.
I’m speaking of a different way of aligning with what is, than that of deconstructing beliefs or questioning what is true or not true. This approach is kinesthetic and utilizes perception. Many find it helpful, direct, and a complement to questioning thought or emotion. Such a way is a departure from resisting one’s state and invites an openness to look anew at what is informing states, and what is informing our sense of self that feels defined by states. Moreover, it allows an opportunity to see both states, and our sense of self, shift and redefine, or un-define.
As the light of awareness, through directed attention, is brought to a contracted state and resulting limited sense of self, the limits and contractions gradually soften. As the holding of both self and state become imbued with awareness, both can become more spacious, conscious, and liberated.
I encourage you to turn within, to how you sense the energies of seeking, restlessness, and resistance, and to shine the light of awareness through your attention on their very shape, texture, movement, and color, and on the very space and clarity in their midst—as an ever-open sky amidst currents and clouds, conveying the substance of transcendent heaven right here, within.
© Mukti Gray 2018.
By Margaret Brownlie. Originally published by The Sentient Times of Ashland, OR.
If you are reading this article, most likely there is something in you seeking Liberation. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet and spend some time talking with Mukti, a teacher of the non-dual path to Awakening, whose name itself means Liberation. Like most, I knew her primarily as Adyashanti’s wife. I was inspired. I found true beauty, abiding gentleness, deep, deep kindness, authentic humbleness, wide-openness, easy humor, depthful clarity, and gentle authority—the kind that comes from Knowing. She has only been formally teaching for a few years, she has published no books, yet she is also not just the new kid on the spiritual circuit. She has spent her life studying the work of Christ, Paramahansa Yogananda, and the Zen nondual teachings of Adyashanti, following her own path to Liberation, and ripening that for its own sake, until her teaching is instantly recognizable as a true compass for others.
Your teaching is growing really rapidly right now, but to many you’re a new name and a new face. What can you tell us about your teaching about how you came to it?
I find the teaching to be fairly simple, in the sense that the same underlying message seems to come through over and over: that it’s possible to live without a sense of inner division when one’s willing to be willing, and to be curious, and question what is true, what is real, what is living this life. This attitude of receptivity can be facilitated by letting the familiar positions and knowings of the thinking mind rest and relax out of the center, and by sensing into a knowing of a greater order. So, this is the message I come back to over and over again, because many people experience this sense of inner division as conflicting parts of themselves, or they have feelings about how they view things on the inside and then how life is presenting on the outside, and things not jiving with something deep in them that has a love of wholeness and harmony. This sense of division, or lack of harmony, can cause great suffering. There’s a tremendous opportunity that I’ve discovered in my own experience: to really come to know what wholeness is or harmony is, or what intelligence is when not divided.
And how did you come to that?
From as early as I can remember, I had this great desire for people to be kind to one another. I had this sense, somehow, that there was the capacity within us to have a sense of what brotherhood or sisterhood or living in harmony could be. As a little child, I remember watching people and they would do unkind things to other people. I could see that they themselves were in pain and something in me felt that there’s just got to be a more loving way. Later, when I was exposed through my family to Christianity, it really took the form of desiring to know the path of Christ in Christianity. He seemed to be this exemplary person who was able to unite people and to heal, not only physically, but more to heal a sense of ignorance of not knowing their Godliness or their Divinity. And then I think it matured. Through my exposure to Zen or non-dual teachings, I came to an interest in knowing what is Undivided, what is Unmoving, what is Stillness, what is Constancy. So, I would say, those were the main factors that propelled me along. And there was this deep knowing that I wouldn’t be satisfied until I gave everything to This that my heart longed to know and to see.
You mentioned that Christ was one of the influences on your path, what others still influence where you come from now?
In my formative years I was very drawn to the life of Christ and stories of Christ and I went to Catholic schools from grade school all the way through university so it was an influence. At the same time I had a parent, and later both parents, who became very interested in eastern teachings, and particularly the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda. So, while I was attending Catholic schools, I was also attending services where I began to be introduced to eastern thought and to meditation. I think that’s where I very first heard about self-realization or realization, and that it was possible.
I had exemplary teachers in Yogananda’s lineage that lived that realization, and I found that incredibly inspiring. I saw that it wasn’t all about Christ being the only son of God but that there’s all of these great beings who lived that Christ Consciousness or God Realization. That began to open up this window, and even got me to think more on a global stage, of how, all over the world, there were people like me who were seeking these deep truths, and seeking ways to open to the best within them. I saw, “Oh, it’s not just limited to one path. These great traditions are happening everywhere.” As a young person that was rather revolutionary I was exposed to different forms of meditation in that practice, and also Hatha Yoga. I began to have more of a relationship with sitting still and quietness and letting the mind settle to some degree or another. I can’t say I was great at it. But also, through Hatha Yoga I was able to let my energies be more redirected to the body and its wisdom. Those were tremendous influences on me. Studying Chinese medicine also began to open my mind and to restructure the way I perceived the world in a way that was far less linear and much more holistic. And the other greatest influence in my life was Adyashanti. His nondual teachings and the flavor of his Zen background has deeply fed me in the last decade or more.
You have been influenced by body practices in your own life, yoga and acupuncture. When you speak of loving both the form and the formless, how does that relate for you?
The most intimate form we have, that we’re most intimately connected with, is our own body, and if one has the eyes to really see, it’s constantly teaching us and showing us. It’s a great meter of what’s true, what begets Wholeness, or what feels harmonious. Often it’s overridden by the thinking mind, but with practices in which one is willing to set the thinking mind aside for a while and devote time to nurturing one’s body, one can develop a tremendous relationship with that wisdom that the body so affectively and directly communicates.
How does that relate to the Formless?
I don’t see Form and Formlessness as two different things. Formlessness is the greatest mystery that we can encounter and this mystery moves into expression and form as everything that our senses can perceive. It’s not so much that they relate to one another but that they really are one and the same. The One as form is registered in the senses and the One as formlessness can only be known through consciously being the mystery that we are. This is not a knowing of thought but a knowing through conscious being.
I notice that, when I speak of you and Adyashanti, sometimes, there’s a wariness of a western teacher having a non-western name. How did you come to go by Mukti?
Originally I was given the name by Adyashanti. He had an inspiration one day, early on, to come to the group that he was teaching and give everybody a name. This is so typical of the spontaneous nature of Adya. So, he came with names for about ten people, some of which were Sanskrit and some of them were not. I can’t speak to his reasoning, if any, but I do know that for many people I’ve talked to who’ve been given a name, they sit with the meaning of it, and often they have a curiosity to realize the meaning of that name. Let’s say, the meaning might be the name for a quality or an aspect of the Divine. They sit with that name, almost like a koan, to actualize it within themselves.
When he gave me the name Mukti, which is often translated as Liberation, or The Great Release, it was very much a gift for me, and I was very private with it. I just held it in my heart. Very few people knew that I was ever given a name, and I didn’t have any desire to use it publicly. For eight years or so, I did not. Probably the reason I didn’t is because I didn’t want to create any barrier with people who I would meet who may feel like it was strange or foreign, or unfamiliar, or off-putting or something. Being a person, I mentioned earlier, who very much had an appetite for harmony, I didn’t want anything that might cause division. However, when Adya asked me to teach, it just came to me in an instant, “You will go by the name Mukti.” I had no resistance. And I know well enough from different life experiences that when that type of knowing comes, with that type of nonnegotiable, factual, this-is-the-way-it-is feeling, that there is nothing within me that has any desire to do anything otherwise. I had no story about whether I should or shouldn’t do that. It was just a given.
This Liberation that is your namesake, it seems that’s what we all really want. What does that mean, and how do we get it?
What does liberation really mean? This is the golden question and this is a tremendous inquiry for anyone who truly wants to know that. I don’t know that everyone wants liberation. A lot of people want their idea of what it is. Perhaps, they view it as a state that will feel great all the time, or like a “get-out-of-jail-free card,” as Adya says. But liberation—it doesn’t answer to our desire to feel better. There’s this overwhelming tendency for people to assert what it is that they want and in that assertion they are denying what is already here, what is already present. There is no being free of what is. One might even say liberation, by its nature, affirms reality as it is.
And you ask, “How do you get it?” The best way I know how to point the Way is to invite or even challenge people to cease those efforts to deny what is present and to withdraw the en-ergies that feed this sense of “me” that has this incredible, desirous appetite to seek. By reinvesting one’s energy, by seeing what is present already, what is here already, what is actually living this life, one can come to realize the true nature of Self, the true nature of reality.
How do we cease those efforts? Well, ultimately there is no “how” to ceasing; ceasing is the result of no longer striving and seeking. People strive and seek because they believe that they will be fulfilled by what they are seeking. Very few people consider that fulfillment, often brief, comes when things are attained because for that moment, seeking ceases. So, first one must see how seeking itself can cause suffering. Once that is seen clearly, one loses the appetite to seek. For some time, seeking may continue to varying degrees, but eventually the energy for it runs out. Seeking can take different forms. For example, it can manifest as accumulation of possessions or as accumulation of beliefs and concepts that one identifies with. The beliefs and concepts that cause great suffering are those which divide up experience and argue with reality. For example, “This is right, and this is wrong,” or “This shouldn’t be” are concepts that we cannot know to be true outside a thought that says they are. Few people question the real truth of these judgments, opinions, and beliefs or consider what their experience is when such positions are suspended or dropped.
You spoke about reinvesting your energy. We often think of this kind of shift we call Liberation as something that takes place in seclusion or on retreat, but is awakening in any way different for a contemporary person in a mainstream culture? Does it require withdrawing?
Awakening is awakening, regardless of time. If one finds within him or herself an impulse toward liberation, toward knowing and being what is real, that person will experience that movement of Consciousness and have the opportunity to stop and be consumed by that, regardless of what society or historical age they live in. Perhaps one’s path prior to awakening is different for a contemporary person. We do have some interesting factors in this age with all the worldwide communications, and the scope of what the contemporary person has being input into their consciousness.
There’s a lot of news and things that are understandably disturbing that people might fixate on or become identified with in ways that create tremendous suffering. This might be quite different than a life of a monastic up in the high mountains where the scope of input that they receive is of a whole different scale, lesser scale. Most contemporary persons don’t have the support of, let’s say a monastery. And yet, monastics have their own challenges—different societies, different challenges, just different sets of parameters. Somebody in a different age and time may have searched or walked or traveled across countries to find someone who could point the way. Now they can just Google and get to know teachers on the web. So it’s a different ball game, same ball. As to being in seclusion, awakening doesn’t require physically withdrawing, but it does require a willingness to live a life that’s not centered around grasping for what one wants and pushing away what one doesn’t want. That push-pull movement of desire draws us into illusion and is what obscures our true nature.
And your own Liberation, how did that unfold?
I suppose there are infinite factors but my story has some themes. From very early on I made choices at different junctures that were informed by this great sense of wanting to know that which is Whole or Harmonious, Without Judgment, that which is Undivided. So, when I look back over my life, continually, through different relationships or different jobs, I would choose over and over again by following something deep within me that I could just sense was steer-ing me towards the discovery of that. At different times I might have called it my Inner Guru or my Deepest Knowing. And so, that’s an overall theme. And then also, just a sense of deep listening: truly wanting to know the way, and listening deeply to that inner wisdom and my body wisdom to show me more and more how to act in the world, how to be in the world as a person, but also how to come to know myself more deeply. I can’t even say that I can take credit for those things. It was just something moving me to be that way. Ultimately, I think it was a willingness to stop, to stop even the searching, to stop thinking I knew anything and just being willing to get in the back seat.
More specifically, on the day when I had the most significant identity shift I was listening to Adya speak about Stillness and that inner knowing that was seeking to know itself lit up, like a heat seeking missile, with this question that didn’t come from my mind but was deep within me: “What is Stillness?” I sat in meditation to really open myself up to discovering what Stillness might be. It wasn’t an answer to be offered to the mind, but the question delivered me to direct experience of what always is, what is ever present, what is unmoving. In the days to follow, that flowered into that which is forever unchanging and unmoving expressing itself as everything that changes and moves and births itself as form. Since then, there’s been ever more seeing of how that comes into form, and how it forgets itself. There’s been more and more welcoming into remembrance of all of that which has forgotten its True Nature, and in that remembering there’s been a welcoming of all those parts of myself, and in turn of others, that feel separate due to a forgetting that they are the Whole.
There’s stillness that comes from you speaking about all that, and then there is life. On your web site there’s this wonderful picture of you and Adya at Disneyland and you both look like you’re having so much fun. When I first saw that it was such a contrast to most ‘spiritual’ websites—it was a delight. Is this where Liberation leads? To that joy?
Liberation leads to far less and far more than people can imagine. It can be very ordinary, and yet in that ordinariness it has an exquisite beauty, and it includes everything. So, it includes the joyous times. It includes the bitter-sweet times. It includes the difficult times, and there is an overwhelming sense that none of it is to be missed, that you wouldn’t miss any of it for the world. So in that sense, there’s very much a dearness to things—which might bubble up as joy or may be very quiet. There’s no longer a sense of someone who needs to have a say in that. It’s all an expression of our True Nature. The knowing is that what you are is enough in and of itself—that no experience, joyous or not, can add to or take away from what you are. You are quite enough as you are.
Attending retreat can be an active response to your inner or your outer life. Chances are it is both, as the two are fundamentally connected—even seamlessly so, given one’s perspective.
Being drawn to retreat may be a draw “to pull back,” the Latin meaning of “retreat.” Acting on this draw can be wisdom expressing as a stepping back from the current momentum, a slowing down, and an entering into conditions supportive of new direction and new life.
The stepping back associated with retreat can take many subtle expressions, especially in meditation, such as a panning back, which offsets the pull to identify with thoughts, emotions, or sensations; a resting back, perhaps into a sense of aware space or quietude; or a turning within to meet whatever arises and perhaps therein to encounter the mystery of Being.
These workings of loosening identification, sensing into and resting as awareness, and attuning to Being, set the stage for aware Being to become known as the fundamental identity of life, the fundamental ground of one’s existence and all existence.
The true meaning of retreat is to be freshly revealed. On retreat one can attend to such workings and to outer and inner conditions in order to support revelation. Setting the stage for revelation to be presented is an orienting to sanctuary, a withdrawing to the innermost recess, to the holy ground of ceasing. Such orienting can be a sensing that divests seeking of grasping and aversion, such that ceasing then presents center stage, unobscured and unhindered, as the Eternal Unmoving.
© Mukti Gray 2018.
Tell me something about your background and your understanding of spiritual marriage.
That which is awake was calling since I was very, very young. I was raised Irish Catholic and felt that a love of God and Christ was foundational to my life. There was a tremendous yearning to know God. When I was seven, my parents found the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, and, with that, new perspectives opened up for me. As a young adult, I heard a talk by one of Yogananda’s disciples, Brother Anandamoy, on spiritual marriage. I must have listened to this talk on tape dozens and dozens of times. And the one line that deeply penetrated me was, “The purpose of spiritual marriage is to find that the One in me and the One in my husband or wife is the same One in all of life.” I knew this was my deepest yearning.
Later, soon after I was married to Stephen Gray, now Adyashanti, we attended a satsang (teaching) with a teacher named Gangaji. Right away Adya got up and spoke with her from his perspective. I could see that the dialogue that ensued was from a shared, awakened perspective of knowing Oneness, and that it was a dialogue in which I was not able to participate. As I witnessed their exchange, something came fiercely alive inside me, saying, “In order to have a true spiritual marriage, a true meeting of Adya, I must know this perspective.” And my seeing this didn’t come from a place of jealousy. It just came from a knowing that this must be—it was as though within myself, without literal words, my Being was saying, “This must come to pass. So that I too can meet my husband from this perspective.”
This knowing kicked off a real fire within me. In the past, I’d come from traditions of faith and trusting in the guidance of a savior or guru. But this was different. I think it was the first moment when something in me knew that it was time for me to be truly serious, to truly engage the issue of realization for myself.
To become what you were witnessing in them...
Become that and to no longer waste time. It was as though something just clicked inside me that took me out of a sense of "Whatever God wills" to an intense inquiry: “What is God? What is this?” Before that, when I had a savior or a guru, I would place my trust in their wisdom, their divinity.
Their enlightenment. I believed that if I emulated them as best I could or followed the teachings that they’d set out, then maybe I would come to know what they know. But in this moment, what happened was it went from following the teacher to “this must be.” There was just something inside me that made not knowing no longer an option, and in that sense it was as though time had run out. Sharing Adya’s perspective had to be in order for this marriage to be what it must be for me, the only thing that will be satisfying for me.
It shifted from wanting to know God to seeing God in these two people interacting, to seeing that they looked out of those eyes of God. And my saying to myself, “I will not be satisfied unless this is my perspective,” changed something. It no longer was about wanting to know God (as an object). I wanted to be that. So this inquiry began . . . “What is that? What is that perspective?” And the word that Gangaji and Adya were using for the One was “Truth.” So, it ignited something new. As opposed to wanting to know love or bliss or the joy of union with God, the movement came to wanting to know the truth of that perspective, of Oneness.
And so, this became my inquiry, a very, very alive inquiry for months. And I had to do it for myself. The outward, more routine spiritual activities I did, such as attending services or meditations, became arenas where I would dive into these questions. I think it’s important to emphasize that something shifted inside me where I had to know. It’s not something that I can take credit for. Something in me just turned.
And yet, one of the distinguishing features of that moment was that the marriage itself became part of the motivation to say, “I can’t stop here. I’ve got to go where I can meet this being where he is.”
If I’m going to be a married person in this world, I have got to know what true marriage is. That conviction was fierce within me. It just had to be. So, that was the drive. Then, after maybe five months passed, I attended my very first silent retreat, which was also Adya’s first retreat teaching as a teacher, in July 1997. I was the retreat leader in charge of the logistics of the event. A few days into the retreat he gave a talk on “stillness.” I knew that he was speaking from a perspective of stillness that I didn’t know. My mind had an idea of stillness, but I could tell it wasn’t matching up with how he was speaking of it. And the way he was speaking of it was mysterious to me. It was unfamiliar but intriguing.
When the day ended and people had gone on to bed, I stayed in the hall to meditate and really dove into that question “What is stillness?” “What is it?” And that was the inquiry that brought me into direct experience of stillness, which flowered into a knowledge that that is Self. That is the nature of Self. Although stillness moves as form, it is the one constant. It is the One. Stillness is the perspective of permanence, of that which does not come and go, even as it comes and goes as form. I think, part of the inquiry that may be of interest to people was that I truly didn’t know what Stillness was. I had completely set aside any ideas that I had about it. And with all of my senses I followed the sense of stillness in my body, and really traced all movements within my body as I was sitting, until my body became more still than I’d ever known. And then my attention went to the outer world, and I sensed what Stillness was in the outer world.
Tracing outer form back to whatever was behind it, which was non-form, the non-movement behind movement. In that inquiry—this is just more of a personal question—did you feel guided by any kind of inner voice or not—how did that tracing phenomenon happen? Was something telling you how to do this or was there just a settling in and of itself?
I did not hear a voice. I guess it just seemed the most obvious place to start...to sense stillness as I was sitting in meditation. Perhaps because some of my main teachers had come from traditions of meditation and had had some of their innermost dialogues with the Divine in meditation, I was drawn to meditate. When I wanted to know something of this order, I would sit and meditate. That was my training. And so, when I went to sit, I sat in meditation posture, as was part of that training.
So, the outer body, of course. was still.
It was still, but I always had experiences of really not truly being still inside. But on this evening, it just seemed obvious that the first place to look was “Is stillness here? Even in the midst of activity of mind and body?”
Including breath, heartbeat, thought, feeling, sensation—all that moves, changes.
Yes. So it was not an inner voice but a natural curiosity to start with, a curiosity about “What is most immediate in my own direct experience of stillness of body-mind?” And the inquiry itself invited a dropping of that question into my Being, not posing it to my mind.
The question, “What is Stillness?”
Yes. “What is Stillness?” I dropped the question “What is stillness?” into my being, into my innermost being, down into my gut. Then I began to sink into a sense of stillness in my body, and all the movement within my own form began to settle and become quieter and quieter, and there remained a very quiet, still watching of all this settling.
And then, there is still another leap beyond the perspective of the watching?
Yes. As my energies were withdrawn from movement, that which is aware of movement became prominent and was experienced as stillness. It also became clear that there was no perceivable difference between that which was aware of movement and all that was in motion. One could say that subject and object were experienced as one.
At the time, this did not register as an insight of oneness, it simply was what I experienced that evening . . . at which point I decided that any more efforting to inquire would be the antithesis of stillness, and so I went to bed. I was fully aware of all of the sounds of the outer world, and I went into deep sleep which later, when I reflected back upon it, was unlike any other sleep I’d had in that I was completely unaware of the world of form at a certain point. I don’t recall even moving. Then I heard the morning wakeup bell, and I went about my functions of the day. I don’t remember much of them to speak of, other than that I fulfilled my duties—but without a sense of self-consciousness, without any sense of self-reflecting. I’m using both of those terms to say that I was not aware of a sense of "me." Then, after breakfast a woman bowed in “namaste” to me. In fact, she did a complete prostration before me and that was when a sense of the awareness that was looking out of my eyes at the world of form recognized itself as emptiness. And the laughter! I felt utter delight at this magic trick of what is completely empty and without form appearing before my eyes as form and appearing specifically as the form of a woman who was bowing to me as if I was something.
I remember you said that her “namaste” was no more significant than if she had bowed to a blank place in the room.
Right, or bowed to a toilet! It was amazing that she actually believed that there was someone in front of her. I mean, it would be as funny as one hair on your head jumping up and bowing to another hair on your head and dancing back and forth, bowing, worshiping each other. It was just delightful and humorous although ultimately those words fall short.
In the moment of the bow, in the moment of somebody in front of me interacting with me as though I were a something, all of a sudden the heightened awareness popped in that I’m not a something; I’m emptiness looking out of this form. And in that moment emptiness was born as an experience. What I am, what life is, what you are, what everything is, was seen as all that is, the one reality. All of this is being perceived from emptiness and clearly there was no “me” in this experience—this experience of myself as no-self or emptiness. And then, as the day went on, that experience opened, registering in my human consciousness as if to say, “This emptiness is this fullness that I’m looking at. This formlessness behind my eyes is what’s looking and is what’s looking back at me. This formlessness is this form, and it’s all arising as one thing. That which is perceiving, that which is sensing life, and the movement of life, the forms—all of them—are arising simultaneously.”
How about after this experience of awakening out of identification with form—how were you different?
Some of the conditioned mind, concepts that separate or cause a sense of a “me,” that create a center or position in relation to life—some of this returned. But a lot of it just mysteriously dissolved. It’s the seeing that has the power to dissolve conditioning.
In the work that I do with people, sometimes insight alone is enough for a pattern to dissolve. More often, however, insight is not enough. Without the experience of awakening, patterns have much more tenacity. I would imagine that, after the experience of awakening, when conditioned mind arises, there is a new perspective that lets you know “this isn’t real”?
So, the conditioned thoughts and beliefs have a much shorter lifespan.
It’s more efficient. I guess what I was really left with was a sense that “me” lives only in thoughts that are believed.
So, in a sense, having awakened to the reality that what you are does not depend on believing the thoughts you have about yourself, those beliefs can drop away more quickly. Prior to awakening, we might investigate a defensive behavior pattern (for example, avoiding intimacy) and find the beliefs on which it is based (for example, a belief that “If I let someone close to me, I'll be rejected”), but there is still a tendency to justify the belief because of an underlying assumption that the “me” has substance and can be hurt by others. Whereas once you’ve had an experience that who you really are doesn’t depend on a “me,” and that who you really are cannot be hurt by anyone, then, when the feeling of “me” being threatened arises, we can question it from a whole different perspective, which allows it to dissolve more quickly.
Yes, it does. And, there’s no desire—at least I don't experience a desire—to make it go any faster. When there’s a dawning that it’s all yourself—even the illusion—it’s not something that needs be rooted out. But there’s a natural curiosity to see what the illusion is. There’s this whole fundamental aspect of consciousness—meaning life, reality—that moves to know itself in form, even if that form is a belief or a feeling of threat or suffering. There also seems, from everything that I’ve seen, to be inherent in all of experience a movement towards freedom. So if there’s, let’s say, a painful emotion; that emotion responds. It moves to be seen, felt, heard, experienced. In a sense it’s born to be experienced, and once it’s seen and experienced directly, not suppressed and not embellished, but seen in its exquisite suchness, just as it is, it has served its own life’s function, and it dissolves. You could say it’s been freed.
There is a felt sense that life is living itself, and it’s showing up as feelings. It’s showing up as everything, which includes feelings and beliefs; those are directly experienced, and then life goes on. I’m free to experience these things as they arise. It’s showing up for the whole thing, as all of it. Sometimes people are kind of in a hurry to be free of things, and they miss the freedom of being a human being, of getting to experience the miracle that anything can even occur out of nothing. I want to add as a reminder that everybody’s totally unique. Some people may experience some of the things I've shared that happened to me after awakening, such as a greater capacity to see personal beliefs and patterns which cause suffering; yet many people see such patterns long before awakening. There are those common questions “How does awakening unfold? or What does it look like?” Well, it can look all sorts of ways—from a more gradual dawning of what’s real to a sudden dawning of what’s real.
Perhaps there’s seeing an object and knowing oneself as that object, or as another person, or as all of life, or as nothingness. Perhaps there is a dis-identification from the sense of “me,” or perhaps the “me” is seen to not exist at all. In the absence of “me" one may know what they are not. This knowledge can exist with or without the knowledge of what one is. In other words, there are all kinds of awakenings and seeings, my story is just one. There are no two alike.
Can you tell me anything more about what has changed in your relationship with Adya?
I think the biggest thing that this shift of perspective affected, certainly initially, was how I heard things and how I communicated. A lot of my life’s experience had been that of wanting to be understood and of defending how I acted in the world. For example, feeling like I needed to justify why I did what I did or to explain why I was having the experience that I was having, so that I could be understood or accepted. And a lot of that fell away, so I was able to also listen in a way that wasn’t listening through that defensiveness. That was a huge change. At the time of the awakening I was in a program studying Chinese medicine. As I student I thought I had every ailment that I studied! But because the fundamental fear of death fell away with the awakening, it changed my whole relationship to health. As a result, a lot of the conversations I would have with Adya about my health just stopped. This freed up a lot in terms of energy and time that Adya and I spent together.
I’ve always had this sense of Adya, especially when he was a new teacher; he always felt like a real maverick to me. It wasn’t too long after that movie Top Gun came out, and in that movie there were these people who fly fighter planes and they just respond like this (snapping her fingers). They possess some internal navigational skills that are highly instinctual and intuitive. And Adya felt very much like that; he'd respond immediately to what life offered, and easily reverse direction. Now, within myself I feel that the more this awakening is deepening and unfolding, the more I have a sense of suppleness and ability to shift more quickly. Life is turning this way, “Okay,” and then you turn this way. And then comes its next curve or turn, and it feels a little bit more like somehow the whole ride is being ridden.
You said that the point of spiritual marriage, is for the One in you to recognize the One in the other and together to come to the knowledge of the Oneness that we are. Is this now more available to you?
Yes, to see that the One in me and the One in my husband, in this case, is the same One in all of life. So, it’s not that we need to see that together. But I think the recognition that that’s the same One in all of life came at the exact same time as seeing that it’s the same One in my husband.
Do you think you serve the same function for Adya?
Everything serves that, absolutely.
By Susan Thesenga of Seven Oaks Pathwork Center
© Mukti Gray 2018.
Krishnamurti spoke of how the bird is at once lost to the child who learns its name.
Can you recall when you were a child experiencing the world arising, moment-to-moment, without thought dividing its content?
In the spirit of recalling this perspective, prior to duality, I invite you to read ahead, and then try this exercise:
Look out the nearest window or across the room, and name what is in front of you. Perhaps several names come to mind (e.g., green, tree, pine). Subsequently, wipe each name from your mind as you look at the object, until you can see it without a name. As your eyes relax and your vision widens, take in the view globally.
To take the investigation further, let your listening relax outward, globally. If a thought that names a sound arises, simply let the name relax out of your mind and turn your attention again to what is within your range of hearing, letting your field of hearing widen and relax outward to experience a global awareness.
And finally, invite any sense of the one named “you,” your familar sense of self, to relax out of the center of your experience. You may feel the edge of your body soften or, more importantly, your sense of the one who is tracking perception and doing this exercise, dissolve out of the center.
Rest in this awareness that does not divide, does not name, and which itself will forever remain nameless.
© Mukti Gray 2018.
Previously we touched into the topic of “nonduality.” That is knowing, not on the level of mind, but a knowing of a different order—through consciously being what you are. That is a sense of existing right now, a sense of life looking out your eyes, and life feeling through your senses into this experience, this space of the room, this place. It’s like we are a sense apparatus for raw life, raw consciousness, which feels through us as instruments with five or more senses. What is sensed registers in awareness—this knowingness of existence, this knowingness that is existence itself. This knowingness may express inside as if to say, “I exist.” Existence is very mysterious; sometimes “I don’t exist” describes it more accurately, especially in the absence of self-referencing thought.
Earlier we were talking about suspending the tendency to reference thought, feeling, or emotion—in particular when it comes to the sense of what you are. This is a wonderful practice. In fact, it was a homework assignment that Adya gave the first year that he was teaching, and which I ask you to deeply consider now: Who would you be without referring to a thought, feeling, or emotion to tell you who you are, to tell you what you are?
Asking this question makes you stop, right? Often inside there are all of these self-referencing patterns: “Oops, can’t go the thought route; oops, can’t go the feeling route; oops, can’t go the emotional route; oops, oops, oops.” Then you can feel cornered. Then the opportunity is to sense what it is to be stopped.
From that perspective that doesn’t reference thought, feeling, or emotion, can you feel how your existence would interact differently with certain beliefs, even a juicier one like “Life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would”? Even something really disappointing, or really difficult, or even violent, would not ruffle your ever-present nature. Can you feel how it’s not ruffled—that it doesn’t get pulled off-balance because it doesn’t take sides to begin with? It doesn’t camp in any side to begin with, so when a position is asserted in thought, it doesn’t come up with an opposing side.
If you’re interested in this aspect of struggle, what I’m talking about is really fundamental. To see that perspective, to know it, to really saturate yourself in knowing your natural state that is always available underneath positions of mind—and that’s available when you suspend referencing thought, feeling, and emotion—is to discover that that natural state is inherently unequipped to struggle, to seek, or even to reference time. It doesn’t operate in terms of here or there. In seeking, we’re trying to get here or trying to get there, and then our thoughts are in the future. This natural awareness is already functioning now, looking out of your eyes, and when not referring to a dualistic pattern of thought, is actually incapable of mental struggle.
Could you be bold enough even to ask if this natural awareness is what you are? Is it familiar? Does it have an age? Has it been with you? Has it ever not been with you? This fundamental sense of life, existence, is awake to all the comings and goings of experience—experiences of being a person who likes this and likes that, who has a gender, an age, and roles. Your whole sense of self could revolve around all of these relative knowings of identity, or it could actually shift out of these thoughts into a remembrance—as if to say, “Ohhh, before I knew anything about myself, this was here—this knowingness of existence.” Can you feel how different your sense of self is, in this remembrance? Are you following me? Are you really checking it out?
The more you shift your investment out of the checking account of “me” into the savings account of awareness, it’s like the more rich you become. Transferring your investment is transferring your energy (the energy of your psyche) and transferring your attention. The more you transfer your investment out of all the ways that you try to know yourself through your identities, your beliefs, your conclusions, your positions of mind—and allow the energies to return to this sense of fundamental, aware being—the more your appetite turns to living without division.
There can be a turning of interest inside and your appetites change. I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid I could eat sugar, sugar, sugar, all the time. Now things can taste too sweet, and the kids in my family say, “What do you mean it’s too sweet?” It doesn’t compute in their world that something can be too sweet. But appetites shift over time—appetites for anything, obviously not just food . . . the company you keep, or anything. As your appetites shift, you may say, “I’m just not interested in energizing this sense of inner division and struggle.” And when not energizing struggle, the energy is freed up, and then . . .
From a lecture given by Mukti at her 2009 Kripalu retreat, “The End of Suffering.”
© Mukti Gray 2018
A participant writes:
In meditation I am often drawn to movement. I am familiar with kundalini release, although not conversant in it. I feel energy rising, uncoiling from the root, and my head and neck tend to sway with the gentle motion of its rising. In contrast, I think of Adya’s teachings on stillness, and I once heard you speak of others who experience your presence in mediation like a mountain. My gut tells me that there is no right or wrong way to meditate, but when the movement is happening, I wonder if I would be better served to be still.
I have a second question about a different topic. I am estranged from my mother. I often reach out to her in writing, expressing love and gratitude, but she does not respond. Do you think it is possible to cleanse and release the suffering I experience around our relationship and to accept and forgive a lifetime’s worth of hurt to an extent that can heal our relationship from a distance?
I very much appreciate the engaged insights and contemplations that you’ve shared during this course, and I thank you.
When you speak of your being drawn to movement in meditation and wondering if you would be better served to be still, I think you’ve captured both sides of a whole: motion in stillness, and stillness in motion.
My experience has been that kundalini moving upward in the body is greatly served by a strong and simultaneous presence of stillness. Like the idea of balancing softness with strength, rooted stillness complements the fiery quality of rising kundalini, causing it to travel more smoothly and easefully in the body, offsetting the possibility of the kundalini becoming more frenetic and moving in a forceful or jagged way.
My experience has also been that the energetic movement of kundalini, in the presence of stillness, seems to amplify the stillness, as though thickening how the quality of stillness is registered in one’s body and environment. Energy at rest and in movement inform a union (that we grossly divide in reference, but not actually).
Meditations on the hara, such as I’ve mentioned in past Q&A, as well as qi gong, hara breathing, and hara chanting can be ways to develop the presence of stillness and knowledge of one’s nature as permanence.
In regard to your second question, I do believe it is possible for your past and present experience of relating to your mother to shift, release, and cleanse. It is my sense that such a process occurs, in large part, when one’s perspectives shift—perspectives of oneself, another, and of what was and is. These shifts can be small or great and are more than I would address here, but I can offer a couple of general broad strokes.
When one contemplates and senses into one’s identity as Spirit, ego identification may cease to predominate. Ego identification can bring about senses of wrong, missing, lack, problem, division, and often draws these conclusions by referencing past experience to inform the present.
Spirit, which is not inherently defined by or identified with time, does not organize like ego, and knowing oneself as Spirit brings one's state more and more toward what is now vs. what was then. This is not to say that the human experience of past is forgotten or that the experience of hurt is never to occur again, but ideally there is a great transparency of being through which experience generally flows (vs. predominantly sticks).
When the past arises, it is brought to present, enfolded into the care and flow of presence. This enfolding and healing can take time, as the mind, body, and energetics that are based in finite form assimilate and shift the past. However, this time can seem to reduce as the timeless gaze of awareness bears witness to the energies and holdings of past. As perspectives of identity and time shift, wrongness and malcontent can be replaced with a sense of that which is complete unto itself, in all its forms and phases. One is less identified as a fixed person that life is happening “to” and known more as an expression of a dynamic whole that life is expressing “in” and “as.”
A mysterious aspect in all of this is that one may not need to even accept and forgive what happened, as one’s identity aligns with a sense of what is. It’s as though one's sense of oneself as Spirit transmits a state of wholeness that overpowers the momentum of division (against the past, oneself, another). One’s transmission of permanence stills the mind’s movement to reference narratives that lock the past in present. What happened is clearly known as “what did happen” vs. held as “what should or shouldn’t have happened” (or “who someone should or shouldn’t have been”). The held energy is freed to respond to what did happen and to whom, and to be the healing agent.
Some inquiries for you to consider include “Who am I without referring to the past? Who is my mother without referring to the past? Who am I that does not hold the past? What is it to orient as wholeness? Might I rest the still light of undivided and unidentified awareness (simply awareness, not ‘my’ awareness) on energies of holding and division, so they might join?”
When offering wholeness, wholeness is furthered; when offering division, division is furthered.
From Mukti’s Got Juice? Online Course
© Mukti Gray 2018