Category Archives: Advaita

life is buzzing

bee hive 2Have you ever seen a swarm of bees? They are all so busy being. Bee-ing! That is how life is right now–high activity, all clumped together, tasks jumbled on top of one another. Paint around the shower, replace medicine cabinets, vacuum before the carpet guys arrive, instruct them about the specifics, cut shelf covering just the right size, refinish the old cabinets–but how? Find curtains, order blinds… the list feels endless, and that is a story this pattern has created.

We moved three and a half weeks ago, and then prepared the previous home to go on the market. That’s enough!

But now we are renovating a condo for my son, who is returning to California after twenty years away. It is obviously the right condo, and it showed up at what the mind would like to say is just the wrong time. That is a story as well.

Life unfolds. End of story. Wanting it to be one way or another is a prescription for suffering. Noticing how it is–with innocent curiosity–returns me home, to the home that will not move, disappear, or change. Dependable. Home.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013

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moving… or not?

In the world of appearances, we have moved–our address has changed, our home layout is different, our belongings are finding new resting places. I have established yet another spoon drawer in this kitchen, and a drawer with items that have holes (strainers, steamers, grater, colander).

But what has moved, really? This-that-we-are, this that never leaves and is ever-present, doesn’t move. This bright and radiant no-thing remains ever radiant and bright. All the rest comes and goes.

We can depend on that.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013

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naked presence

bridge and bright skyWhat is it that is so compelling about the spiritual journey? It dragged me further and further from the root of myself.

For thirty-eight years, I searched desperately to find something that felt truly and deeply sacred. Convinced that I would recognize this something when it showed up, I prayed, meditated, chanted, and tried to be the very best person that I could. I read deep books, and struggled to learn.

If only I were good enough. There must be something inherently wrong with me. Clearly, I wasn’t worthy.

But-this-that-we-are could not possibly be an object. Objects, or the multitudes of manifested stuff that the Buddhists call “the ten thousand things,” come and go. The truly sacred could not possibly show up and dissolve–I knew in my heart that it must be what I imagined as permanent ground.

But even “permanent ground” is a misunderstanding, because permanent must imply the opposite, impermanent. That which is truly sacred–that which is beyond names–has no opposites, and is outside of time; it is both eternal and infinite.

I have never met Nirmala, but he set me straight one afternoon in Boulder, Colorado, August, 2009. I was resting in a motel room and picked his book, Nothing Personal, out of my back pack. I started at the beginning. Around page five, I read this sentence, and it brought me to a full stop: “So, what else is present right here, right now, besides sensations, experiences, thoughts, feelings, and ‘you’–that doesn’t  come and go?”

Thirty eight years on a spiritual path, and I had never questioned this before. I reread the sentence four or five times. Then I put the book down on the bed, and turned inward to examine my experience. The best description of my state is beginner’s mind–I looked freshly, without anticipating what I might find.

And… there “it” was. Alive, naked presence. Untouchable, unfindable as an object. But it seemed obvious that naked presence has always been my constant companion. This thought arose, “Really?!” Chuckling erupted.

For months, I checked tens of times a day. Still here? Still with me? And finally, the checking, the questioning, stopped. Naked presence cannot be lost. Certain states of mind may veil this-that-isn’t-an-it, but presence is wholly dependable.

I couldn’t lose this if I tried. It is both unfindable and unloseable.

I remain an unnamed vessel of vast grateful-ing.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
photo credit: the beautiful blog, Barnstorming. Check it out.

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obstacles

refinish wood floors 3During our home renovation, I’ve paid close attention when apparent obstacles arise.

My tack is different these days. Instead of resisting, I soften, and get very curious. Perhaps what is presenting is not an obstacle after all, but a moment to review, perhaps change course, and see what else is opening.

Yesterday, Bob, the flooring guy, let us know while we were confirming dates for next week that rather than starting on Monday, he couldn’t begin hardwood repairs until Wednesday. The initial plan had been to repair the red oak floor in the kitchen, and then refinish the kitchen and all the hallways prior to laying carpet in the bedrooms, living room, and family room. We are on a specific schedule–we want to move and have a week to get settled before my husband has minor surgery and is laid up for a bit. My old pattern would have been to tighten and resist change, to worry, and fret, to lie awake at night, to envision hopeless outcomes–all that energy spent on an imaginary future that may not come to pass.

Instead, a kind of  inner space opened up. Out of that emptiness, a new plan seemed possible–lay the carpet on Monday, and tape off entryways to the living and family rooms that don’t have doors to reduce the sanding dust on the new carpet. My husband realized the swap opens Tuesday for other small finishing tasks–perhaps Alan the furnace guy, or Scott the electrician can use that available time. This way, we can remain on schedule to move August 1st. Bob blustered a bit about the change in the order of his work, but his blustering is his, not mine. Once he saw that a bit of dust on the carpet didn’t concern me–I surely know how to vacuum–he was able to soften as well.

These skilled tradespeople are awareness in a different, beautiful skin; we are truly not-two. When I knowingly live that, they meet me there.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
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start right here

laughing horse and girlStart right here, fresh. As often as you can. This moment is unique, unrepeatable, and gone in a flash. Enjoy it now! We could be dead tomorrow.

Your mind will grab you away–I guarantee it; that’s the mind’s nature. Not to worry. Each time you notice, simply come back here where life actually happens.

The texture of the steering wheel while driving, the pressure of my foot on the pedals. When I’m swinging, the breeze whishing from the back of my head past my ears to the front when I swing backward; the air kissing my face and my ears as I swing backward. I surely do not want to miss those sensations.

Anything in the imagined future can wait. All that happened in the past is gone. This precious moment–quiet house, computer hum, after midnight, ears ringing, keyboard clicking, eyelids heavy.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
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the thin line

Feeling downI am watching my son grieve the loss of his partner, Bill. I am stunned by the grace by which he faces this grief. He meets it daily as he takes on tasks completely new to him: calling people to break the news, helping to give away his partner’s belongings, choosing a few special items to keep himself. And those acute moments where he turns to tell Bill something–only to remember that he is gone. I clearly remember my mother going through that after my father’s fatal heart attack.

I cannot relieve my son’s pain. I can only love him unconditionally, and listen with care when he needs to talk. Or wail. Or have moments of anger that Bill didn’t attend to the clear symptoms that something was amiss.

Here we are in this raw, tender vessel called life–one big living, dying, birthing, exploding wonder. Awareness, seemingly playing out in this field called manifestation, yet never taking form, or changing form, at all.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
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swinging

our porch swingRight now, life is filled with a high level of activity. We are working with contractors and sub-contractors, and at the same time, cleaning, clearing, and mending this neglected property back to life ourselves.

This morning, we pulled nails and spackled holes with filler.
I wielded a web catcher under the eaves, sweeping away silky spider cocoons and three decades of dust.

Every day, there are many apparent choices to be made for the house–this week, the choices involve lighting fixtures, and the placement of outlets and circuits.

The most puzzling has been selecting a color for the interior walls. Four samples painted, reviewed, and discussed. Laguna Beach has won.

Then we realized that because of termite damage requiring new siding in various places, we need to also paint the exterior. We returned to Kelly Moore Paints yet again–avoiding the 8 AM contractor rush–because the exterior will not be repainted the nondescript taupe that it currently is.

In addition, we are responding to the real estate needs of our clients during a hot market–always learning a new chunk about the process–and we attend broker, office, and client meetings. And there is more–seemingly endless activity.

However, I have rediscovered a joy from half-century ago. If you cannot find Amrita, go outside and peer toward the patio swing. You’ll find her there, mindlessly swinging and grinning, lost in the sensations of weightlessness, breezes, and sunshine. Today, the neighborhood murder of crows gathered in a large cluster, fussing and complaining–a natural auditory delight as well.

Come to think of it, I hear more when I swing. The mind goes quiet, and the gobbles of wild turkeys in the field next door springs into the foreground.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
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really? – a rant

Steve JobsI committed to a year-long real estate class that meets once a month. It is called iProduce, and the core reading is the biography of Steve Jobs. Admittedly, this man was a creative genius, an American icon, and changed our world. I am quite dependent on his inventions to do my work. For example, the little “key” that opens lock boxes so real estate agents can show homes plugs into an iPhone, and is quite a tiny miracle.

It is fascinating to me that our real estate company chose this man’s life as the basis for a real estate class. Real estate, to me, is about listening, integrity, kindness, and human connection. I want what the client desires–my opinions are not important.

So why would they choose the life of a man who didn’t listen, who was notably cruel to those around him, who was often unkind and arrogant, and who had outrageous difficulty with relationships in the workplace? Steve Jobs had some stunning attributes, but he was also a bully, had no sense of boundaries, and pushed people in an unhealthy way. These are not the qualities of any decent real estate agent, much less a high-functioning one.

In this class, each of us has to give one speech based on this book. You can gather the gist of mine–quite different from the ones I’ve heard so far extolling Jobs.

I believe Mr. Jobs, in the process of dying, came around to a different way of being–but the end certainly did not justify the means.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013

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threshing floor

bow downLife is a threshing floor. Have you noticed?

I remember a couple of times when I was raising my son, there had been a great deal of challenging news too close together. I really needed our world to stabilize, to settle, so I could catch my breath. Promptly after that wistful thought the intensity doubled, and I realized that we had been in a stable period–I just hadn’t experienced it as such. That was a heart-sinking moment; I had to reach very deep inside to increase my capacity.

In hindsight, “increasing capacity” means to surrender more deeply to what already is. Nothing to be done, only to be undone.

I was given a prayer back then by the remarkable seer, Frida Waterhouse. I was instructed to get down on the floor much like the man in the photo and give it all up. I can’t quite remember the words; I know the languaging would no longer satisfy.

The image of the threshing floor is a lovely teaching: winnowing away what is not needed–or not true–to expose the sustenance within.

Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
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not doing and action

Right now, life is filled with apparent endless activity all day–during this house renovation, we work with our contractor and sub-contractors, choose new lights, appliances, countertops and other necessary household sundries, schmooze with the town’s only (grumpy) building inspector, hold a lengthy meeting with the electrician, and work on the schedule of who-does-what-next and when-to-order-what. As “owner-builders,” we’re the general contractors on this project.

kitchen demo

Yet it is apparent to me that nothing is happening at all. Awareness, as always, is present and noticing. As always, there is no color, texture or other attribute that is findable–nothing to put a finger on and say “That! There it is!” Awareness has no opinions or even preferences, yet holds the space for opinions and preferences without comment. Apparent choices are made–yes to this, no to that, and maybe, can’t decide yet–and awareness is not touched.

All the while, our real estate business is ongoing and quite active. Clients’ needs must be met in a timely manner. I deeply appreciate each client for their unique desires and perspectives. In fact, I love them–but that would not be appropriate to share. I want to serve them well. Yesterday, we finished our last task at 11 PM, and a phone call from the East coast came in at 7 AM this morning.

Fireplace demo 2It is amazing what can get done where there is no resistance–this, this, that, and now this, this, this. Meet it, greet it, welcome it, and serve. In a way, we are serving this home as well as our clients–loving it back to life.

Today we solved the design challenges of the fireplace. Agreement on the slate tiles that will surround the fireplace showed up. Our Buddhist friend said yes to designing the wooden mantle–how beautiful to watch him bring the task into awareness.

Awareness does simply this: nothing. No thing. Yet life continually unfolds.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013

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