Tag Archives: direct experience

home!

My family is home, with power on in both locations. Perhaps the worst is over–for us. It’s clear others are still at risk, and I pray for their safety and their animals as well. I am deeply thankful to the firefighters who risk their lives protecting ours and our property.

Remaining wholly in the present made it possible to move through this time without debilitating anxiety. I only suffered those first minutes after the evacuation order came, waking me from uneasy sleep. Then I pulled out my metaphorical toolbox and put it to use.

Concern, of course. Planning, of course. We need the mind to navigate life. Distress is different–it takes an already difficult situation and makes it unbearable. Anxiety of that kind haunted me for decades until this understanding took root: emotional suffering is optional. It is not necessary when we embody where to take our stand, as the pure awareness that we are.

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Filed under Advaita, Awakening, memoir, Musings, thoughts

checking the news

Here’s a form of perseverating–I can’t stop the urge to check the news for fire and air quality updates. Even during retreat meetings I’m aware of the pull, which I resist. My phone is turned off during our gatherings.

Of course, when I do check at meal times, it’s frustrating because there is no new news, only rehashing what we already know, although air quality shifts rapidly when wind direction changes.

My job: remain centered here and now, notice when the mind wants to leap into a nonexistent future. There’s no way to know, and “what might happen” isn’t a healthy place for me to spend time.

I’m grateful to be with 170 like-hearted souls, exploring the margins of human understanding and noticing our direct experience.

 

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Filed under Advaita, Awakening, Daily reminders, memoir, Musings, Non-duality, nonduality, spirituality

wildfire

4 a.m. I stand in our home, quivering, awakened from restless sleep. Nixle text: mandatory evacuation order. Power has been off for six hours. Our go-bags wait by the door, including the one for our dog, Bodhi.

Time to go. If we lose our home, what can I bring that fits in the car to help a new place feel familiar? I grab ten pieces of art from the walls–the gorgeous color-pencil drawings our friend Suzette did of our dogs, and two others. My laptop, so I can write. Coats. I check for device chargers.

This is the new reality. Brain adjusts, body resists, then gets in gear. Destination: friends in Petaluma, seventeen miles away. We take both vehicles and enter the parking lot of evacuees. An hour later, we’ve gone two miles.

Drivers are remarkably generous, letting others into the creeping auto stream from side roads. I see no road rage and am grateful. The updated Nixle notice comes in–my son, who doesn’t drive, must evacuate as well. My husband peels off to Santa Rosa to snag him and his go-bag.

It only takes me three hours to travel the seventeen miles. Charge the iPhone on the way. I’m welcomed with a sweet hug from our dear friend. Power has been cut to Petaluma as well, but the gas stove works. Warm tea! Five hours later, husband, son, and dog finally make it.

There is no complaining, only attention to what must be done–keep devices charged, eat food before it spoils, send love and best wishes for the well-being of people and creatures closer to the fire than we. Await Nixle updates. Breathe. Count blessings. Be present.

 

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Filed under Advaita, Daily reminders, memoir, Musings, thoughts

we all need support

Someone valued this venerable, scarred tree and provided support for the trunk in its old age. In kind, it continues to shade the plants, yard,  and walkway beneath.

Each life situation is different: it may call for helping someone eat or walk; listening so they can unburden their mind; heart-tending, or spiritual counsel. We are wholly interdependent, one sacred body with many apparent parts.

Even the sentence “we all need support” is not the largest truth. Notice support is unending: the ground holds us up; gravity keeps us from flying off the planet; water, food, and air nourish us; hugs and a kind word mend our stricken hearts; a gentle nudge or lick from a four-legged companion soothes our spirit.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2017

 

 

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precious hearts

I am enfolded in the embrace of precious hearts now–some old friends, some I’m meeting for the first time. This is day one of my eleventh week-long retreat. Only once have I met a complaining, shut-down soul in this community. She frowned and fussed about the dinner which had been prepared for us with love and patience–including gluten-free choices for those with special dietary needs. I noticed her dedication to her special brand of misery and silently wished her well. I have not seen her since.

These friends have special qualities: curiosity, inclusive kindness, generosity, and open-heartedness; audacity to voice confusion in front of 135 people; willingness to drop beliefs that no longer serve, courage to sit in a state of not knowing. I would trust my life to any one of these folk. They are not related by blood, but they are my closest kin.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2017
the sunset heart photo can be freely shared

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Filed under Awakening, Daily reminders, Love, Musings, nonduality, Rupert Spira

our mother tongue

Last evening before dinner, I sat in a common area and spoke with a man attending his first retreat with Rupert Spira. During an abrupt transition in this retreatant’s life, he found a YouTube clip of  Rupert teaching. He said, “I didn’t understand all of what Rupert spoke about that first time I listened to him, but I did recognize it as my mother tongue.”

Yes! Tears filled my eyes.

If you, like I, explored countless pathways and discovered that none of them have fulfilled what your heart yearns for, when you are introduced to this understanding something may flutter in–or batter–your chest: an apprehending, a knowing, an avowal even, that you have come home. This is the beginning of a lifelong integration.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2017
image credit: By Mokkie – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

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Filed under Advaita, Awakening, Daily reminders, Musings, Non-duality, nonduality, Rupert Spira, spirituality

pain as free medicine

In early February, I ruptured a disk in my low back: first an ache, then a burning two-inch poker, then an angry nerve’s lightning bolt searing down my leg. For the next week, until I saw a spinal specialist who prescribed the right nerve medication, I hobbled with a cane, couldn’t sleep, was unable to sit at my desk, and had no appetite. Intractable pain is exhausting.

And yet!

Sometimes, while lying awake, present to the moment which was busily announcing its presence—where else could I be?—I focused on severe pain as rich sensation. Although the aching and burning didn’t let up, the sensations did fluctuate, always subtly shifting. For brief periods, the margin between agony and ecstasy melded. Such a mystery.

Other times, I rested in and as the “field” (a simpler word for “consciousness”—more plainsong, less full orchestra). That’s the apparent choice: either be the sensations, or be the field in which sensations arise. In neither instance did the pain go away. Thisness is thisness—there is no choice but to be it all.

Apparent choice? No choice? Which is it? Once I heard Adyashanti answer a student’s question this way: “If there’s an apparent choice, make it.” I giggled with delight and slipped that expression in my pocket. Of course, both—“both” is a concession to the failure of language to express the inexpressible—are true. Neither are true. Nothing is “true.”

Because of this teaching—this ever-evolving-no-place-to land-understanding—no story formed. I had no fearful thoughts of the future, or story-building about what caused it to happen—which would have added suffering on top of acute sensation.

Gratefulness flooded for the extravagant pain, my husband’s precious care, the abrupt interruption of teaching, driving, and writing. Gratitude lit me up: this apparent paradox of field and sensation, the ever-inseparable unmanifest and manifest, never other than what it is: outrageous, unstoppable, and luscious free medicine.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2017
photo credit: Emily Polis Gibson of the Barnstorming blog
credit for “free medicine

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Filed under Awakening, Daily reminders, Musings, Non-duality, nonduality