not enough

its_not_enough_buttonMost people live in a world of “not enough.” Not enough love, not enough money, not enough of the right kind of food, not enough time.

How many thoughts do I have a day wanting to change something in my life?

Honestly? Quite a few.

But I believe them less and less–because this moment, this moment right now, is precious, just as it is.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
photo credit

inquiry, take two

smiling shivaYesterday’s post quickly falls apart under close scrutiny, because in the first half I spoke about the personal, separate “I,” and in the second half, I was referring to the inquiry that brings one to understand there is no personal “I” at all–all there is, is freshly unfolding life.

This is how words continually miss the mark they aim for. And yet, I cannot deny my love affair with them. Words keep me up at night, as I lie in bed honing, mentally wordsmithing, searching for the most subtle,  direct, honest expression I can put forward.

Inquiry is Shiva. It destroys what we believed ourselves to be. What’s left has no ownership–but nothing has been lost. As my friend and teacher Elias Amidon says, “We’re ruined.” Then he can’t help but chuckle.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
photo credit


pointing-fingerMany of us are confused when we first learn about inquiry–the tendency is to turn our inquiry outward, to question about the meaning of life, or our beliefs, in relation to other peoples’. But inquiry really means turning around, and looking at the source of our experience. It takes a while to get the hang of it, because it is completely counter to what society teaches us.

My thirteenth summer, I went to a ranch horse camp in Colorado for two months–delicious fun. Soon after I returned home, my mother called me to her desk, and pointed to the eight letters I had written from camp–a Sunday requirement before we could eat dinner. “Your sentences all begin with ‘I,'” she said. She had circled all the “I”s with dark red pencil. “This is an ugly sign of self-centeredness.”

But how to express the experience I was having at camp without using the personal pronoun? I was dumbfounded–and humiliated–by her judgment.

Fifty years later, when I was introduced to inquiry, the instructions were exactly the opposite from my upbringing. “Look to the source of your experience,” my teacher said. “Stay with yourself. Don’t leave home.”

Initially this was very uncomfortable. I felt my mother–now dead–shaking her head, and her finger, at me. I smile, thinking of all her social training washing quietly down the drain.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
photo credit

Ripeness, by Jane Hirshfield

This poem touches me so very deeply that I share it with you.


Ripeness is
what falls away with ease.
Not only the heavy apple,
the pear,
but also the dried brown strands
of autumn iris from their core.
To let your body
love this world
that gave itself to your care
in all of its ripeness,
with ease,
and will take itself from you
in equal ripeness and ease,
is also harvest.
And however sharply
you are tested —
this sorrow, that great love —
it too will leave on that clean knife.
–Jane Hirshfield
 from “The October Palace”
credit: the post and photo come from Panhala Poetry

hanging on

flashlight beamHanging on is an activity of the powerful mind that we use in a very limited way. We hang on to repeated patterns of thinking—regardless of the negativity they bring—because the repetition comforts us. How can our thinking apparatus be both powerful and limited?

Easy. Imagine a flashlight beam on a dark-of-the-moon night. It illuminates only the tiniest part of the whole, yet that is where all the attention goes—down that narrow band of light. So it is with the mind. The focusing power creates a compelling but narrow finger that draws all of the mental attention into stories of the past and future. Consequently, we miss where life actually happens: now. The grandeur available in the present moment is usurped by that skinny bandwidth that has no root in reality. So caught up, we miss the truth altogether, and live a mind-fiction instead.

If you are reading these words, it’s likely that you have noticed the limitations of the mind, and realized that if you continue to stack the deck the same old way, you get the same old result. At some point, our restless search for something better finally turns us toward home. Then, more and more often, we can enter the present with open hands instead.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
photo credit

no more escaping

no more escapingMost peoples’ waking hours are spent trying to escape what is going on right now.

She’s impatient with her husband’s snoring; he wishes she wouldn’t leave water on the bathroom floor. We’re irritated because the boss walks by too often to check what’s on our monitor, or the weather is too chilly, or too humid. Or perhaps we are simply wishing that our vacation would begin, that our back would stop hurting, or that our bellies were flatter.

If we’re human, we’ve wished for life to be other than it is. Sometimes our desire to escape what is happening is subtle, but often, it is blatantly obvious.

Notice that what is happening right now is the unstoppable birthing of life, and because it is here–already–it is not escapeable. Wishing it were otherwise is the main way that we torture ourselves. Perhaps what is opening in our lives is painful. Welcome it–because it is what it is–and if the pull is there to make change, and change is possible, do so.

I remember right after my father collapsed and died of a massive heart attack, I had the urgent desire for time to stop–to somehow honor the moment, and give us a breath to adjust. But the next moment descended, and the next… and soon it had been two days since his death, and then two weeks, two years, two decades. A vast coming and going, this journey, all within the spacious aliveness of awaring.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
photo credit

powerless – a long post

This post is about healing from childhood sexual abuse. It is not graphic. However, if this is a trigger for you, simply delete. The text begins below the photograph of me, taken at age six.

Rita at 6

Two years ago, during a counseling session, I broke down and wept with a depth that simply didn’t match the event that triggered the crying. My head was between my knees, and my nose and eyes were pouring. And BOOM! There was a clear visual  of what had happened fifty-nine or sixty years before–the person, the place, the event, the feelings of powerlessness, betrayal, fear, and the loss. I had been sexually abused around age five or six by someone who had worked for my parents, lived on the property, and had befriended me. This early experience significantly increased my sense of separation and feeling that life wasn’t safe.

I raised my head and stared at my counselor. “You knew, didn’t you,” I said.

“I suspected so,” she said, gently.

I felt so much gratitude to simply know the truth. Some puzzle pieces of my life clicked into place, and I felt whole, perhaps for the first time. There had been pointers, but without direct memory, I saw no reason in hanging on to them. For example, I used to be terrified when my parents left town and left us in the care of others–even after that particular couple no longer worked for our family. I never took baths, only showers, until we had a hot tub. I don’t like to wear dresses, and when someone asked me thirty years ago why, the response that fell out of my mouth was that I didn’t feel safe in dresses. News to me! That thought had never coalesced before.

When I arrived at the hospital this Wednesday to have a women’s-only procedure, waves of that old feeling of powerlessness rolled through. On a feeling level, dread–with all the attendant thought patterns stuck to it–settled in my body. Tears filled my eyes. Brought to a little cubicle to give up my clothes and don the gown (large enough to fit a four-hundred pound man), only made the dread stronger. I knew that my job was simply to welcome these decades-old feelings that had been tamped down for so long.

Then the intake nurse greeted my husband and me. I could feel her heart. After thoroughly reading my chart, she looked up and asked if I had any spiritual or religious beliefs or traditions that I wanted the hospital to know about, so they could make me feel more comfortable.

I met her gaze, and after a thoughtful pause replied, “I don’t know. This hospital might not have an understanding of my tradition–it’s not well known. I hold the non-dual view.”

The nurse broke into a wide smile. “I’ve been a Dzogchen practitioner for over twenty years,” she said.

“Those are some of my favorite readings!” I replied, stunned. (Dzogchen are the pinnacle non-dual teachings of Tibetan Buddhism) We had a fascinating conversation while she readied me, put in the I.V., and showed us how the “bear hug” warming gown worked. The gown, it turns out, is like a large hair dryer hood, with warm air flowing in. Wonderful not to be cold. It was hard to say goodbye to her, and the sense of loss of control only grew as my gurney was pushed down the long, fluorescent-lighted hallways.

Next, I met the anesthesiologist. In the past, I have not found people in this specialty to be particularly open-hearted, but this man broke the mold for me. We decided together, that because I have painful shoulders and a compressed low back, it would be best if I were still awake so I could position myself on the table. “Okay,” I said, “but I’m going to want valium in my I.V. I’m horribly anxious.” Tears rolled down my cheeks.

“I’m happy to do that for you as soon as we get in the operating room,” he said in a gentle tone.

The surgery staff–except for the anesthesiologist, were all women–including my surgeon, Jeannie Pflum. I briefly mentioned the old source of my dread, and did not apologize for the stream of tears. Jeannie spoke softly about how respectful they are, keeping the body covered whenever possible during surgery. Every step of the way, I was met with deep kindness and care. One nurse wiped my tears. They allowed me the dignity, little step by little step, to meet these old feelings fully. Once met, they washed out of long-term storage in the body, and away.

Old patterning, finally released. Grateful. Very grateful.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013


river sunriseAh, the blessing and curse of beloved words. Yesterday, I said “return home to what I am.” Chuckling as I reread that now, because there is no leaving home, ever. It’s not possible.

Yet somehow, the busyness made it feel as though I’d been somewhere–and awaring sipping silence felt like a return. Feelings are as insubstantial and impermanent as thoughts. Not to demean either–love them, too–simply to notice.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
photo credit

can’t hide

hide-and-seekThere is a strong misconception that thrives in many spiritual communities—that our imperfections are somehow wrong, that we are aiming to be perfect.

This is not the truth; we could not possibly hide from our humanness, nor should we. Each imperfection is a perfectly acceptable aspect of the ground of all-that-is. Since it takes everything, without exception, to make up the whole (which is not a thing, even though we would like to reify it), then everything that we think of as imperfection is actually the perfection-of-the-whole.

Separation is not possible. Sit for a moment and truly feel that. Separation is not possible. We want to make ourselves special—uniquely qualified to be separated out, to be either less worthy, or better than someone else. But either stance is a form of arrogance—thinking we are something special—not a bad thing, but not the truth. If we want to end personal suffering, we must see though every one of those constructs and allow them to wash out, in a figurative sense. When seen to be not the truth, then unsupported by our belief in them, they fall away like any habit that no longer serves.

Most of my adult life—ever since the anorexic model, Twiggy, was so popular in the late 1960’s—I’ve thought that my body is mildly overweight, and viewed my earth-suit in a degrading way because of that separating thought. Arrogance. Simple arrogance. I still can get briefly caught by this—even though, when I trace a thought all the way back, I find no source of thought, no ownership of it, either. It has as much reality as a rainbow—yet, the groove is a deep one. Each time the thought arises, I pause long enough to see through the pattern, and it falls away. Each time the thought shows up, it has less strength than the time before. Notice, trace it back until it falls away. No grasping on to it, no hiding behind it.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
photo credit