There is some profound Truth at the heart of my story, but I have yet to define it. It seems to me to be simply: I trusted God,
I lost God,
I found God.
I found there was no God.
I found there was nothing but God.
Perhaps I am living in parallel universes. There is the rational and conventional world in which I find a body and mind and emotions, all of whom have acquired an identity, a family and a history, which most assuredly demonstrates a beginning , a middle and an impending end. This is my relative world. I look back on this story with gratitude, wonder and a few regrets, and I continue to live it forward – but it doesn’t say anything about who I really am, only who I appear to be to others. And then, there is also the interior world I will call the mystery world, where anything that happens was never imagined before, and energy and consciousness shifts into new perspectives the way a kaliedescope shifts shape and color, because unexpected events keep turning it upside down. At this point the interior mystery world is experienced as an awareness that is clear and content, quiet and curious. I cannot say integration has taken place. Instead, the exterior and relative world has relaxed into the interior mysterious world, so there is no one left with whom to be in conflict about it.
I might tell you of the events, or the circumstances, that rattled and transformed the interior world, just as someone else could describe an accident, or an earthquake, or a war that forever changed their life, and through which they were never quite the same again. Plenty of people today have such traumatic and painful awakenings. Every time I see the lives mangled by war, floods, earthquakes and other upheavals, I am shocked that I have lived in this century and avoided the worst of them. What a grace! So, for the most part there is no proof in my life that a certain event caused a certain response, or that I was growing or evolving or following a purpose to become someone different than I started out to be. There is only a string of exterior changes, and a string of interior shifts, and when they had passed I recognized I never was who I thought I was in the first place, even as I appear to be continuing along.
There were events in my life – events that impacted both worlds, apparently.
There was Catholicity, which for years effectively anesthesized my psyche with school, church, novenas, confessions, choir, and family events such as christenings, holy communion and confirmation celebrations. There was a playful, loving and sometimes argumentative Scotch/Irish extended family that provided the illusion of security as a child, and laid a foundation that was called faith. There was Sister Agnes Claire who was the unwitting beginning of the end of Catholicism for me.
There was the death of my mother, which shattered illusion and security, and broke apart any feeling of a being to be depended upon, especially a god. It also left me contracted for almost 15 years, emotionally barren except for sudden bursts of tears which came occasionally, like a sporatic storm in the sahara.
There was Amelia, a dynamic and inventive fireball of an older woman who provided my first experience with group encounter, and forced me to see that love could exist in the world, even without a mother, but that the hole is my heart was also about losing god.
There was a friend who handed me a book when I was 27 called “Autobiography of a Yogi”, written by a recently departed yogi called Yogananada, who had lived not far from my childhood home. This little story completely de-framed any remaining concepts I had about spirituality. Here was a religion in which people saw beings who were 300 years old, or appeared from the dead, left their bodies and saw other worlds, encouraged the worship of unlimited forms of gods and goddesses, and used energy practices to connect with spirit. I didn’t believe any of it, but I was intrigued. This guy was far more interesting and modern than the Christian saints. I had no idea the adventures awaiting me would make mystical experiences ho-hum events.
Next came Muktananda, a small fiery being in a red cap who wielded a peacock feather amidst a crowd of cheering pilgrims singing “Baba, we adore you,” The crowds swarmed to his pink hotel ashram in Oakland, overflowing with vividly colored purple and red, gold and blue drapes, saris, shawls and carpets, all permeated with a pungent sandelwood incense. I sat before him one Christmas eve to be whacked with a feather, but he scared me half to death. I avoided his eyes, afraid of what he might see or say if he really looked at me. I had no idea I would someday become an “expert” on the kundalini energy he was said to activate. Never had a clue at the time…
Through events that brought losses and gains, despair and bliss, I took on a role eventually as a therapist, and followed an interior calling toward meditation. One day I heard of a school where I could merge the two, work on my body, meet spiritual teachers, and go through a personal transformation. I could even earn a Ph.D. for it. “How improbable”, I thought,”And how seductive.” By then I was longing to know who I was and where I was going, and trying to merge my two worlds – the exterior family along with work, and the interior mystery I was unraveling in my meditation practices. Before I entered this school I had a dream that it was run by ex-convicts and secret criminals. I dreamed my children were kidnapped and I had no one who could help. With some trepidation I went ahead to the early days of class. There 25 students from various stages of life gathered 4 days a week to sit in circles on the floor, spill their stories, explore their psyches, pummel and massage one another’s bodies, play with Tarot and the I-Ching, and do spiritual practices. In the midst of this we also studied psychology.
All of my life of conventional thinking went down the drain. I became open to any possibility, and every kind of spirit. Eventually I had an overwhelming activation of primal energy, of the life force, called kundalini in the yogic traditions. For many years afterwards, this relationship with the goddess of energy and form carried my psyche, my work and my creativity in the world. Before I knew it I was traveling to India, organizing conferences, providing kundalini workshops, lecturing, and meeting similarly energized people all over the world. It was often not the “me” doing this, but rather the force that carried this body/mind, the invisible awakeness moving within. It was another wonderful grace.
In case there was any naïvite left in me regarding the psychological variations in the kinds of life experiences humans might have, I was rapidly exposed to multiple layers of transpersonal experiences. I met clients who reported alien encounters, psychic openings, out-of-body-experiences, paranormal events, the channeling of light beings, the remembering of past or future lives, seeing spirits in native American rituals, and the ability to turn out street lamps by walking under them. I met dozens of gurus, Tibetan lamas, Masters of Chi Gung or other energy practices, and eccentric physicists. I played with remote viewing, machines that created changes in the brain, the I-Ching, and nakedness at Esalen. I did breathing practices that stimulated birthing and other-life memories, in a room with 100 people tossing, turning and moaning. It could have been a setting in Dante’s inferno. I sat for hours in damp ancient caves in India that felt electrically wired. I studied visionary events, UFO’s, esoteric Indian teachings , and near-death experiences. There was a rapid-fire education in all that transpires in the human mind beyond the personal – and how such encounters change the lives of those who experience them.
In the midst of a life full of creative work, counseling, organizing conferences, and seeing my children out of high school and on with their lives, I finally began to burn out. So I did something I had always longed to do. I went to Switzerland. Alone. I quit everything. There, in the library of the Jung Institute in Kusnacht, I discovered a great Indian sage, Ramana Maharshi. In my tiny hotel room with its slanted dormer ceiling and child-sized Swiss kitchenette, along the edge of Lake Zurich, the rain pouring down the walkways outside, my body wanted only to withdraw and rest. I began to read Ramana’s writings and his letters. For the first time I began to question whether the self I had been individuating for so long really existed. It was a shocking perspective! It took a few days to even consider it.
I began to lose attachments to myself in those days, but this was only the first introduction to the world of non-duality. Non-duality is a term for seeing our selves and the world as One, without a second. It points to the substance we are, rather than the structure, just as gold is the substance of a bracelet and all gold if melted down is one. Or as the waves in the ocean are really just variations of the substance of water. The term is beyond spirituality, but in some way completes it. It refers to that which we are, our true nature.
It would be another few years before I would meet a young American man who called himself Adyashanti (it means primordial peace). He was only the age of my sons, and in fact went to their high school at the same time. He was 38 when we met. He pumped his bike up the hill where I lived hundreds of times throughout his adolescence, but I had never seen him there. He was a slight young man with a timeless and penetrating presence, and the clarity of his teaching completely collapsed my world view. He demonstrated a way to live simply in the world, while not being of it. When I looked into his radiant blue eyes I sometimes saw the planets, or the endlessness of deep space, and I recognized myself there. It was as if we could not be two, only One. In his presence I began to seek Truth within my heart and gut, with no more hunger for any experience.
So this is a journey of no one becoming someone and then becoming no one or every one. It is mysterious in that way. It is loving as well– for often in my life it seems I was carried by love rather than violence, in a world that is suffused with violence. My neurotic, hysteric and depressive tendencies as a young mother were erased by the kindness of meditation and the passage of time. Chunks of old patterning fell away. The events that supported my becoming no one, and brought me to a simple peace within, cannot really be said to be the cause of anything at all. Yet I am grateful for each of them because the journey was rarely a bore, and the energy in my body and my life was gentle on the whole. I asked it once, when it had awakened me in the middle of the night, “Is this really kundalini? I had thought it would be so difficult. A voice spoke out in the darkness:“This is really kundalini, we’re just taking it easy on you.”
So now I have told you what I am about, instead of showing you as every good writer is advised to do. If you simply believe my story is real it cannot awaken you. If you understand it as a dream, your own dream may unravel itself so that this one that we are can become more free. You will not wake up in the same way I did, or anyone else has. Our journeys are as unique as our faces. But at the core there is only one awakening, and it is available to all the many diverse variations of humans.