embracing otherness, embracing myself

Let’s not be freaked out by our bountiful nothingness.
It’s more a reality than the ones our selves have created.
Imagine what kind of existence we can have if we honor inevitable death of self,
appreciate the privilege of life
and marvel at what comes next.
Simple awareness is where it begins.

- Thandie Newton

 

 

Transcript:

Embracing otherness. When I first heard this theme, I thought, well, embracing otherness is embracing myself. And the journey to that place of understanding and acceptance has been an interesting one for me, and it’s given me an insight into the whole notion of self, which I think is worth sharing with you today.

We each have a self, but I don’t think that we’re born with one. You know how newborn babies – they’re not separate? Well that fundamental sense of oneness is lost on us very quickly. It’s like that initial stage is over — oneness: infancy, unformed, primitive. It’s no longer valid or real. What is real is separateness, and at some point in early babyhood, the idea of self starts to form. Our little portion of oneness is given a name, is told all kinds of things about itself, and these details, opinions and ideas become facts, which go towards building ourselves, our identity. And that self becomes the vehicle for navigating our social world. But the self is a projection based on other people’s projections. Is it who we really are? Or who we really want to be, or should be?

So this whole interaction with self and identity was a very difficult one for me growing up. The self that I attempted to take out into the world was rejected over and over again. And my panic at not having a self that fit, and the confusion that came from my self being rejected, created anxiety, shame and hopelessness, which kind of defined me for a long time. But in retrospect, the destruction of my self was so repetitive that I started to see a pattern. The self changed, got affected, broken, destroyed, but another one would evolve — sometimes stronger, sometimes hateful, sometimes not wanting to be there at all. The self was not constant. And how many times would my self have to die before I realised that it was never alive in the first place?

I grew up on the coast of England in the ’70s. My dad is white from Cornwall, and my mom is black from Zimbabwe. Even the idea of us as a family was challenging to most people. But nature had its wicked way, and brown babies were born. But from about the age of five, I was aware that I didn’t fit. I was the black atheist kid in the all-white Catholic school run by nuns. I was an anomaly, and my self was rooting around for definition and trying to plug in. Because the self likes to fit, to see itself replicated, to belong. That confirms its existence and its importance. And it is important. It has an extremely important function. Without it, we literally can’t interface with others. We can’t hatch plans and climb that stairway of popularity, of success. But my skin color wasn’t right. My hair wasn’t right. My history wasn’t right. My self became defined by otherness, which meant that, in that social world, I didn’t really exist. And I was “other” before being anything else — even before being a girl. I was a noticeable nobody.
Another world was opening up around this time: performance and dancing. That nagging dread of self-hood didn’t exist when I was dancing. I’d literally lose myself. And I was a really good dancer. I would put all my emotional expression into my dancing. I could be in the movement in a way that I wasn’t able to be in my real life, in myself.

And at 16, I stumbled across another opportunity, and I earned my first acting role in a film. I can hardly find the words to describe the peace I felt when I was acting. My dysfunctional self could actually plug in to another self, not my own, and it felt so good. It was the first time that I existed inside a fully-functioning self — one that I controlled, that I steered, that I gave life to. But the shooting day would end, and I’d return to my gnarly, awkward self.

By 19, I was a fully-fledged movie actor, but still searching for definition. I applied to read anthropology at university. Dr. Phyllis Lee gave me my interview, and she asked me, “How would you define race?” Well, I thought I had the answer to that one, and I said, “Skin colour.” “So biology, genetics?” she said. “Because, Thandie, that’s not accurate. Because there’s actually more genetic difference between a black Kenyan and a black Ugandan than there is between a black Kenyan and, say, a white Norwegian. Because we all stem from Africa. So in Africa, there’s been more time to create genetic diversity.” In other words, race has no basis in biological or scientific fact. On the one hand, result. Right? On the other hand, my definition of self just lost a huge chunk of its credibility. But what was credible, what is biological and scientific fact, is that we all stem from Africa — in fact, from a woman called Mitochondrial Eve who lived 160,000 years ago. And race is an illegitimate concept which our selves have created based on fear and ignorance.

Strangely, these revelations didn’t cure my low self-esteem, that feeling of otherness. My desire to disappear was still very powerful. I had a degree from Cambridge; I had a thriving career, but my self was a car crash, and I wound up with bulimia and on a therapist’s couch. And of course I did. I still believed my self was all I was. I still valued self-worth above all other worth, and what was there to suggest otherwise? We’ve created entire value systems and a physical reality to support the worth of self. Look at the industry for self-image and the jobs it creates, the revenue it turns over. We’d be right in assuming that the self is an actual living thing. But it’s not. It’s a projection which our clever brains create in order to cheat ourselves from the reality of death.

But there is something that can give the self ultimate and infinite connection — and that thing is oneness, our essence. The self’s struggle for authenticity and definition will never end unless it’s connected to its creator — to you and to me. And that can happen with awareness — awareness of the reality of oneness and the projection of self-hood. For a start, we can think about all the times when we do lose ourselves. It happens when I dance, when I’m acting. I’m earthed in my essence, and my self is suspended. In those moments, I’m connected to everything — the ground, the air, the sounds, the energy from the audience. All my senses are alert and alive in much the same way as an infant might feel — that feeling of oneness.

And when I’m acting a role, I inhabit another self, and I give it life for awhile, because when the self is suspended so is divisiveness and judgment. And I’ve played everything from a vengeful ghost in the time of slavery to Secretary of State in 2004. And no matter how other these selves might be, they’re all related in me. And I honestly believe the key to my success as an actor and my progress as a person has been the very lack of self that used to make me feel so anxious and insecure. I always wondered why I could feel others’ pain so deeply, why I could recognise the somebody in the nobody. It’s because I didn’t have a self to get in the way. I thought I lacked substance, and the fact that I could feel others’ meant that I had nothing of myself to feel. The thing that was a source of shame was actually a source of enlightenment.

And when I realised and really understood that my self is a projection and that it has a function, a funny thing happened. I stopped giving it so much authority. I give it its due. I take it to therapy. I’ve become very familiar with its dysfunctional behaviour. But I’m not ashamed of my self. In fact, I respect my self and its function. And over time and with practice, I’ve tried to live more and more from my essence. And if you can do that, incredible things happen.

I was in Congo in February, dancing and celebrating with women who’ve survived the destruction of their selves in literally unthinkable ways — destroyed because other brutalized, psychopathic selves all over that beautiful land are fueling our selves’ addiction to iPods, Pads, and bling, which further disconnect ourselves from ever feeling their pain, their suffering, their death. Because, hey, if we’re all living in ourselves and mistaking it for life, then we’re devaluing and desensitizing life. And in that disconnected state, yeah, we can build factory farms with no windows, destroy marine life and use rape as a weapon of war. So here’s a note to self: The cracks have started to show in our constructed world, and oceans will continue to surge through the cracks, and oil and blood, rivers of it.

Crucially, we haven’t been figuring out how to live in oneness with the Earth and every other living thing. We’ve just been insanely trying to figure out how to live with each other — billions of each other. Only we’re not living with each other; our crazy selves are living with each other and perpetuating an epidemic of disconnection.

Let’s live with each other and take it a breath at a time. If we can get under that heavy self, light a torch of awareness, and find our essence, our connection to the infinite and every other living thing. We knew it from the day we were born. Let’s not be freaked out by our bountiful nothingness. It’s more a reality than the ones our selves have created. Imagine what kind of existence we can have if we honor inevitable death of self, appreciate the privilege of life and marvel at what comes next. Simple awareness is where it begins.

Thank you for listening.

- Thandie Newton


Source: TED.com


 

 

cracking open

This is a guest post written by my friend Amrita Skye Blaine. It was first posted, in part, on her blog The Heart of the Matter. I’m sure most readers will find themselves nodding in recognition at her personal description of her path from belief in the myth of separation (from the holy Whole), to the understanding of how we perpetuate this myth via our unexamined thoughts, to the full-blown and embodied apperception of the impossibility of separation.

Which is where the story of our life really begins, in Truth.

 -

Cracking Open - image credit http://uncoverawareness.wordpress.com/

 

When we are born, we are wide open; innocent and vulnerable, we know nothing, and trust everything. From that moment forward, we develop a shell of protection. This may occur quickly if our infancy is traumatic, or incrementally if we are raised in a nurturing and safe environment. But the shell develops, either way—in response to being denied, physically hurt or neglected, snapped at, not understood, or any number of other ways we are shaken into learning that we are separate. Our parents teach us this too, in hundreds of tiny ways. I cannot speak for all countries, but in the western cultures, we do not escape the experience of separation.

We cling to our shell because it is familiar. It is how we have learned to move in the world, based on decisions we made at a very early age. I learned that I needed to protect myself from my older brother’s wrath, and then expanded that world view to include all men. I understood that if I didn’t abide by my mother’s rules, she psychically withdrew her love. My heart contracted; it no longer felt safe or comfortable to remain open.

Later in life, some of us are drawn to unlearning this sense of separation that we have accumulated. This can occur abruptly, but that is rare. For me, it has taken a long time. Perhaps this process begins on our own, but it is more likely that we find a teacher, someone who can point both by the example of their presence, and their teachings, to the deeper truth of who and what we are.

Finally, after many decades, and with the pointers of more than one teacher, a dear and thoughtful husband, and friends, I learned to see the ways that I cut myself off, made myself separate. Later, I saw how believing my thoughts framed my world, and the old patterns and conditioning fell away more quickly. This leaves a softer and more vulnerable heart; this is the process of cracking open. Just like the baby chicken who grows until its shell is so unbearably tight that in desperation it flails and pecks it until it breaks, we too must crack open the shell of our own creation. After the first crack, when a touch of light pours in and we taste a new way, the unlearning may be able to be slowed, but it will not be stopped. We crack open to the truth and to love until we see that they are not two. We were never separate—never were, never can be.

- Amrita Skye Blaine


 The Heart of the Matter

Amrita’s unedited text concluded with a quote from yours truly -
something I’d written in a comment on my last post
imperishable, unnameable, the unknowing

“It is exactly so: the shape of the heart is changed. And there is no way back.”
Thank you dear Amrita.


Image source


imperishable, unnameable, the unknowing

words from my treasured teacher 4

 

J Krishnamurti

 

On July 20, 1961, Krishnamurti wrote an extraordinary account in his journal of the ineffable and unknowable as It was experienced through his body-mind. He struggles to find the appropriate words … the outpouring is, to my mind, pure poetry:

The room became full with that benediction. Now what followed is almost impossible to put down into words; words are such dead things, with definite set meaning and what took place was beyond all words and description. It was the centre of all creation; it was a purifying seriousness that cleansed the brain of every thought and feeling; its seriousness was as lightning which destroys and burns up; the profundity of it was not measurable, it was there immovable, impenetrable, a solidity that was light as the heavens. It was in the eyes, in the breath. It was in the eyes and the eyes could see. The eyes that saw, that looked were wholly different from the eyes of the organ and yet they were the same eyes. There was only seeing, the eyes that saw beyond time-space. There was impenetrable dignity and a peace that was the essence of all movement, action. No virtue touched it for it was beyond all virtue and the sanctions of man. There was love that was utterly perishable and so it had the delicacy of all new things, vulnerable, destructible and yet it was beyond all this. It was there imperishable, unnameable, the unknowing. No thought could ever penetrate it; no action could touch it. It was “pure”, untouched and so ever dyingly beautiful.

All this seemed to affect the brain; it was not as it was before. (Thought is such a trivial thing, necessary but trivial.) Because of it, relationship seems to have changed. As a terrific storm, a destructive earthquake gives a new course to the rivers, changes the landscape, digs deep into the earth, so it has levelled the contours of thought, changed the shape of the heart.

- J Krishnamurti,  Krishnamurti’s Notebook

It was coming upon such clearly authentic writings about the inescapable presence of the Unknowable that led me to Brockwood Park, the school Krishnamurti founded in Hampshire, England. I was a teacher and I found my perfect niche in this unbelievably rich and stimulating environment, where students are guided towards both academic excellence in their studies and deep inquiry into the workings of their thinking.

I revisit these words decades later with delight, and with inexpressible gratitude I can say, “Yes. It is exactly so: the shape of the heart is changed. And there is no way back.”


Other posts featuring Krishnamurti’s writing:

try it, do it

keep far away

words from my treasured teacher 1


Find a comprehensive selection of Krishnamurti’s books at the Krishnamurti Foundation Trust website.


 

the one outshining light

Sufi dancer; Light Outshining

 

‘I’ and ‘you’ are but the lattices,
in the niches of a lamp,
through which the One Light shines.

‘I’ and ‘you’ are the veil
between heaven and earth;
lift this veil and you will see
no longer the bonds of sects and creeds.

When ‘I’ and ‘you’ do not exist,
what is mosque, what is synagogue?
What is the Temple of Fire?

- Mahmud Shabistari

 


Mahmud Shabistari was one of Sufi’s greatest poets of the 14th Century. Stressing the One Light that exists at the heart of all religious traditions, his work is one of the clearest and most concise guides to the inner meaning of Sufism, and offers a stunningly direct exposition of Sufi mystical thought in poetic form.
–  Poet Seers


In this new video Rupert Spira explains with precision and clarity how this unlit light is not external to ourselves, but the self-luminous Knowingness of everything we perceive. Never lit because never not-lit; never to be found because never-lost; never to be escaped because it is the very essence of our Being.


The video is from Rupert Spira’s Facebook page; you can also find it at his website.
The poem by Mahmud Shabistari, and the stunning image, are from Dean Keller at one of my favourite blogs:
The Beauty we Love


this shines on regardless

 

This shines on

whether I’m in bitch mode or radiating benevolence

whether I’m depressed or enjoying equanimity

whether I’m achingly weary or frolicking tirelessly.

 

This shines on

whether my bookshelves are stacked with scriptures, chick-lit, crime or porn

whether my shoes are microfiber or leather, my coat cotton or mink

whether my fridge is piously vegan or robustly carnivore.

 

This shines on

whether my philosophical tendencies veer towards the scientific and secular

or the mystical and metaphysical

whether I’m a closet optimist disguised as a cynic

or a knee-jerk nay-sayer, jus sayin

 

Don’t be fooled. This shines on

- pristine, incorruptible –

regardless.

 

This shines on

whether you agree with me as you scan these words

or jump to defend your own view

whether you accept me as a flicker of the vast Light we are

or turn your back on our inextricable intimacy.

 

This shines on

and in, and from, and through, every perception,

every experience of every face and fact of World

known by human and non-human Knowingness

(and I exclude nothing, no thing in creation

from that capacity for Knowingness).

 

This shines on.

The sages call it Reality, but beware: it’s not a thing, an object

or even a state. To name it is to turn from it, but it could care less.

It shines on regardless.

 

- miriam louisa


To be continued: The implications…


when God comes in your house

Nothing’s left but what is looking,
yet everything you see is you.

Image source - http://favim.com/image/4582/

 

The Invitation

When God comes in your house
it is only by your invitation,
but even your invitation is God’s,
for she has always been
landlady and tenant,
windows and walls,
the fire in your hearth
and the cold wind blowing at your door.

At first, her visits seem so welcome.
She brings tea and cookies and loves you
so sweetly inside your own heart.
You keep inviting her back
by your prayers and meditations,
imagining you’ve found the one you always wanted
who will hold you on her endless lap
and take away your pain forever.

But pretty soon, she starts arriving
unexpectedly, at odd hours of the day and night,
and every time she comes,
she takes something away–
a pretty picture here, a bookcase there,
maybe even some trash
you are happy to be rid of
in your basement.

But at some point, it occurs to you
she intends to move in completely.
And now the mind starts backing up:
“Perhaps you could come back another day,
after I’ve worked on my house,
after I’ve bought nicer furniture,
after I’ve finished my fight with evil,
after I’ve planted a peace garden.”

But you must know
that if you invite God in,
sooner or later she will set up house,
and when she does, beware;
for she tosses out every single thing
she does not need, which,
in the case of the personality,
is every single thing you thought you were.

Every thought and cherished belief
she just throws out on the garbage heap;
and that might be fine if she replaced them,
but she never replaces those sacred thoughts;
she utterly destroys them. She strips the coverings
off the walls, and peels the paper from the window glass,
opens the door to invite in the wind,
and every creature you wanted kept out.

Sometimes she cleans your house gently,
dismantling it room by room.
But often, she just comes in with a torch,
and you feel in your gut the fire burn
in the center of your separate comfort,
and you watch the contents of your house
melt and turn to ash,
and the roof blow off.

And just when you think
there is nothing more that she could take,
she opens the ground beneath
the barely intact shell of your house,
and all the levels of your being
fall into the space that has no name;
and you are left alone in all the world,
without a map, without a path, without a point of view.

And you know you are creator of your dreams,
your dreams of mountains and rivers,
calm seas and storm clouds,
crashes of lightning and spacecraft,
beautiful babies asleep at the breast,
joyful dancing and puppies at play,
Spring’s new blossoms,
and the threat of Winter’s war.

And at this point,
what you are inside your house
is simply What is looking out.
Nothing’s left but what is looking,
yet everything you see is you.
Now your life turns inside out.
Your body is the world of being
looking out of Just What Is.

And strange as it seems
to the mind of your memory,
you enjoy each dance of yourself,
even the pains you hoped to be rid of,
you experience fully without regret.
For everywhere your eye may look,
all it sees is infinite love
displaying itself in creation.

And just to be completely honest,
there are times you might be tempted
to rebuild your house of concepts,
for the mind just loves to think;
but the fire of Truth resides within you,
where it always lived before you knew,
and it keeps revealing moment to moment
what is false and what is true.

So what can be said about what happens
when God takes over her house?
She laughs and simply sips her tea,
washes her dishes and sleeps when it’s time,
then goes to find another house
where there has been an invitation,
an invitation to come in
from the deep, deep love of Herself.

© Dorothy Hunt, Only This!


Dorothy Hunt is the founder of the San Francisco Center for Meditation and Psychotherapy, and serves as Spiritual Director and President of Moon Mountain Sangha, Inc., a California non-profit religious corporation. Dorothy currently offers meditation and satsang gatherings, weekend intensives and retreats, and also sees individuals for both psychotherapy and dokusan (private meetings with a spiritual teacher.) Her teaching is centered in the San Francisco Bay Area, but is offered elsewhere by invitation.
WEBSITE


the realisation of radiance

A luminous piece today written and illustrated by Chameli Ardagh


This Unlit Light: Painting by Chameli Ardagh - The Queen of Trust

You are the light of awareness
embodied in time and space.

Embodied awareness brings forth
embodied consciousness,
which is radiant light.

Bring your attention to the field of luminous awareness
that illuminates your experience right now.
Without this clear light of awareness
you would be without experience.

You cannot think or imagine your way
to this natural luminosity, although it
illuminates your thoughts and memories
and everything else in your experience,
as it is also illuminating itself.

Light illuminates light.

The primordial Shakti,
the Light of Manifestation,
is this self arising luminosity which permeates:

1~ the object of your awareness
2~ the one who is aware,
3~ and awareness itself.

Becoming aware of awareness
within yourself and others is
Sri Vidya, the realization of radiance.

In your embodiment practice you unclench
the fixation onto the appearances in the mind.

By recognizing and relaxing the automatic
mental and physical and emotional
reactivity towards your experiences,
the energetic knots in your body softens
and more Prana Shakti (breath and life force)
is allowed to flow through.
You open as a translucent and continuously unfolding
embodiment of luminous awareness

Lead me from opacity to clarity.
Lead me from the complicated to the simple.
Lead me from the obscure to the obvious.

Lead me from confrontation to wide openness.
Lead me to the place I never left,
Where there is peace, and peace.

- Upanishads


Practice – the Realization of Radiance

Rest in an open focus of the radiant field of awareness,
hold that which you are experiencing
within the awareness field of light.

Experience the object that the
light of your awareness is illuminating,
and the field of illumination both at the same time.

Thinking and feeling, sensation and memory,
fantasy and desire are all of luminous nature
as is your own awareness.


Art (The Queen of Trust) and words by Chameli Ardagh at Awakening Women


 Also from Chameli Ardagh:

who moves you?