the cathedral of emptiness


saying ‘yes’ to your heart’s longing for silence

requires an unapologetic ‘no’ to the world

with its ceaseless need to script your story.


The world will dissect your motives, analyze your actions, categorize your traumas;

it will never accept your silence.

Silence is the word-wielding world’s worst enemy; you may well be spurned,

even by those who claim affection for you.


But your heart, quivering with quiet,

will deliver you into the cathedral of emptiness –

where the “roar on the other side of silence”

– the holy nameless name –

sounds existence into shape and form.

– miriam louisa

an invitation to extreme creativity

If creativity is radical discontinuity in a pattern of thought, then going on retreat is an invitation to extreme creativity.

Retreat is radical discontinuity in a pattern of being.

It’s not so much a movement towards anything, although it might it might involve wandering in unknown places or bunkering down in a metaphoric cave.  It’s more of a movement away from the known life with all its impositions, distractions and habitude.

As the disappearing Dharma teacher said – it’s a total commitment to awakening.  Not just in little glimpses, but in rock solid steadiness.

You will know when you’re ready and you must go.  There won’t be a second thought.  You won’t be driven by your mind or even your heart and certainly not by your feelings for they are the most fickle of all.

You’ll be driven by Grace, by a sweet and unquestionable imperative that will shock you and your N & D.  Resisting the call is possible but the consequences to health and sanity are dire.

When the invitation comes, grab it, beloved.  Park your procrastination into long-term storage and walk, empty, into the arms of Life.


The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~ Mary Oliver


everything you ever wanted is right here

Longtime readers of this little blog are familiar with my addiction to retreat.  Today I’ve been inspired by a blog post by self-confessed “Inner-revolutionary, truth-teller, writer, thinker, and dreamer” Sandra Pawula, about a disappearing Dharma teacher.  He’s off on retreat in the great tradition of super-yogi Milarepa, “wandering from place to place, staying in remote caves and sacred sites with no plans or fixed agenda, just an unswerving commitment to the path of awakening.”  He’s off.  No one knows where to or for how long.  Here are some gems from his parting letter.

All that we are looking for in life — all the happiness, contentment, and peace of mind — is right here in the present moment. Our very own awareness is itself fundamentally pure and good. The only problem is that we get so caught up in the ups and downs of life that we don’t take the time to pause and notice what we already have.

Don’t forget to make space in your life to recognize the richness of your basic nature, to see the purity of your being and let its innate qualities of love, compassion, and wisdom naturally emerge. Nurture this recognition as you would a small seedling. Allow it to grow and flourish.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, pause from time to time and relax your mind. You don’t have to change anything about your experience. You can let thoughts and feelings come and go freely, and leave your senses wide open. Make friends with your experience and see if you can notice the spacious awareness that is with you all the time. Everything you ever wanted is right here in this present moment of awareness.

~ Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche


silver singing silence

It’s three weeks since we ended six weeks of Noble Silence and still this brain struggles to emerge, to re-enter the great noise called World. I confess it willingly – I am utterly addicted to this silver singing silence, this heavenly quiet mind.

Retreat is such a blessed gift to oneself and the world. Radical withdrawal from mental habitude, a halt in the rut-laying wheels of thought and, perhaps, a fresh unfettered flow of neuronal activity – new insights, deeper, vaster, clearer perception, creative ecstasy. A five-star spa treatment for the mind.

I speak personally; I’m aware that for some retreatants keeping silent is as much fun as having teeth drilled, and the possibility of sinking into its embrace seems remote. I say “seems” for this isn’t an insurmountable obstacle. It’s just one that requires perseverance and patience – and healthy doses of kindness towards oneself. A mind that has run amok for decades will never respond meekly to quietude! (She who writes has intimate knowledge of this!)

Silver singing silence … so sweet. Beyond bliss. Why do I write “silver”? Because there’s a sense that the background of silent Awareness is a glistening sparkling silvery shower of water – clumsy words these, for what I’m trying to describe is not an experience. It arises in the absence of an experiencer. In the same way “singing” is a word that comes up in an attempt to express the sense that a host of angelic voices are raised in an endless “Ah!” of praise, a chorus that resounds within and without the energy field called body. Why aren’t we told that this beyond-bliss lies on the other side of the frequency barrier called thought? Hmmmm. Actually, sages and saints have gone on record since time immemorial reporting such states. But we seek experiences and so remain trapped in the world of thought.


I met a Lama and made a friend. I confessed to him, poured out the secrets of my hidden inner life. He listened kindly. He knew. He never tried to adjust or re-word, but only to sharpen, clarify and deepen my understanding. He gave me an odd practice: “Blow the conch!” Release timidity and shyness, bellow the primordial Truth!

Have you ever tried to get sound out of a massive Tibetan conch? Day after day you huff and puff with nothing to show for it but your own hot air and giddy hyperventilation. Then, when you’ve exhausted all your clever lip-tricks and breath techniques, you just sit with the darned thing. You’re sure you’ll never get a sound out of it; you just breathe your OM and give in.

It was at that point when a rogue thought came up: What if I had to use this thing to save my life? What if it was my only tool of communication with the world? Goosebumps. Hair stood on end.

I blew. It boomed.

The shock of it!

And so I speak to save my life. I write these things on my little blog for the sake of Life, for the immense and incomprehensible Presence that powers the ‘I’ in all beings. I speak because I must, because this silver singing silence demands it.


– miriam louisa


oh, how Light we are!

Moments of no consequence

Seem to make a lot of sense;

Like the gentle pitter patter

Of the things that do not matter

As I sit alone and stare;

Neither here and neither there.

~ Michael Leunig


Image source – Michael Leunig’s website

Today I begin a six-week silent retreat at Wangapeka
in the autumn-tinted mountains near Nelson.
I take you all with me, and oh, how Light we are!

May your days be drenched with delight.


Aotearoa New Zealand

life living life

Downunder with Unmani

Now this is great good news for Antipodeans addicted to nondual awareness: one very wideawake woman is currently visiting us in Australia.  Unmani is holding meetings in Byron Bay, NSW, and there will be a three-day retreat in December.  The theme is “Not-Knowing.”  Have a look at Umnani’s website for more info about her approach, her work, and the happenings downunder.

Recognising who You are is the end of overlooking that which has never been anywhere but right here. The end of pretending to know or trying to know. This is absolute Not-Knowing. Forever falling in absolute insecurity. This is what I am. I am what You are. Life itself.

Unmani points to the end of the spiritual search. Actually finding what you have been looking for. Finding that it has never been anywhere but right here. Realising the paradox of Life.

source:  Unmani’s website

It’s very easy to feel geographically remote when one lives downunder, especially in regional areas where getting to any major cultural center involves a very long drive.  And it’s not often that we receive visits from anyone on the wideawake women list – or the blogamigos list either.  Gratitude to Unmani for dropping by with her direct and powerful message.