how extraordinary! how beautiful!

Please tell me this: how does it profit one to be convinced that everything one takes to be true and real – beliefs, body, belongings – is so, when at the end it all “becomes transparent”? How can we heedlessly march into that Great Transparency without unshakeable awareness of the pure Clear Light? How can we deprive ourselves of the extraordinary beauty it unveils?

Pir Elias Amidon reflects on these questions in the light of his own experience. How beautiful!

The Clear Light and the beauty of the world - Pir Elias Amidon


At the moment of our death, when the messages of our senses cease and the contents of our mind become transparent, The Tibetan Book of the Dead offers this instruction:

Remember the Clear Light, the pure Clear Light from which everything in the universe comes, to which everything in the universe returns; the original nature of your own mind….
Let go into the Clear Light, trust it, merge with it.
It is your own true nature, it is home.

When I first read that passage as a young man I was deeply moved and reassured — it assured me that the confusion and loneliness I felt as a twenty-two year-old would vanish one day in that great, final homecoming. I didn’t understand what this “Clear Light” was, but it didn’t matter — the certainty of the voice in the Book of the Dead comforted me. The Clear Light would come.

And meanwhile, I would just have to make the best of it. So in the years that followed — my twenties and thirties — I kept attempting to find or build some kind of substitute, metaphorical home in which I could belong during my exile here on earth.

I realize now that I had succumbed to the old polarity of my species: the sacred hereafter and the profane here, heaven and earth, light and dark. As far as I can understand it, this polarity has its genesis in our need to identify ourselves as individual beings separate from the other beings and objects of the world: me in here and all the rest out there. The dominance of the “me in here” sets up the added polarity of my suffering and incompleteness now versus the promise of redemption and homecoming in the future.

Of course, these kinds of polarities are understandable — we are two-legged organisms walking about, seemingly disconnected from the earth and sky, and anxious about avoiding any dangers that might be lurking on our path. It appears we are separate beings.

It took me a few decades of spiritual practice and inquiry — not to mention the normal sufferings life provides — to realize that the nature of reality only appears to be split into these dualities. As one of my teachers, Murshida Sitara Brutnell, once cryptically said, “There is no other.” This whole show is one magnificent Happening, one awesome Brilliance reflected in the infinite prisms of possibility. Which means that we — you and I right now, every humming atom of us, every thought and feeling, every movement — are inextricably part of this blossoming of spontaneous light.

Sufis call this wahdat-al-wujud, the Oneness of Existence. Nothing stands outside of its Oneness and Suchness — there is no other. The multiplicity of the phenomenal world is sometimes imaged by Sufis as a veil over the Absolute, though the veil and the Absolute are not seen as two different things, rather “the veil is the external epiphany of the Absolute.” Or, as the 14th century Persian Sufi Mahmud Shabastari wrote, “The whole world of Being is the beams of the Absolute Light. The Absolute remains hidden because it is so clearly manifest.”

Which brings us back to the Tibetan notion of the Clear Light, surely the same as Shabastari’s “Absolute Light.” The Clear Light is not, as I had first thought, something waiting out there to welcome me when I die. It is present now, right here, both as perceptible as all the apparent things and thoughts and feelings of this world, and as imperceptible, invisible, and transparent as the awareness in which these words appear to us right now. The “light” of awareness, the Clear Light, “the original nature of your own mind,” all indicate this same “light” that can’t be seen or located, though it is unmistakably, spontaneously present. “God’s Light is in the heavens and the earth,” says the Bible and the Quran. And the Quran adds, “whichever way you turn, there is its presence.”

When I die I imagine that one of my last feelings will be, “How beautiful!” I won’t be referring to the beauty of where I’m going (I have no idea about that), but how beautiful is where I’ve been, this astonishing earth, sky, and cosmos, this astonishing body and its capacity to know and love. As the mystic-philosopher Francois Cheng remarked, “The universe is not obliged to be beautiful, and yet it is beautiful.” How extraordinary!

The mystery of the Clear Light and the mystery of the beauty of the universe have become the central contemplations of my life. “Beauty” (I’m fond of repeating these words of Ibn ‘Arabi) “is the welcoming openness of the truth toward us.” Somehow the “truth” of the unchanging Clear Light is revealed by ever-changing beauty. “God is beautiful and loves beauty,” a hadith tells us. Spontaneous, ephemeral beauty — the beauty of a song, a kiss, a passing cloud, a glint of sunlight — each one a momentary revelation of the unborn Clear Light, our home.

– Pir Elias Amidon

Text and image sourced from The Open Path

The Tibetan Book of the Dead


trust the vast nobody lying behind you

This Unlit Light - Poetry by Kieran Patrick Riordan


The Teacher was asked repeatedly,
‘What is it to live in Awareness?’

Finally, reluctantly she spoke,
For she observed,
Few were willing
To relinquish their cherishing
Of the conditions for suffering.

With a sigh she began.

“Project not Outwardly

Contract not Inwardly

Hold onto nothing

In between.”

How will we speak to others? One asked.

“Back not your opinions,

Let silence move your heart to speak.”

What will I do with my life? Enquired another.

“Rely not on this character,

Trust the vast nobody lying behind you.”

Must my uniqueness die? Asked the cook.

“Be entertained by your ideas,

Let stillness light your way.”

She asked for tea and remained silent for another whole year.

(Excerpt from Bhutan, 2216….)

– Kieran Patrick Riordan


Posted by Kieran on Facebook



ode to the great mother

A poem for Mothers’ Day.


Goddess Kali - Divine Mother


by Han Marie Stiekema

I’ve had three teachers
My Indian Guru
Life and the Great Mother
The first transmitted me the Light
Through life I was painfully confronted with myself
While the Great Mother took everything I gained

How wonderful were those ten years of bliss
Roaming around like a child
Innocent, carefree and foolish
The world being paradise once again
Wandering around though never leaving Home
Everything continuously smiling at me

How painful therefore being pulled back
In what was forgotten for a long time
That other part of me: the common self
Unaware of the work still to be done
I tried to survive in the world
Suffering setback after setback

As I saw only “winners” all over the place
Everything was constantly taken from me
First my family, then my home, land and work
Once again my children, then success and a future
My ability to function, my credibility, my money
And finally my health and some friends

Never ending confrontations with myself
With everything rejected, denied and suppressed
Drove me crazy, brought me to utter despair
My Self-identity once so gloriously present
Broken to pieces, covered with a layer of mud
Not knowing where life would lead me

How lucky I eventually was
After I thought it was all behind me that
Life confronted me with the greatest crisis ever
Which put me with my back against the wall
In utter helplessness
I surrendered to the Unknown

Without samsara no purification
No liberation from identification either
On the Path suffering appears to be crucial
Peeling off the layers hiding the pearl
Bringing you to the Ultimate Reality
Emptiness Itself

While you are striving for Enlightenment
I have come from It
Identification with the goal prevents you from enjoying
As you climb the mountain with much effort
I met you walking down the road
In your ambition you didn’t even see Me

There is Nothing to achieve
Only relaxing in What You Are Already
To open yourself like a flower in the morning sun
Trusting the wondrous “laws of the Universe”
Getting in touch with the Space in and around you
Restoring the Wholeness of Life

Beyond Enlightenment and Death
The Real Treasure resides
It is the Womb, the Abyss of the universe
How compassionate She was to me
Breaking me down until Nothing was left
Hence I called Her the Great Mother

At the end of suffering the Origin appears
It is the meaning of all destruction and loss
Rather than trying to “save all beings”
You should let it happen
In order to discover what is Behind
To die and being reborn is where IT is all about

Your burn out is a rebirth
This is the meaning of a culture that is dying
Emptiness doesn’t tolerate too much accumulation
Both inner and outer things will be broken down
It is the goodness of the Mother to take
All ignorance, self-centeredness and ugliness back

How dear are all those to me who suffer
They are Mother’s chosen ones
How pitiful on the other hand the many who are
Trying to escape missing the wondrous gifts of samsara
On the other hand surrender to the Mother
In Her Vacuum the Light is born

If you think you have achieved you missed
Her NonReality is beyond all realization
Praise the miraculous Womb of the universe
And your rebirth will be ever lasting
And me? Being Nothing I am determined by everything
She set me free in order to become a prisoner

How poor my compassion when it really matters
Mainly concerned with preconditions
I constantly fail to respond when it is needed
Deep regret about so much lost chances
I return to the Mother who takes the sadness from me
Reminding me of my place in Her plan

The key paradox is this
Only by giving yourself up you will be saved
It is the Mother’s invitation
Her compassion wants to bring you back Home
She has been waiting for you for so many kalpas
So don’t disappoint Her

May all those who have heard the call
Whose passion is to restore the Wholeness of Life
Messengers from the ten directions
Come together practicing Unity in diversity
In this most desperate of times
Leading mankind to its Original Heritage

~ Han Marie Stiekema


Poem source:
Image source: “On the Narrow(er) Ridge” – where you can read more about the Hindu Goddess Kali (pictured).

are you so sure you are not awake?

Enza Vita writes with refreshingly ruthless clarity on the myth of “awakening” as an experience, a state or some kind of esoteric attainment which will guarantee unshakeable bliss and the end of all one’s undesirable failings and foibles . . .


“I know I am still not awake, and I have a tremendous longing to be free.”


Are you so sure you are not awake?  Are you sure you understand what “awake” is?
Why do you think that you are not awake?  What is this I that is in this unenlightened condition?

All questions contain and perpetuate certain assumptions that we see as the boundaries in life.  While thinking that you are not “awake,” you are believing that you are somehow lacking something.  That is what is played over and over again in your mind, and it causes you great suffering.  Do not fall into that trap!  Go to the root.  What is it that is aware of this statement?  Realize what is at the root of that experience of not being awake and it will free you from the assumed limitations.

You are already free; however, this is a freedom that has never known bondage and so cannot even be called freedom.  This freedom doesn’t come from some action to attain it, but from the realizing of a freedom that has never been constrained.  As the seeker you feel bondage because of your belief in a separate I, a separate ego, and this ego imagines that this freedom means a freedom to do whatever it wants.

Real freedom is liberation from the bondage of the ego.  When the concept of an I goes, the question of freedom is resolved.  Then you are free to be in harmony with what is, as it is.

You already are this freedom pervading everything and everywhere.  All boundaries and limitations are in your imagination only.  Like the space in a room, you are already free.  Just like the four walls cannot contain the space within it, so the body-mind cannot contain awareness unless awareness is imagining itself imprisoned.

You see clouds in the sky, and they may pass in front of the sun, but does this change the nature of the sun?  Perhaps the clouds are signaling a coming thunderstorm, but does a storm change the nature of the sun?  Your thoughts and feelings are like these clouds.  They sometimes seem to obscure the light of your inner self, but they do not change it.  First see what you are.  Understand your true nature.  Then you see that what dances in front of you does not affect you at all.  Focus on that sunlight, and not on the clouds!


Enza Vita
Source: Enza Vita’s Newsletter.  Sign up for it at – where you’ll also find information about her new book “Always Already Free”.

an innocent, dry-eyed, whole-hearted presence

[Although this little piece was written a month ago, circumstances around internet access have delayed its posting.  I’m three weeks late, but how relevant is time when it comes to love?]

Last month, on January 29, my mother Miriam would have celebrated her 100th birthday.

Looking back I find something quite remarkable:  I don’t EVER remember seeing her cry. *

I remember asking her about this; wondering if she’d intentionally decided to never again cry, as some do who have seen more than their fair share of life’s hard knocks.  She said that on the death of her little sister, Bessie, her grief was so enormous she thought it would kill her, but that by some kind of Grace she’d discovered a way of shifting the weight of her personal sorrow.  She would have hardly been in her teens at the time.

Her simple secret was to stop and look for something unexpectedly good about the apparently tragic, sad or crazy situation life was dishing up.  It was years before I understood the value of this – at first I saw it as an evasion of reality, a Pollyanna prescription, mere ‘positive thinking’.  During my years as a card-carrying member of the Thought Police I accused her of simply replacing one thought with another.  She’d never waste her energy in argument though; she seemed to quietly trust that eventually I’d come to understand the dynamics of thinking and figure it out for myself.  Compassion!

And I did.  I came to understand that thinking is always dual – polarized – and that you can’t simply turn a negative one into a positive one to any effect.  Pitting thought against thought is not an effective remedy for the relief of suffering.  Mum knew better than that.  She had found out for herself, however, that if you look for the opposite of the ‘bad’ in the news – playing a kind of game with your mind to release its death-grip on the certainty of tragedy – you eventually reach a space where the polarities cancel each other out, and given time, it becomes second-nature to abide in that spacious equanimity.  Note that the same dynamic applies to thoughts that insist on the ‘goodness’ of any news.

Mum’s natural response was seldom to comment from her own position.  She reflexively put on the moccasins of the ‘other’.  Here’s an example.  My Dad passed away just ten minutes before she arrived at the hospice.  I went to the door to tell her the news, expecting her to be sad that she had missed his last moments.  (They had, after all, been married for 73 years.)  She broke into the sweetest smile, raised her arms and said, “He’s free at last!”

Mum’s wisdom was not about right versus wrong or about passive complacency; it embraced an energized equanimity that lies on the other side of thoughts altogether.  She mightn’t have done much crying, but her heart was always poised at-the-ready to meet whatever life dished up.  Her quiet presence was often all the comfort a suffering soul needed:  her innocent, dry-eyed, whole-hearted presence.

Earth Mother

This Earth Mother image – scanned from a greeting card years ago – bears an uncanny facial resemblance to Miriam. And the symbolism couldn’t be more perfectly aligned with her virtues – from my perspective anyway!

On the 100th anniversary of her birth I’m taking a leaf out of her book and looking for the ‘good things’ about her departure.

  1. Like Dad a year earlier, she was “free at last” from her frail, weary, broken body.  Ninety six orbits of the sun were quite enough.
  2. I learned that I could carry forward the immense love and compassion she had for the world, and that I could slowly, with no little agony and humility, grow into her gracious wisdom.
  3. Thanks to her departure, this blog was born.  And that’s a very good thing because it honors and celebrates a great soul who, uneducated and without any personal need to promote her wisdom, left almost no trace in this world.


*  Although … when I first left home at 19, bound for Sydney (crying all the way across the Tasman Sea) she wrote that she had roamed the empty house weeping all day at the shock of my absence.  We were joined at the hip, Mum and I, and as she reminded me in the last hours of her life – “It never ends!”


Image: Scanned from a greeting card years ago. I vaguely remember that the artist was a New Zealand woman, living in Australia. If you know more, please advise me – I’d love to give credit.


love and joy, thanks and celebration

Sitting in my rainforest sanctuary on Christmas Day, alone and at peace, listening to the forest sing its hymns of praise, wondering when the mercury will stop climbing and the mozzies munching – noticing a little urge to send my thoughts of love and joy, thanks and celebration, to all the beloveds who join me on this wee patch of cyberspace.  I’ve shared my delight of the art and writing of Michael Leunig in other posts; this is his beautiful Christmas prayer.


Dear God, it is timely that we give thanks for the lives of all prophets,
teachers, healers and revolutionaries, living and dead, acclaimed or obscure,
who have rebelled, worked and suffered for the cause of love and joy.

We also celebrate that part of us, that part within ourselves,
which has rebelled, worked and suffered for the cause of love and joy.

We give thanks and celebrate.


Michael Leunig - Bush Christmas

Huge clouds of brown butterflies swirl up into the dazzling light, parrots swoop to grassy earth, honeyeaters ravish the sweet flowers of the bottlebrush, echidnas trundle steadily in search of each other, lizards dart among ants and ancient rocks, the fine branchlets of the manna gums quiver to the mating growls of koalas, ibises stroll and feast on grasshoppers and gleaming Christmas beetles hang from eucalyptus leaves like small green baubles. The birds sing gloriously and not a wrong note is heard. This is Christmas in the [Australian] bush.

For joy and meaning [let us] turn to our natural country and witness miracles of vitality and new life, of inspiration and profound beauty; all in some humble, quiet and improbable place.

I’m happy to confess that I am holed up in a “humble, quiet and improbable place.”  But whatever and wherever your place may be, I pray that your holy-days are a source of the miraculous, the vital, the beautiful and the sacred.

Quoted text from
Artwork by Michael Leunig

memo from a madonna

Our Lady of Grace - c. 1470 Languedoc

She looks one way
He looks the other –
don’t tell me her far-seeing heart’s not

and yet

this is her memo to me:

if you can’t trust
that every sentient soul
is moving
– by Divine default –
along their unique lifeline
towards reclamation of all they
agreed to forget

their unborn, changeless, true nature
(aka God)

how can you trust your own
crazy convoluted life-path?

and with that trust intact
how can you speak of tragedy
and evil and every form of
unspeakable suffering
without drowning


Image:  Our Lady of Grace (Notre Dame de Grasse) c. 1470.
Languedoc 112 x 75 x 38 cm.
Musée des Augustins, Toulouse