Interview Transcripts & Other Writings
Interview with Sharon Landrith - Transcript
An Interview with Sharon Landrith for the Crestone Eagle
By Gussie Fauntleroy
When I hear something that feels profoundly true, it resonates within me as if I’m an instrument tuned to the same key as that specific expression of truth. Someone else is tuned to a different key and rings with a different form of the same essential truth.
Yet beneath the diverse outward sounds and forms of spiritual teachings, whether as part of an organized religion or the lessons of everyday life, the deepest fundamental resonance is one of stillness and inner quiet.
Crestone resident Sharon Landrith is among a growing number of people today who are consciously opening to that dimension of silence and direct awareness of non-dual reality by spending time in the presence of others on the same path. Some, like Sharon, are “teachers,” although in reality those who give and those who receive spiritual teachings are often interchangeable.
After a lifetime of moving toward what as a child she called union with God, some years ago Sharon was asked by well-known spiritual teacher Adyashanti to help spread the opportunity for awakening into our deeper nature. Sharon leads retreats and satsangs in Crestone, Boulder and elsewhere around the country. Literally meaning “association in truth,” satsang is a gathering in which our deeper nature is explored through meditation, inquiry and the power of the collective intention to open oneself to it.
I invited Sharon to talk about the realm of deep silence over a cup of jasmine green tea one afternoon in January 2011.
Gussie: How might you describe the sense of quiet that is at the core of what you call wholeness?
Sharon: Well from this view—silence is the word that I would use—it is the basis and the background of everything. And silence and stillness in meaning is quite precise. When that is opened to, the natural state, which is the first significant experience of our own nature, it is absolutely, totally, unfathomably still. That movement to want, or to grasp, or to push, or to conceptualize, in any way, is completely let go there, is completely free.
G: We usually think of silence in terms of a lack of sound or noise or internal chatter, but when you’re speaking of silence it’s also stillness in terms of staying right here in this moment rather than reaching for things, pushing things away.
S: That’s the hallmark, I would say, because that subtle movement to become, or to push away, doesn’t exist in silence. There is a complete sense of resting, or abiding—all those words begin to make sense: indwelling, a deep nourishment of the silent nature. So the fundamental ground—the essence of our own spirit, our own nature—is always recognized.
G: And for you, is it something that came on gradually, a little bit at a time?
S: The deep silence, yes. What was recognized, really since I was a child and it would just periodically reveal itself, was more of what I would call the unified consciousness—everything was connected. It’s what would be in the traditional teachings called the “luminous body.”
G: You wouldn’t have described it that way as a child…
S: No, except there was total trust, and “trust” is even too much—I just belonged to everything. When I was really small I called it God, because I didn’t know what else to call it. Of course, that was accurate. So it was just this love, the Sunday School words: “God is love,” you know, but unconditional love—whole, wellbeing. So that went on for a long, long time. I still thought that it was outside myself, something was out, coming in. And then just through meditation—I opened to meditation in Buddhism out of a sense of familiarity, but also that gave me the format, if you will, to sit down, and then there was the presence.
G: Meditation gave the space for that.
S: Yes, but again, there was a subtle idea that it was something that I needed to do and something that was outside, that if I got it right, something would come in.
G: And maybe stay.
S: And maybe stay. But it never did, of course. (laughs) And then, the idea of silence was the doorway, because it was silent meditation that opened it all up. That deep, stillness—various traditions call it different names: emptiness, the void; the Sufis call it the “dazzling dark”— just began to appear and it became deeper and deeper. And then there was a certain point, right around when I met Adya (Adyashanti), that there was an immersion. Before it was a sense of someone seeing something—there was still the separate “me.” But then there was this gradual but fully recognized shift and I realized that I was in it, and I was that. And then that deepened. But it was always the silence, and that was the hallmark: Everything. Stopped. So there was a sense of wholeness, completeness, a fullness. It’s the birth ground.
In my own terms I often call it “the deep Mother,” because everything was contained within that. Many traditions and teachers do not talk about that deep, dark, silent nature. It’s “emptiness” in the Buddhist tradition, the void. But many traditions emphasize the light, the love, the arising, transcendence, and then sinking into it, sinking here (gestures downward and toward her body.) And I noticed in working with so many people that there’s very little intimate understanding or recognition of it. But it’s the whole. (gestures expansively)
G: You talk about “embodiment” of this awareness. What does embodiment mean on a day-to-day basis?
S: I can only give my own experience: It’s the recognition of this fundamental silent, unfathomably whole yet very nourishing ground. I’m not speaking of groundedness as we normally talk about that. It’s sense of wholeness, a sense of wellbeing, a sense of this body-mind rooted, or connected as this deep ground. Then a sense of stability, of the eternal, of something that’s constant—because everything changes, right? But this is the eternal, this is the deep rest, the deep nourishment, that which informs, that which guides.
With embodiment, in my experience, the conditioned self, the one we call the “me” or the personal begins to be totally infused by this deep nature, and therefore the conditioning is illuminated from within and it naturally dissolves. The silence is as much in this cup (picks up a tea cup), as anything—it’s not separate. You know, we were taught for so long that once you opened up to this silent nature, then you went to your cave, or whatever, but my experience is that classic heart sutra: emptiness into form, form into emptiness, one thing. It’s the life or the illumination of all form, of everything. And by this deep resting as that silence, then one can move into chaos, great stress, great sorrow, or great beauty with equanimity, with a sense of ease and wellbeing.
G: But you say it appeared to come and go…
S: It did, it spontaneously revealed itself, mostly in silent retreats, and it seemed over a period of time that it did come and go. But then there was a certain moment when it no longer came and went. It was now prominent. The times when I thought that I was losing it was when there was conditioning that naturally is flushed out—because now it has all this space to arise—so this flushing or freeing or untying of the conditioned stream happens. And again, my teacher Adya, when I was first with him, explained exactly what was happening, and I no longer believed the illusion of coming and going. As the embodiment process intensified, the deep unconscious started to come to the surface. So it was not all light, beauty and wonder, but—there was never a moment that the silent nature wasn’t prominent, even though the stuff coming up was quite intense.
Then, I would say—I think I’m a slow learner—but I would say maybe seven years after the essential shift and the silence became prominent, everything started to settle and to slow down and there was a really consistent sense of just ease and wellbeing. It’s an interesting paradox, really, because when that emptying out takes place, then it all becomes full. It’s full of awe and wonder and love. You can read about it and be told by the teachers, but it has to be seen for itself.
G: There’s another paradox, for those of us who don’t yet feel like we’re immersed in the silence, and it’s the paradox of finding by not seeking. What’s your “101” advice about trying, but not trying too hard? (Both laugh.)
S: It’s a question that is always confusing. Because in one way the seeking does bring you to the teachings and to what you need.
G: To get onto the path.
S: Exactly. Again, what my teacher really helped me to see, and I began to recognize, is that there’s a translucency in the body-mind structure, and the natural state actually is what is drawing you back to itself. You think it’s you as a person, that all of a sudden you’re really drawn—or maybe it’s always been there for you—but the actuality is awareness itself, silence itself is coming back for itself.
G: So if I want to get more into that on a day-to-day continual basis, do you invite that?
S: There are things to do. The body is the resonant field, the sensory instrument. So for me, as a teacher and in my own unfolding, I began to sense that this body resonated the natural state; the senses were quite open, global, instead of narrow and one-pointed. The way I began to perceive was totally changing. The mind would co-opt those experiences, and then it became two; it was separated out. But the body is direct, it can perceive its own nature; it’s a felt sense. I just started to drop my attention into the felt sense, that sensory, kinetic, body sense. People who have that sensory, kinetic, body sense—if those are pointed out, they go, “oh yeah,” and then that is the constant.
G: That’s what we are.
S: Right. That is what we are. So, there had been many, many glimpses, really all my life. And then there was a certain point where, again, it’s what all the teachers point to and it appears that it’s coming from the person, this separate person—but one of the metaphors is: “It wants to recognize its own nature more than a man who’s drowning wants air.” So there’s a tremendous focus at a certain point, that more than anything else you want to come back to your nature. Many teachers try to help that through “mindful” practice. And that’s helpful, but mostly it’s taken by the mind and can be very artificial (she mimes very slowly and deliberately picking up a teacup and bringing it toward her lips)—instead of just this natural being present with this cup of tea, the fullness of this moment. There’s natural spontaneous attention, because attention is awareness, just to this silence and its creation, which is the cup.
G: For those of us who don’t have the time or money to go on longer retreats, to be in the presence for extended times with these wonderful teachers, what would you recommend for these people wanting to continue along the path in a steady way, deepening?
S: Not to sound elitist, but the fact that we’re living in Crestone is a great grace, because the silence is so profound here, I mean without noise, and also that deep, deep silence. Both are here. So you can tune into that quality. For a while it’s important to shut off all outer need-to-do lists, sound, activity. It can be 10 or 15 minutes, three or four times a day. You just sit and drop, and there’s a quality, it’s almost like a gravitational pull—again, it’s that felt sense—our silent nature. It’s everywhere all at once, but that quality of it is a deepening, or a dropping, or a relaxing, a gravitational pull. So you sit and you just let go. If you have more time, wonderful. What’s important is this tuning in, on a constant basis. And it’s also helpful to ask: What if your attention was resting in your heart or in your belly, rather than here? (points to her head).
G: It’s a physical shift.
S: It’s a physical shift, and it works. Spend the entire day with the attention (for example) behind the neck. And it’ll come up here (points to her head) thousands of times, but just keep coming back. Because the actual brain, in the forehead—when the attention is there, it activates the thinking mind. So just the simple shift. You’re just breaking the habit: that I’m this person in the middle of this head. And when you open up, then spontaneously you start to sense the actuality of the silent nature. It’s quite underappreciated. It’s too simple, you know, most people want to sit down and read the heavy text.
G: I think a lot of people want to take their brain to that part of the body, take the brain to the feet, instead of being in the feet. (both laugh)
G: Long, long conditioning to get over.
S: Who knows how many thousands and thousands and thousands of years.
G: Personally, I always wonder how the beginning of spoken language changed things—naming things and having concepts.
S: We became one step removed, right. I think it’s just a grand experiment, the whole thing. (laughs) And now we’re coming back home again, collectively. I truly, truly see that. I don’t think it makes any difference where you’re from, what your background is, people are popping open. I don’t mean full embodiment, but I mean the shift from thinking I’m this separate person, driven and informed by my thoughts, to “I am that; that is interconnected.” I see it happening everywhere. I know it’s still a small percentage of people, but I see it over such a broad range of people and ages, and the young people are really remarkable. They’re just coming into it and saying, oh! I always knew this was true. And they may need just a little bit of guidance and then, that’s it.
G: So in that sense it is the collective consciousness that they’re benefiting from, which is different from when we were growing up.
S: It is. You know something I’ve also noticed about the young people, is that—with my generation, when this recognition began to come in, especially the real empty nature, before it became very full, we still had a tendency to kind of pull back and we didn’t know whether relationships were really where it was at. You know, you don’t go anywhere, you don’t get involved with anything, you don’t have entertainment, no relationships…
G: A bunch of hermits!
S: Yes, but I notice with the young people, they want to be in life, they want to be in relationship, they want to have children, they want to be involved with the world.
G: Good! We need them! (laughing)
S: Yes, we need them, and so I found that was just a very beautiful thing, and again, I’m seeing that everywhere. It’s more prominent in places like say, Boulder and Crestone, just because of the tendency of the parents. I met a young woman in Bend, Oregon and we were talking about his and she said, “Can you tell me, people of your generation, why you’re so attached to your pain?” (laughs heartily) I said well I guess we just had more to go through! And we did it for you! But it was a really good question, because there can be a kind of attachment [to pain] because of familiarity and identity, and a lot of young people just don’t have that.
For a while I thought: well, the Earth is fine. She’ll shake us off if that’s what she needs to do. I actually saw that on a vision quest. I got to go into the spirit, the truth of the Earth. She’s fine. She’s making this transition. Whether we, as her creation, will make it with her, who knows? If we can’t be of benefit, if we can’t come into wholeness, why should we have this great privilege? But when I began to meet these young people, I thought: Ahh! maybe this will continue, this experiment. There is hope for the continuance of the human being. It was like entering into the silence of the Earth, of the Mother, and being able to sense the fullness and the wholeness and the potential.
G: That’s what gave you the sense that it’s okay.
S: Yeah. And it’s in our bones and it’s in our cells, that same silent nature, called the “bliss body.” That’s available. It’s very temporary, the body, but it is our constant companion, it’s the beloved expression, the silent expression.
G: Over the years I’ve notice that all the teachers who’ve really inspired me—Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, these bigger names that I found out about first, before more regular people—every one that I’m drawn to really has a sense of humor.
S: Absolutely. Adya has an incredible sense of humor. He says that awakening is the restoration of humor. But my sense is that it’s that lightness of being. You really see the brilliance and the mysterious and the unfathomable intelligence that’s at work. Life is taken much more lightly. And in a way—which is not laughing at, but laughing with—you see how we’re attempting to live our lives, instead of what actually is true. So I think humor must just naturally arise out of that. I would say that’s why the Buddha smiles. It’s like, wow! I thought there was someone there who had to accomplish something!
G: And carry all this weight!
S: And carry all this horror show, really! Instead of what I really am. (laughs). Everything does naturally just arise and reveal itself, and fall away. And there’s this ease and inclusion and sense of wellbeing. Some people call it a deconstruction, rather than an accomplishment. But there’s also great compassion. I know I was obsessed. I lived life fully, I played life fully, but all I really ever wanted was what I called the union with God. And then that started to drop away and it was the immersion of my own nature.
G: And then you found you could do both, at the same time.
S: Exactly. (laughs) That was the great surprise. It was so full, everything was there, according to your own individuality. For some it’s a little more ascetic, for some it’s more sensual, or more intellectual. You know, it isn’t like there’s an imitating. It’s that full unique flowering and expression. Unique personalities that are to be celebrated.
I remember the Dalai Lama saying there is this idea that all of this is effortless. And he said, This is very true. But until that effortlessness reveals itself, there’s actually a great deal of effort. And that’s what he’s pointing to, you know: There has to be the willingness, from awareness—which is your attention—to look at what is not, and to be with actually what is. And then it all starts, on its own, to fall away, to reveal its true nature. There’s a tendency among spiritual seekers is to get very tight. There’s this efforting, which actually takes you away. Yet at the same time there’s a certain kind of attention and a certain kind of devotion.
S: Intention, which brings you to that which finally can just all let go. But most of us have to be given glimpses, many glimpses for that to resonate and then you just go, oh! That’s who I am. It recognizes itself. No one needs to tell you that. Because it’s your home. It ceases to be a seeking and it ceases to be a discipline. It’s resting deeply in home.
Sharon Landrith Interview
Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Wisdom
Excerpt from Chapter 2
Rita Marie Robinson
Sharon was born in 1947 in a little town in Kansas. She was asked by Adyashanti to give satsang in 2003. Sharon lives in Crestone, Colorado with her husband and practices as a medical intuitive. She has two children and two grandchildren.
A quote from what comes later: "Often there still a thread that says the me 'is going to get it' the "me" is going to wake up. And it just isn't true. It actually wakes up out of the "me." "
Rita speaking: Around the same time I met Pamela (the person in Chapter 1), I learned about Adyashanti from a friend who kept a dog-eared and underlined copy of Adyashanti's book next to her bed. She described Adyashanti as a clear teacher, someone whose presence was big enough to feel when in the same room. I didn't want to miss him when he came to Santa Fe.
It's always interesting when you first see a person that you have heard a lot about. Your mind can't help but have certain expectations. So, when Adyashanti walked into the room, I was a little startled by how small, almost fragile he looked. Not bigger than life, the way I imagined It was no accident that there was a plastic statue of Yoda from Star Wars fame sitting on the altar.
There was definitely a kind of resemblance-shaved head, big ears and slight build. He had a kind of other-worldly presence to him, like an alien with a message for the human race. Adya, as he's affectionately called, is in his 40s. Wearing a cotton short-sleeved shirt tucked into his blue Jeans, he got comfortable in the big chair on the stage, looked around the room, and then closed his eyes. After a time of silence, he spoke. I immediately dug in my purse for my notebook, knowing I wanted to try and capture his "pointing-out" instructions. That term refers to the Zen story about how you can't really give someone the experience of the moon, but you can point to it so they can look in that direction and experience it for themselves.
Adya's following is dedicated. I had to stand in line at least an hour in order to get a decent seat. Even then I wasn't near the front, but it was a perfect seat, because I was sitting right next to Sharon Landrith, whom I didn't know at the time. Sharon was the first person to get on stage to sit next to Adya when he opened it up to the audience. Her blonde-gray hair was wound up in a soft bun on top of her head; she was dressed elegantly but comfortably. There was a certain presence about her, an ease. I guessed she was in her 50s.
Adya welcomed Sharon warmly, and she thanked him for the opportunity to be sitting with him. I assumed that they knew each other as student/teacher. Sharon didn't say exactly what she was afraid of, but it was about a possible loss if she kept going deeper into truth.
Adya explained to Sharon that in the old days, people on a spiritual path left everything first, let go of all worldly attachments, joined a monastery. "Now," he said, "we are having to do the letting-go later, not first. And whatever your life preserver is, whatever you're hanging onto will be challenged. It's a bumpier ride because you don't solve it by leaving the world. People are being called back into life to fully live it."
Over the weekend, he talked a lot about the process of embodiment, a new learning for me. I had assumed that once you have an experience of bliss, merging with all-that-is, you were done, you had arrived. That's one of the many myths of enlightenment. That merging experience is not even necessary. If it does happen, it turns out that it really is just the beginning.
Adya is known as an embodiment teacher. Many people who see him have already had some kind of an awakening, and they need help in integration. Adya is very much a part of the world, not cloistered away in an ashram. He's married, he loves bicycle racing, he won't be put on a pedestal. He is clear about that, joking about how he eats at McDonald's and plays poker.
The next day at the intensive, I recognized an acquaintance from Colorado. I wandered over to where Marcee was talking to Sharon and was introduced. Marcee explained that Adyashanti has cultivated a garden of blossoming teachers, "Adya's girls," and Sharon was one of them. Sharon planned to be in Colorado in the fall to give satsang, only half an hour's drive from my house. Sharon expressed interest in being a part of the book, so I made plans to be in Colorado for her satsang in September and to do the interview.
I interviewed Sharon at Marcee's house. It was one of those glorious fall days when summer still lingers in the warm sun, but the snow has already blanketed the high peaks. I set up the equipment in a small meditation room in Marcee's "earthship" house, built into the hillside of a pinyon-juniper forest.
Let's start with something about your early days, defining moments that you can share with us.
I lived in a very isolated place, the middle of central Kansas, and there was no talk about anything that was unusual. Yet, there was a guiding point in my life. At the time, I thought it was union with God. I'd be walking to school and standing on a corner, and there would be this feeling of being taken in a certain kind of way by this whole lighted being. Here I was, a kid, and yet there wasn't any fear or any question. It would be this timeless, unified golden moment, then it would be over, and I would continue on my walk to school and wouldn't even really think about it.
The point of that is if I can see one consistent theme all the way through, it was that love and desire for what I thought was union with God. That was the leading compass.
You were definitely a seeker.
Always. First it was in the church, which was the Methodist Church. But at 16, I remember walking out of church and saying, "My God isn't your God-the God that says if you're not baptized, you go to hell." Christianity did not fit what I knew inside.
It was Buddhism that first opened the door. When I started to hear the teachings and read the different books, I felt a resonance. I was given all sorts of techniques and went to lots and lots of retreats. Always without exception, the techniques would fall away, and this presence that became deeper and vaster, would happen.
I was never drawn into the dogma of it or the teachings of it. At first, I didn't realize that it was just opening up what was already there. I thought it was in the meditation, it wasn't in me. Eventually it became consistent enough that I began to sense that it has to be somewhere inside because just sitting down and becoming silent, it would pop open. This presence would just be there.
It was when I met Jean Klein 16 years ago that the door really opened. We read about him in Yoga Journal while living in Kansas. We heard the truth in this interview, so we packed our bags and flew to California for a ten-day retreat that he held once a year. He abided in and transmitted what he called the flame, the flame of being. He described it in such clear and poetic ways of what had been happening all my life, those visitations, those tastes, but I had no words for them. He gave both the words and the transmission so profoundly, it was awakened, and then it was understood.
He taught a beautiful form of yoga called Kashmir yoga which emphasized the energy body. It was his way of giving tools of transformation, not going through the mind and trying to see patterns and figure them out, but going directly to the body and the energy body. As a doctor, he was really adept in that. It began to soften the boundaries and that cage that we all think we are, into something that's very vast and boundless. That was a beautiful gift.
But, I would look around, and it didn't seem like realization was taking place. I found it strange, here we are with this master who says it's there constantly, it's everywhere, it's who we are, and yet no one seems to be getting it.
It sounds like people, including you, would get it for a moment or two, a day or two, but then it would be gone.
Yeah, the seeker's curse—got it, lost it, got it, lost it. With Jean Klein, essential shifts took place that never really went away, but the good side effects that we all like would go away.
The side effects would be bliss?
Bliss and calmness and everything is all one. Of course, then there would be the opposite and perfect polarity of that which would be lots of material coming to the surface. My tendency as a person was to have a lot of suffering thoughts. Depression was in my family—mother, sister, brother—everyone had depression. So when it would come up, I thought I was losing it, and then I became grief stricken because I wanted it more than anything else. I had a full life and was very much in the world, but I really wanted only one thing. So, to feel like I would get it, then lose it, was very difficult. There were times I would try to shut it all out just to save myself that swing, that pain. But of course, that wouldn't last.
Then Jean Klein died. We'd visited Gangaji before, didn't feel particularly drawn to make her the teacher, but we heard what she had to say, and some kind of deep recognition happened. We began to hear about Byron Katie from some people. So the direct way, the Advaita way, started to show up. You'd hear about different people that had seemingly spontaneous awakenings.
It sounds like you were in an in-between place, after Jean Klein, after some serious study with Buddhist teachers and before you met Adyashanti.
We got a flyer in the mail about the Inner Directions conference. There was an article that Adya had written, and it was so beautifully written and so clear. My husband Nate said, "Well, do you want to pack our bags for California again?" I said "Sure, let's go." [She laughs.]
There were about six hundred people. It was doubling each year from its beginning, because it was so popular. It was just catching on fire. That year, Eckhart Tolle was there and Byron Katie. It was stunning, truly stunning. But we went there because of Adya. We heard what was being spoken, but it was more about recognizing on a very deep level something that was coming through Adya. We came up afterwards, and he very generously held back, gave us some time, responded to one of Nate's questions. We were just profoundly, to the core, touched.
Within three months, we came back to his retreat. At that time, the retreat was still 25 people, so it was a very intimate, very casual setting with him which was precious. We went about four times a year to be with him. It was very accelerated-awakening gets tiring to say—but it was just profound, and it didn't mean that it wasn't also difficult.
What was difficult about it?
Adya had asked me to do satsang, and I was such a shy personality, I hadn't even gone up to talk to him in the chair. So, when I gave satsang, it blew everything open. It blew silence or awareness open. From that moment on, it did not ever close. But it also opened Pandora's box. There was a pouring out that seemed to be happening, and the force of it just exploded. I knew what was happening, thank God.
But it was out of control. You realize you have stepped out of a plane, you took some sort of step into an abyss, and now you know that you're not stepping back. [She laughs.] You know that the mind has never been there. Maybe 90 per cent to 95 per cent of the people, and this includes your most intimate people, they do not know anything about this.
Was that fearful?
That has never been a big part. I have physical fears, for example of huge waves in the ocean, but not fears of the void. Jean Klein called it the silence, but I didn't know what it was back then. It was just nothing. But nothing, of course, is so vast, so pregnant, and so awesome. I've been a retreat leader when people have touched that void and have just gone off, crying, freaked out and terribly afraid, wanting to leave and all sorts of things. But that was never my experience. In fact, it's home and profound contentment. It was really always the opposite.
Even when you were asked to give satsang, there was no fear?
There was self-consciousness, of being shy, that part was fearful. That was a beautiful gift because the love of Adya, and the love of the truth was so in place that it just burned it all up.
Is that self-consciousness gone?
It's gone. There can be certain circumstances, but they're very rare; there'll be a nervousness in your stomach or in your throat, but so what. It's just a little bit of nervousness. It's not a big deal. Something blew out so profoundly when that happened [giving satsang], that there was some presence, some vastness that began to speak and began to use this body.
There was no doubt that that's what was happening. None. I can get up in front of anybody and ask any question or I can do satsang and there's no fear, nothing.
I suppose you grow to trust that.
You do, because you know it's not you. And it is you in that there's no separation. It's not my will but thy will. You also realize that to own it, to feel special about it or to grasp it, that's the very split that's going to obscure it. So the way is to totally surrender to that, and then Source does its thing. It's very interesting, the exact opposite of pride and specialness.
You know you can't own it. There's this deep knowing that it's in the very absence that presence appears. Right now what's going on is that there's this emptying out and just saying yes, yes, yes.
That a theme I've heard before, saying yes.
There's no other way. I think it must be trust that starts to happen, then there's a deeper realization that trust isn't the issue. It's just yes. It's truth. So it's saying yes to truth, yes to wholeness, yes to joy without cause, yes to reality. I think it was last year where the personal identity was collapsing, and there were painful moments.
How did that look for you?
It really started accelerating with Adya... that swinging from got it/lost it, there was a seeing through of that. The Buddhists call it the middle way. Then the swinging back and forth, the coming, the going, the getting it, the losing it, all happens in the light of awareness. And then there is no coming and going. There's something that's stable and constant, the true essence, the true nature.
Some ways of defining myself—habits, belief structures, neuroses—they just blew away, they no longer function. Others come back, and come back. Sometimes it's painful things that are let go of, that are brought forward and revealed. But there's no judgment which is really a remarkable relief. Judgment just isn't there. The pain is more in the letting go. The mind becomes fearful. For me, it's passed now, but it was over personal relationships and, quote, my life.
I remember when you spoke in July in front of the group in Santa Fe, there was some fear What was that about?
I thought I was going to lose all my friends. I had observed it with people who "woke up," and they stayed at home, and they taught. There was no other life. I liked my life, I had a very rich life, good friends. They weren't especially awake, but they were good, conscious people and lived good lives. I didn't want to step out of that. I think that was the fear. And of course, none of that happened. Some friends have fallen away, and there are some activities that I am no longer drawn to. In a very natural way that has happened, but it was not a sacrifice. I realized it was the personal identity dying. There's some attachment there, and then it passes.
There was a period of time where there were a lot of things arising that had been shoved below the surface like irritation, self-righteousness, "I'm right and you're wrong," with very close friends. That was very distressing, and yet I knew what was happening. There was just this resting, resting, letting it happen. Then like all the other difficult passages that had happened, I woke up one morning, and it was all gone. And in the background was just love. The personal identity and the subtle judgments that I wasn't even aware of were exposed, liberated, and in its place, there was love.
It doesn't sound like there's a lot of doing here.
No doing, that's the joke. It's spontaneous, it just happens. There's a compassion that seems to be available. I think that's why there's no judgment that comes up, not even with deep, deep shadows that have really been locked off... when that's exposed, it's just ahhhhh. It's a classic teaching story in a way, the mother includes all her children, the creator includes all of its creation.
I haven't had the experiences you've had, but there a part of me that understands this process of embodiment.
There's a resonating, absolutely. "It" resonates when it hears truth, when it hears itself. I think that's the great gift of satsang, really. It's the transmission, it stimulates and resonates. It's the same that's being spoken within you, within everyone... it starts to resonate, resonate, resonate and it just wakes up.
If I ask, "Where did the waking up happen?" I realize that it wakes up out of the "me." The "me" keeps thinking that if it does this or doesn't do that or if it lets go of this or if it understands that... it's still caught in the karmic wheel of the "me." It actually wakes up out of the "me." Then it seems to, in this very mysterious but profoundly intelligent way, come back and claim the body-mind structure.
It's astonishing—95 per cent of the people I talk to in my intuitive work are in that process. Often there's still a thread or a flavor that says the "me" is going to get it, the "me" is going to wake up. And it just isn't true. All the teachers say that, but you don't get it until it really takes place.
I've always had a critical nature. I wanted to get it. I wanted to know it. I wanted the "me" to be perfect. I thought that in waking-up, the "me" would be a perfect, pure vehicle for that. And actually, there's incredibly neurotic flavors moving through this person. It's seen with a sort of affection, sometimes humor, because I don't know whether this human being will ever be perfect. I doubt it [she laughs], but it doesn't matter.
It almost as f the human condition by definition is not perfect.
Absolutely. That's the joke of it. But you see over and over that wholeness rights itself. There are areas of the life that are conditioned and discordant, and with mysterious wisdom, it just starts to fall away, to re-orchestrate, reorder. But I don't think perfection is possible. The mind-body process is conditioning, that's what it is.
I want to talk about your relationship with Nate. You have really shared this path together.
Yes, and sharing the same teachers in the same way. I think it's been the grace of our relationship. There are three areas where we're bound. It's that connection, first and foremost, it's the love of nature in all forms—hiking, camping, taking trips, and a love of having fun. We love to celebrate life, whether that's with friends, great food.
At the same time, we are really quite the opposite of the poles. He's very linear, very masculine. I'm very intuitive, right-brain. So in one way, we've really helped each other, in that we've balanced each other and opened up ways of seeing that we probably wouldn't have seen if it weren't for our love for each other that opened that up. But it also caused stress and difficulty. The more awake, the more open to reality—the more you can observe, celebrate or ignore each other's differences—you realize it has nothing to do with you. Before, at least for me, and I think Nate, too, I was caught up in this idea that if he didn't respond or react or hear or see or be a way that I wanted him to be, it was a personal thing.
I'm pretty verbal, pretty blunt sometimes. If I have a truth or if I'm seeing something, it just blurts out, that's just how it is. He's quite the opposite, very reticent, won't say much, would rather get his head chopped off than to speak highly-charged emotions. Our relationship went through some real adjustments when the waking-up happened for me. There were certain places that had to be talked about or dealt with, and there were some pretty shaky moments for us.
You had your waking-up experience at one of Adya's retreats. As I recall, it was the coming-home part where it got interesting.
It was the coming home and the rearranging of the relationship and my life. When wholeness starts to move through your life, it's going to bring everything into balance, into truth. And what isn't truth is going to be exposed.
In those years of rearranging, can you give us a specific example of how you had to do that?
For us, it was almost archetypal patterns. One of the things I was saying and I hear many women say is, "He does not see me or hear me." And that was big for us, big. I had brought it out in many different ways, but it was met with a wall. We had perfect patterns. His was with his mother and sister, mine was with my father. We met each other perfectly. So there would be these walls, and nothing moved.
Because I'm the more verbal one, which often happens in male-female relationships, I just brought it out. "Is this how you feel? And is this how you see it? What's going on? This is how I feel." It wasn't said in a mean way. It was, "Let's get it out on the table." The reality of it was very difficult for me to accept. Everything I thought that he was thinking, he actually was. [She laughs.] It was shocking.
Finally I had an interview with Adya. I hardly ever brought personal stuff to him; I just thought that wasn't his job. But this was so big and so up for me. I said, "One of my main things going on is that I've not ever been heard, especially by the males in my life, and there's a lot of resentment around that, a lot of defense." He just laughed and said, "What's new? Every woman I've talked to says the same thing. It's true, isn't it?" "Yes," I said, "it's true."
Adya told me, "Until you can give that to yourself, until you can literally turn back into the core and let awareness pour that through the body-mind structure and really listen, you will always look for it outside, and it will never happen." It was just like that—that's one of the great gifts of a teacher—in that truth, in that profound clarity, realization can take place. And it happened right there.
It just liberated it.
We were in California at the time, and for nine days I could have ripped Nate apart limb by limb. I was furious. It was the rage, I think, of all women through the centuries. And I knew it. I knew to keep my mouth shut. I just stayed with it and stayed with it. It was so huge that there wasn't any escaping it. I knew what was happening. I knew just to be with it. Then it passed. One morning I woke up, and it was gone. And I never, ever asked that of him again. I would tease him sometimes. And if I really wanted to be heard, I was heard. He either liked it or didn't. No more was I looking to him to do that for me. It's like asking for love from everyone, and it cannot happen until there's that pouring the love into oneself.
That a great teaching for all of us and helpful to share because I think you 're right, it so archetypal.
I'll tell you what; it was a pretty intense nine days. [We laugh.] But finally that realization got through; it's not personal. If there is only One then everything that happens for one person happens for all beings, especially something like that which is so archetypal, so classic in our society. A lot of rage lives within the male and female. They need a place for it to be liberated. If it can be liberated with some sort of awareness, then it lightens it.
What's it like now for the two of you as a result of your recognition when Nate hasn't had the same experience? Does it create separation between you?
It did. How he dealt with it is he just ignored it, acted like it wasn't happening. I resented him for that. Then it moved to where it really made no difference to me at all. In fact, this is a funny little story. It was the last retreat we had gone to when we were in California, and it was at that retreat that Adya asked me to teach. Again, it was totally out of the blue. I was deeply touched and profoundly grateful.
At the end of the group, we were all in this huge circle where people were speaking a few words during the closing, and Nate was way in the back. Adya said he wanted a blessing for Sharon so that when she leaves, she would have a blessing of the sangha [the community]. It was very beautiful. Then it was over. I'm racing around, and several people who lived in Iowa or different areas in the Midwest were getting my name because there's very few people in that area doing this kind of teaching. We're on our way, and I realize Nate hasn't said a word. He hasn't acknowledged what happened at all. I tuned in, and it was just fine. There was no need for the acknowledgement. It was totally free. We're talking, and I don't even remember how it came up. I said, "I wonder how that's going to work when I go home, about Adya asking me to teach." And he asked, "Adya asked you to teach?!" "Yeah, you were there." He said, "I didn't hear that. I was sitting way in the back, and I couldn't really hear what was going on. I thought Adya was just asking a blessing for us on our journey home. I had no idea!" [She laughs.]
There were two gifts there. One, it was of no matter to me. He either acknowledged it or he didn't. The other was, I thought it was interesting that he didn't hear it. [She laughs.] But he was very kind and has been very supportive ever since. More and more, he's softened around it.
In the last few months, it's come to the point where it's no longer personal. What comes up through him, how he sees things, how he doesn't see things, it's really his business, the same with me. We gave each other that agreement at the very first of the relationship, to let each other be who we are. That's been one of our main intentions throughout our relationship, about 18 years now. Now I would say it's truly letting each other just be who they are in a real unconditional way. Love and affection are naturally present.
You have two grown children and two teenage grandkids. How do they view you? Are you accepted by them?
It's a non-issue. My daughter has gone to satsang and will occasionally come to things. My son has very genuinely opened up to the more fundamental Christian way. I can see the living spirit in his life, and it's been very beneficial, very helpful for him, but that tends to close down any conversation. There's a beautiful book out with statements from teachers from Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism, and they are almost word for word the same. I would bring that up to talk to him, try to meet him, and he finally said, "I'm just not interested in that." That's cool, that's OK. So, they really have no idea.
My grandkids think that I am a different kind of grandmother. I heard my granddaughter say something when a friend asked if her grandmother was cool like her mother. She said, "Oh yeah, she's way cool." [She laughs.] They can have conversations with me. My grandson is extraordinarily intuitive. He's kind of closed that down going through puberty, but he could always talk to me about that, and we could discuss things. As far as my being a teacher, my doing anything I do, it's just not a part of their lives. Sometimes I think it would be nice to really share that part. But if you open it, and it's not there, it's not there. Again, it's none of my business.
Describe what you see the role of women is right now.
Something moves through here that has always had this profound connection with the Divine Mother. Linda Johnson wrote a book about six or seven women from India who were fully awake, in most cases they were born awake. In the United States, movie stars are young girls, models, and in India, they're awakened saints. I was so touched by her book that I have made it a point to receive darshan [a transmission] from every one. It's not the goddess, it's the Divine Mother and her many faces.
If there's a uniqueness, the woman teacher seems to include the sacred body, the substance, the everything. In most men teachers, and that's not so with Adyashanti, they emphasize a little more of the transcendence, the emptiness, the non-personal. And here [referring to herself], there's perhaps a little more emphasis on how it functions in the life, in the body, in children, in the world.
But if there is an emphasis, that's it... how does it work as you're doing dishes, as you're being with a friend, as you're driving, as you're cleaning your house, whatever? It's present, the mystery, the revealing, the liberation, the love-all of that is totally present in the most ordinary events. It's awake in that ordinariness.., taking a walk, looking at the birds, talking to your grandson.
Is there a quality that you could name as feminine that comes through both the male and female teachers now that hasn't been so present in the teachings before.
Yes. You and I both have been seekers for a long, long time, and how many women teachers have you found until now? There's Gangaji—that was the first thing I said to her, "You're the first woman I have been with that is awake." I was with some wise teachers that certainly knew how to move back and forth between the seen and the unseen, but I had never been with one who was awake other than the Indian women. But, they were totally separate from the world.
Is there any reflection you might have on the aging process?
I have never minded getting older. In fact, I've always been happier as I've gotten older. I could look and say, "Gosh, I wish my chin wasn't falling," and all of that. Mostly, I've always really enjoyed ageing. It's just a natural process that there's really not very much attachment or engagement about. Occasionally, there will be old conditioning that will come up, but then it just rises and falls away. There's a kind of affection and appreciation for it, an enjoyment of the calmer, quieter, more peaceful place. I don't really pay too much attention to it actually.
Which leads me to the final question... how do you view death?
In truth, if there's birth, there's death. It's a natural fact. When I had a lot more suffering thoughts, I kind of longed for death as a great release and a way to get out, I think, though I never had any suicidal thoughts. I always knew that was not a way. Now there's this sweet affection and such an aliveness in life that has never been experienced. If there was a personal preference it would be nice to live life this way for a while. [She laughs.] I'm not dismissing life in such a cavalier way as I did before.
If it happens, it happens. Like a tree falls, and it's time for that tree to go. It has nothing to do with the life in that tree or the life that surrounds that tree. There's no misunderstanding that life ends when this body does. There's just a sense that it's happened many times before, it happens everywhere, it's constant. It's the in-breath, it's the out-breath, so there really isn't a yearning for it or fear of it. Death naturally happens.
On the drive home to the mesa, I noticed that the golden aspen leaves were beginning to fall; a reminder that winter was around the corner. The same cycle of death that Sharon talked about.
With winter coming, I had to make some decisions. My house hadn't yet sold and there was no way I could stay in Santa Fe if I didn't sell the house. Maybe it was time to move back to Colorado. But I argued with myself, "I'm giving up too easily. I should dig my heels in and try harder to make a 'go' of it in Santa Fe." I didn't want to feel like the move was all a waste, or worse yet-the wrong decision.
The mind was working hard, wound up in the pros-and-cons game that Pamela had described when she was trying to figure out which car to buy. I knew I had to let go of the thinking. My mind was "over its head." It couldn't help me figure it out.
When I got home, I went to visit the twin trees behind the house where my former husband's ashes had been placed some ten years before. On the day of our wedding, Brian and I had walked through these two pine trees on a path to the meadow where we were married. Now there was a bronze plaque there that I had made with this poem engraved on it:
Meet me here in this gateway
Between heaven and earth
Birth and death
Where all things begin and end
And begin again.
I lay on the fragrant earth looking up through the pine needles at the blue, blue sky. The wind chimes played their gentle music. I relaxed, opening to the unknown, to whatever wanted to happen. I remembered what Pamela said, "Why not let life do the work?"
I can't really explain how the "answer" became obvious. Maybe it was the body's wisdom arising, feeling so at home lying on the land I loved. Without really thinking, the idea arose to try and sell the other half of my land. That would get me out of debt but still allow me to keep the house. Leave Santa Fe, return to the mesa, return to Chris. Return home.
I walked into the house, got on the phone to my nearest neighbor to tell them that I was planning on selling the 35 acres between us. I explained that I wanted them to know before I actually put it on the market because it would have a big impact on them if someone else built a house there. They came over in 15 minutes. We walked the land, and they wanted to buy it. Really, it was just like that.
After they left, I was hanging the laundry out on the clothesline feeling amazed about what just happened when a hawk flew overhead. Brian and I had named the land, Flying Hawks, because of its location on a ridge top where the red-tailed hawks liked to soar. When it landed in one of the twin trees, I couldn't ignore the "sign." I paused to watch it. Then I realized it was the day of our anniversary. I smiled.
This was beyond "creating my own reality." I hadn't done anything. I couldn't have even imagined this reality. Is this what it's like when you let life do the work? It seemed so easy. More like floating down the river instead of swimming upstream.
©2009 Rita Marie Robinson — All Rights Reserved
Used With Permission