Billy Doyle - The Mirage of Separation.
Interview by Renate McNay
Renate: Hello and welcome to Conscious TV. My name is Renate McNay and my guest today is Billy Doyle. Hello Billy:
Billy: Hello Renate:
Renate: Thank you for coming. Billy is a spiritual teacher in the Non-Dual Tradition and he’s also a yoga teacher in the Kashmir Tradition and he wrote a book called, ‘The Mirage of Separation’, and these are Non-Dual poems. He’s currently writing a book called, we’re not sure of the title yet, it maybe ‘Open to Openness, Yoga in the Kashmir Tradition’. It’s supposed to come out by the end of the year.
Billy: Yes, I hope so.
Renate: I read fifteen pages and I think it’s going to be fascinating. So Billy, first of all let’s clarify what is the Kashmir Tradition and what is the difference between Kashmir Yoga or Kashmir traditional yoga and normal Hatha Yoga.
Billy: Well, it’s the yoga I learned from Jean Klein.
Renate: Yes, so let’s say who Jean Klein was.
Billy: Jean Klein was an Advaita teacher. a master of Advaita and yoga which is perhaps a little unusual that somebody has gone deeply into the Advaita and also deeply into the yoga side of things, the more bodily aspect. In his approach the emphasis was not so much on the physical body but more on the energetic body, the subtle body, which he would say is the real body. We don’t usually experience our body, the energetic body because of contraction and defense, but through listening, through relaxation, the energy body can come alive and we experience a body that’s completely different than the solid heavy body that we normally experience. So there was always the emphasis with working with the body as energy, vibration, as spaciousness, that was one aspect. The other aspect was from the very beginning, stress on that there’s nothing to attain, nothing to become. What we are is already totally present and what we need is only to listen and come to a feeling of openness. So it’s not the progressive approach where I’m refining or going through various levels but it’s seeing in the moment, you could say what I’m not, understanding what I’m not and on understanding what I’m not, you open to what you are.
Renate: Yes, so the Kashmir tradition really came from Jean Klein?
Billy: He brought this approach back to Europe.
Renate: I understand, yah.
Billy: He refined and developed it himself and taught it in the West. It just spoke very deeply to me from many sides.
Renate: It sounds really fascinating reading your manuscript from your book and we go a little bit later into the art of listening and deeper into what the Energy Body is and so forth. First, let’s start with you as a child already having a strong sense of spirituality. How did that manifest?
Billy: I remember just sitting in the church praying to Jesus and having this very strong feeling of love there. I think that stayed with me through childhood. I even remember a dream that I didn’t understand at the time but I remember that a steam roller would come across me and I would disappear and I remember in the dream, it was somewhat of a recurrent one, that I was very happy to disappear. I didn’t know the meaning of the dream and I didn’t understand why I should be happy but when I look back, I think the child had some understanding that for love to be, you had to disappear yourself.
Renate: That there was some kind of memory coming through?
Renate: Yes, it’s interesting that you would think that to disappear. It’s incredibly frightening for us, incredibly frightening for our ego structure.
Billy: It is because the ego is a very insecure…...
Billy: Yes, it’s always looking for security, for solidity. It’s always looking for an image. It’s always holding onto something because ultimately it’s unreal. The last thing we want to do is disappear. It is frightening…...
Renate: Of course, yes.
Billy: For the identification we have but I think there’s also something in us that wants to let go, that feels this image, this centre, as a burden as well. So there’s another element in us that would like to let go.
Renate: So when you had this experience as a child and you said it was recurring, did you speak with anybody about it?
Billy: I don’t remember speaking with anyone...no..no.
Renate: Okay, any other experiences as a child?
Billy: Nothing comes to mind directly.
Renate: So, in your twenties you went the first time to India (Billy agrees), to be with Mother Theresa in Calcutta. How was that for you?
Billy: Well, I had some fascination with the East during my adolescence and I saw slides of people who had been there.
Renate: You trained as a teacher?
Billy: Yes I did train as a teacher. The first thing I did when I finished my training was to go to India. I was attracted by the orient, the mysticism, the simplicity of life there. I’d also seen a program about Mother Theresa on the television. I thought it would be interesting to spend a summer working there. So that’s what I did and I travelled a little bit in India and it was the first of what was to be later, several journeys with different purposes.
Renate: You were visiting there or did you work there as well in Calcutta?
Billy: The first time?
Billy: I worked in a hospital with Mother Theresa. It was a hospital for dying destitutes. I helped out giving bandages, washing, giving out tablets. That kind of thing.
Renate: Did you have a kind of relationship with her as well? I heard she was quite difficult, quite a powerful woman.
Billy: Right….I only met her once when I arrived there. She struck me as somebody who was down to earth and good at organizing. That’s it. I didn’t get to know her on any other level really.
Renate: Yes, and something was triggered there in India because you became a spiritual seeker, you started to read spiritual books.
Billy: Yes. I think looking back again I can find a thread even from childhood but it was in my mid twenties that the questions came to dominate my life. Who am I? What is truth? It led me to get involved in meditation, in yoga, in returning to India again.
Renate: Yes, you started to get involved with transcendental meditation.
Billy: That was at the very first I think. At that stage it didn’t have any radical change in me. I think it was more I learned it as a technique. The underlying understanding wasn’t really there at the time. So it was some years later perhaps that something deeper took place.
Renate: And through what? What happened?
Billy: Through reading books by Alan Watts, Suzuki, Rajneesh (who was later to be called Osho), Krishnamurti and Ramana Maharashi. I think when I read those books I felt I already knew what they were talking about somehow. I didn’t though, but there was part of me that said this must be the case, it had to be true that I was not simply this body, this mind, this personality. There was something beyond that and it resonated very, very deeply with me and I went back to India again. I went to visit Rajneesh and spent about four and a half months at his ashram and travelled again in India.
Renate: What did you do there? (Laughs)
Billy: What did I do there? I danced a lot.
Renate: I was wondering about that.
Billy: I love dance and I listened to the talks he gave. Beautiful talks and he told many stories. At that age he was just the teacher I needed, it helped to open me and to liberate me and I left a lot freer, not in need somehow and maybe it was that, which opened me to the possibility of meeting Jean Klein who I feel was my real teacher.
Renate: Yes, you were his student for fourteen years and he was your main teacher. What was the most important thing you learned from him? And how was your relationship with him?
Billy: Well, he was a very beautiful man. He was a very cultured man. He was a very warm person, a very welcoming person. It was just beautiful to be with him. I would sometimes meet him when he came to London or I visited him in Switzerland and other countries sometimes and attended his lectures and retreats. It was just very, very deeply moving to be with him. His presence, his words! His words seem to bypass the mind and speak to my heart. He explained that to know who we are, we must first know what we are not. It’s by understanding that I’m not the body, not the mind, not a personality, not something that changes, that we become open to what we are. We can never know what we are in terms of the mind. We can never know in terms of the senses because what we are is beyond the mind. We can never know it. We can never grasp it. We only know it by being it. It’s not an object, so we can’t describe it, it’s indescribable. We can use words like spaciousness. We can use words like awareness, consciousness or love to come close, to give us some indication but….a mind would like to grasp what I am, who am I? It’s not possible and when we deeply understand that, the mind stops. It stops running after trying to find truth. It begins to relax so there’s a possibility that something beyond the mind can manifest.
Renate: That something….my teacher also said once….he wrote fifteen books and has a big school and he says, ‘I’m writing all these books and telling you all these things, only for your mind to relax, because that’s the only thing which needs to happen’.
Billy: Right, right. Yes it’s the mind and the body because the mind and body are one.
Renate: So can you say a little bit more about the mind as I’ve never heard that the mind and the body are one. What does that mean?
Billy: Where is anxiety? Where is anger? It may be in the mind but it is also in the body. It’s in the breathing and in the tension in our breaths. I would say it even goes down to the cellular level. In some way the patterns that we create in the mind come from the belief system that I am a separate entity, that I am a particular person, which brings up a certain defence and fear inevitably comes taking ourselves to be a fraction in a universe. Taking ourselves to be an individual inevitably brings up insecurity and fear. This is also in our body, in our breathing, in our cells, I would say it is a feeling of contraction, of heaviness, a feeling of being localized…...it’s actually easier to relax your body than to relax your thought. So through relaxing the body, the muscles, the joints, the nervous system, the mind begins to relax as well. A relaxed body is already the beginning of a relaxed mind.
Renate: Did you in your own process find that easy to do, to relax the mind?
Billy: Yes, yes.
Renate: What did you do?
Billy: Well, relaxation it’s our natural state. So what’s important is not to try to relax but just to be aware of what is not relaxed. To be aware of the tensions. Not to fight them but to actually welcome them, not to make them a problem that I want to get rid of because you can’t. The only thing to do is actually sit with them and allow them. Not to fix them but to actually feel the tension and feel the tension in your brain for example. The left hemisphere, the right hemisphere and if you just listen to the brain the vibration of the hemisphere, it will begin to relax because in just listening and just being aware of the feeling, the sensation you’re no longer actually creating the tension. You’re no longer an accomplice, you’ve stood back. You’re just listening, you’re just observing.
Renate: So what do you mean? Is this listening becoming aware? It’s not an actual listening to the body?
Billy: It’s just letting come up what’s there, whatever there is. The vibration, the warmth, the feeling of something solid, crystallized, dense. Just letting whatever is your body speak to you but what’s important is not to fix it but to let it unfold because there are many layers of tensions, between a very solid heavy body and the real body, which I would say is something like space, it’s transparent. There are many layers to unfold and when we listen we can allow that unfolding. I’m not trying to push away my feelings. I think Jean Klein said, ‘You have to love the tensions, you have to welcome them, not fight them.’ Then they will inevitably, over time of course, as these things have built up over many, many years, they will free themselves when you learn how to listen to them.
Renate: One thing you told me Billy, over a period of twenty years you went every year for three weeks in a retreat place to be in silence. In one of those times and I’m quoting your words here, ‘All identification with a separate identity dissolved. I knew myself as Silence.' I think I asked you on the phone if this experience stayed. You said, yes. Did the ego structure never form itself back or what happened to the ego structure? Tell me a bit more about this. I am fascinated by this.
Billy: Of course in my case this understanding didn’t happen out of the blue. There was a long process of self-inquiry I was very fortunate to meet a teacher like Jean Klein that helped me to understand what I was not….. and I think there came a deep relaxation, understanding that there was nothing to get, there was nothing to become.
Renate: Sorry to interrupt but the inquiry was that you learned the method of listening? And through the listening, out of listening, your body started to relax, your nervous system calmed down.
Billy: Yes that’s true and also by questioning the beliefs I had about myself to question, am I really this body, this mind? Understanding that I can’t be a perception. My hands are a perception, the glass (points to table) is a perception, the space, the carpet is a perception. I would also say my mind is a perception, these things are always changing. To understand that there’s something that knows all these objects, that knows all the change, so there’s a certain logic there as well, to understand that I’m behind the world of objects. I’m the subject, let us say the ultimate subject.
Renate: Would you not say, okay, we are changeless, we are the background but we are also the manifestation.
Billy: Absolutely, absolutely both are true, so the problem is we identify ourself with a particular manifestation.
Renate: So when you say, I am not the body but is it not that I am not only the body or how does the body come in?
Billy: Yes, it’s a pedagogical aid to say to myself, I’m not the body. I’m not the mind. I’m not the thoughts. I’m not this changing world. It helps us to bring a space dimension from what we’re so obviously identified with and so I’m able to stand back and not be so closely identified with a particular body/mind, with an I-image. You find yourself with a certain distancing. A certain freedom from what you have always taken yourself to be. When there’s a deeper understanding you also discover that the expressions of consciousness are also in consciousness, that the expressions are nothing but consciousness. So everything is within you but I’m making a distinction between consciousness and the expressions of consciousness. I think that’s important.
Renate: So what you are saying is, first of all it is important to realise who we are as the Absolute in order to get a certain distance from the manifestation and then as the Absolute come back in this world. Is that how you would say it?
Billy: I think it’s important to understand that you cannot be an object. When that’s deeply understood you begin to relax, you become open to the possibility there’s something beyond the mind. Then all you can do is, in a sense, is live that openness and maybe one day that understanding will arise. It arises, not that you understand something, it’s just that understanding is the disappearance of the illusion of being somebody. So when I say, I knew myself in Silence, I didn’t understand anything in that moment. There was nothing new I understood. There was no intellectual understanding, there was nothing I was able to grasp or tell you I understood something. It was just in that moment I lost all sense of localization, there wasn’t any division anymore that’s all. No longer identifying with a particular body/mind.
Renate: And this is still here?
Billy: It hasn’t changed...no…..no.
Renate: So if I say, does that mean that there is nothing going on inside because there is no localization. Are there still feelings, sensations and emotions?
Billy: Yes, yes. All these things carry on but you’re no longer saying, ‘That’s me!’ You are no longer identifying with them. They just happen but the record player that goes round and round has finished. The one that is always going to the past, looking for security, looking to the future, daydreaming, fantasizing, looking for security in the person, that aspect, which perhaps is more than half the usual thoughts that go on in our head, that becomes redundant. You no longer fuel that belief system, those belief systems are finished but life continues, feeling continues, everything else continues.
Renate: And what happened to all the structures, the ego structures in your physical body? Are they finished as well? Are they transformed or disappeared?
Billy: I think even to come to the understanding they dissipate because I would say that perhaps it’s a very few rare human beings that come to this understanding out of the blue. I don’t know. I would say that the vast majority of cases the understanding comes because you have let go of all those tensions. You have become a more open human being and after the understanding that process may continue. These residues of tensions have taken…….they belong to time and space. They’ve developed over many years and they don’t necessarily just disappear overnight but because the belief system is no longer there that fuels them they do tend to dissipate but they are no longer a problem. You see them and they release themselves.
Renate: So when you look at a physical body or movement, a posture from this non-dual space, what is the body? What are movements? What are we doing? (laughs)
Billy: Yes...(smiles), it’s a kind of celebration of Life. To move, to be, to enjoy the elasticity, the flexibility, the movement of the body.
Renate: Like celebrating life?
Billy: But I think Life is celebration.
Renate: Yes, yes.
Billy: It’s, it’s this joy and it’s beautiful to share that.
Renate: You said something in your notes or I think I read it in your book which really hit me, which was, ‘Only in our absence are we truly present.’
Billy: Yes, that’s the sentence from Jean Klein that reverberates through many of his books. It’s also something that struck me when he was talking.
Renate: So, explain that when you say, ‘only in our absence,’ what is absent?
Billy: You don’t have the slightest notion anymore of being anybody. There’s just completely empty space. There’s no man, there’s no woman, there’s no old person, there’s no young person, there’s no self image. There’s just transparency. That absence is not any kind of negative or something lacking.
Renate: It’s not the ego trying to be Absence?
Billy: It’s a feeling of fullness because there’s nothing lacking here, in this absence that we’re talking about. It’s an absence of all objectivity and all images. Actually that’s what we are in any case, silence. Who am I? What am I? It’s only the mind that comes in and builds up this belief system with I’m Mary, I’m John, I’m a bank manager. In silence what we are, who we are, it’s actually something incredibly simple this understanding. It’s very paradoxical that we spend many years looking for what I always am. It’s a strange paradox isn’t it? (Renate agrees).
Renate: (Renate looks through her notes). That’s what I was looking for, the sentence, ‘We are free but we don’t know ourselves in this freedom.’ You know when I read that and it still brings up so much sadness in me because looking, there’s something so close and if we look at humanity and see all this suffering…..
Billy: Yes, our real nature of course is always free but we superimpose on top of it the images, a belief system that buries our real nature.
Renate: So, how do we go about it Billy because there’s also something you said, ‘When we proceed from the relative to the ultimate reality in stages, the ego remains engaged.’ So where does that leave us, the searchers?
Billy: If we think that Me as the ‘I’ image is going to progress and become more spiritual, attain freedom, we’re going to bring the ‘I’ image with us and we’re going to perhaps even expand that ‘I’ image. You have to question at the beginning, who is this me? Who feels a lack? Who is trying to progress? You have to start really looking at who you are at the very beginning.
Renate: But it’s our ego structure in the first place that starts the search.
Billy: But the real desire to know ourselves comes from what we desire, which comes from our real nature. It’s looking for itself. So when we begin our search, it’s actually our self speaking to us and at that moment we begin to open to our real nature. We all feel this when we are identified, we all feel this lack, some kind of lack of fulfillment. That’s very important to recognize that and it’s that lack that starts us questioning, starts us searching. If we didn’t feel that lack perhaps we’d never bother or if we didn’t recognize it or we often just cover it over with our endless activities and entertainment. When we stop, look at ourselves we look at that. It’s an important thing to acknowledge that in myself and to discover what is that lack, where does it come from? Why is it there?
Renate: Do you feel that over time your personality changed?
Billy: Certainly! I think I would say I began to relax more and was able to live more in the moment, not running after things, not trying to accumulate things and I think that leaves your personality more spontaneous, more open. Actually it’s that when we don’t identify with our personality, that we free the personality. it’s nothing to do with denying our personality. This understanding gives freedom to our personality. Do you see what I mean?
Renate: Yes, well, the way I see it, is that somehow this constantly reflecting back on yourself, this mechanism stops. Would you agree? You just leave yourself running spontaneously. (She laughs).
Billy: Absolutely! You become I would say…
Renate: You don’t think I should do that or I should do this….I should be nicer. I should be smarter.
Billy: No. I would say that life becomes much more spontaneous. There’s no self image you’re worried about or concerned about. You become really open to other human beings. (He laughs).
Renate: Do you have a poem in your little book which fits? (She laughs).
Billy: Which fits….(laughs and puts his glasses on and picks up his book from the table).
That which you seek, Is not to be found, It is much too close to touch, Much to close to see. It is the touching, It is the seeing. There are not two, Or some other. The necklace you thought was missing, Is still around your neck.
Billy: Shall I read a second one?
Renate: Yes, read the second one and then I have another question.
A Vigil For The Self
Long into the night, Waiting without expectation. What might I be? No answer was forthcoming, But the question was no more. Nothing was missing. The silence was home.
Renate: Thank you. That’s beautiful. So, I’d like to talk a little bit about your work. You mentioned at the beginning the Energy Body is our real body. How can we learn to encounter the body? What do you do in your yoga?
Billy: To become in contact with the Energy Body...I would say it’s paralysed by muscular contraction. The first thing you have to do is relax, to recognize the tension. Some people don’t even know that their shoulders are up here. (He pulls his shoulders up to his ears). It’s become so normal, so deeply ingrained.
Renate: And to relax? What you said earlier, is it just to become aware that you’re not relaxed, that you have tension?
Billy: To actually feel and welcome the tensions. To really be in contact with them, not to fix them, to listen to them and let them unfold. They will, if we let them, if we listen in this way without trying to change them or try to get rid of them. We are in a kind of neutral territory. The body will release because the natural state of the body is a relaxed body. The tensions we create will dissolve and when we come to the relaxed body, the more subtle energies in the body begin to free themselves, to manifest and we can begin to experience them. I think it’s perhaps in the hands that it’s easiest to experience them and later in the whole body. It helps to free the body of the feeling of solidity or heaviness and that’s also very important because it’s quite difficult, I would say, very difficult to really understand our real nature when our body is just a mass of self-defence and solidity. How can truths cross those barriers? So, opening of the body for me, has always been very important. It leaves us more vulnerable to reality. The feeling of the energy body eats up the feelings of solidity and we feel ourselves becoming more transparent, more open and it frees us on many levels.
Renate: You even mention that this energy feeling is actually the healing factor of the body.
Billy: Yes, it’s the healing factor, yes. It’s what gives the body life, the real body. It permeates the whole body, it surrounds the physical body and it gives life to the body. The more we experience it, the more there is harmony and health on all levels including our eyes and ears and how we sense the world.
Renate: I know from my own experience when I take the time and just sit quietly, just see what I feel in the body, the body starts talking to me.
Renate: And if I let it talk and do what it wants to do, go through what it wants to go through, then it starts releasing. It’s really fascinating. You are so different from all the other non-duality teachers I have met over the years because you include the body, you talk about the importance of freeing the body as well.
Billy: I’ll just continue the story to the end about releasing the body and say, ultimately in that listening to the body we don’t emphasize what we listen to but just listening itself. It’s the object that brings us back to the ultimate, so called ultimate subject. So everything is a reminder of who we are. And the body, once it’s unfolded and dissolved, we let it go and we find ourselves simply in listening, simply in being. So the body is a way to bring us to ourselves.
Renate: I just feel I entered your silence. (They laugh).
Billy: There’s no ‘my silence’. There’s only silence.
Renate: There’s only silence, yes.
Billy: It’s not mine. It’s not yours. It’s just Silence. That’s all there is mmmm….
Renate: Mmmm...so we have one or two minutes left. Is there anything you would like to say?
Billy: Just this word Silence. We tend to think of it as an absence of thought but Silence itself doesn’t matter whether there’s thinking or there’s no thinking. Everything is part of that silence. It doesn’t matter, everything is silence. So we shouldn’t try to make our mind silent, that’s a kind of violence. The mind may be silent and it can be very beautiful. But silence itself can be there when you’re walking down Oxford Street or wherever. It simply is. We mustn’t confuse silence itself with simply the silence of the mind. It simply is!
Renate: I experience that in a funny way when you mentioned Oxford Street. Sometimes when I walk down Oxford Street there are thousands and thousands of people, you bump into people and when I’m not present or not in the silence, I experience myself bumping into these people and then I become aware. Then I go into presence, or into silence or connect with silence and it’s so interesting, you go through it and you don’t touch anything. It’s like the way opens. (Billy agrees and nods his head). Do we have time for another short poem? Yah, maybe.
Billy: Okay, let’s have a look. One more poem. (Billy puts his glasses on and leafs through his book and starts to read)
Go By Way Of Negation.
Take the empty road. Before proclaiming I am all. Be yourself nought, Leave aside assertion, Before knowing what you are. Know well what you’re not. Body, senses mind, Explore the landscape well. Discover its transparency, Lest you carry it along. Go by way of negation, Be yourself nought.
Renate: Beautiful. Thank you for coming and being with us and I will show your book again, ‘The Mirage of Separation’. And watch out for the new book which might be called, ‘Open To Openness’, but I guess people can find it on your website and thank you for watching Conscious TV and I will see you again soon. Bye bye.
Billy Doyle Meditation Into Silence.
Billy: My name’s Billy Doyle and I’m going to do a guided body awareness. You might like to join us and it would be better if you closed your eyes and sit in a comfortable position.
Just feel the contact where you’re sitting on your chair, where your feet touch the ground, where you give the weight.
Feel where your hands are resting. The feeling of your arms, your shoulders dropping into your hands.
Be aware of your spine. Slowly travel upwards with your awareness. Feel each vertebra floating, feel your head as a continuation of your spine.
So, how do you experience this body? I mean how do you sense it, feel it? Imagine you’ve actually never seen it. It’s just through the feeling that you know it.
So feel your hands, not the memory, not the image. Just let it be sensation. Let the sensation come to you. It’s not the slightest effort. Feel your hands, the volume of your hands. They are warm, feel their vibration, your forearms, upper arms, your shoulders.
Listen to your feet, (pause) let them come alive. Don’t fix what you feel, let it unfold. The lower legs, your upper legs, your hips, your trunk.
Experience your face, feel it without thinking it. Your mouth, feel the space of your mouth. Experience your eyes, feel them like globes filling the front of your face.
Welcome your whole body. (pause) Feel its aliveness. Feel whatever comes up (pause) without naming, without judging, just welcoming what is. There may be fears, tensions, rigidity, welcome all that manifests.
Now just feel the front of your body. Feel the warmth, the radiation from your body, spreading out into the space in front of you. Go into the space. Be one with it. Embrace the space. Is there really any border to the front of your body?
Experience your back. Feel the warmth, the radiation spreading out behind you. Go into the space, make it your own.
Open the space on your left. Open the space on your right and now feel all directions. Feel your globality. Is there really an inside and an outside? (long pause) Be one with this vastness, this open space.
In this spaciousness you’re free of thinking. Free of your head. (Long pause)
In this listening don’t emphasize what you listen to or a listener, there’s just listening, being. You can’t think it. (Long pause)
Thank you very much.
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