Adyashanti – Awakening
Interview with Renate McNay
Renate: Hello and welcome to conscious.tv. My name is Renate McNay and my guest today is Adyashanti. Hello Adya.
Renate: Nice to have you here.
Adya: Thank you.
Renate: And we’re going to talk about Adya’s awakening experience, his teaching and his life and Adya has a whole pile of books, which I'm going to show you at the end of the interview. We’ll just start right away. So Adya, when you were seven or eight years old, you had already a very profound realisation and this realisation was that people are suffering because they believe their thoughts.
Renate: How did that impact you at that time?
Adya: Hmmm. Well, it’s strange ‘cause I've told the story many times when I've taught, about being seven or eight and being very confused about the adult dimension – about adults and why they acted the way they did and it just seemed sort of odd and one day I just had the insight and the insight was “I get it – they’re crazy, they’re crazy, they believe what they think.” And somehow that just kind of came to me and the interesting thing is when I had that insight, I felt a great relief because I didn’t have to think about it anymore, I kind of understood something. It didn’t make me reject anything, or it didn’t cause me any anxiety or anything. I just thought “Now I understand. I can let go.”
Renate: So what did you understand?
Adya: That they believed their mind.
Renate: And this is…?
Adya: And this was why they were often acting – not just acting but what I saw more was just in human communication, ‘cause I was a real listener my whole life – real listener. There was nothing that went on in our household that I didn’t know, ‘cause I would listen to everything that I could and I would see, in communication, where someone would start to try to manipulate the conversation, or they would start to deflect something, or they would go into avoidance and I could see all this at a very young age. And when they would say something that wasn’t really real and because I could see all this, it’s confusing. You know when adults – these are people who’re supposed to know more and be more wise and more insightful and I could see them that sometimes they were but sometimes they weren’t. It’s confusing, “what’s going on there, why did they do that?” I was lucky because when I've told this story in public before, I find lots of people have had their own version of this insight very young in their lives and the interesting thing is for most of them that have shared it with me, what it produced in them was great anxiety because they looked up to these adults who were their caretakers and their love providers, completely dependent and they suddenly saw a flaw and it really scared them and most people concluded “there must be something wrong with me,” when they had these insights. For whatever reason I was very lucky, I didn’t have that.
Renate: Did it affect your own thinking?
Renate: So you stopped believing your own thoughts? [both laugh]
Adya: That would be nice if I could completely claim that.
Renate: You had to go through the whole thing yourself?
Adya: I had to go through the whole thing. Sometimes we do have a wisdom when we’re really, really young, but yet we have to go through often the whole forgetting it, forgetting what we know and all that.
Renate: So you forgot this realisation?
Adya: The realisation was always there but it didn’t always have a great impact. In other words I didn’t always apply it to myself, do you know?
Renate: Hm, hm, I understand, yeah. It’s the most difficult thing. [laughs]
Adya: Yeah, it didn’t stop my mind from claiming its authority for quite a while.
Renate: So you had already as a child a lot of mystical experiences and when you were nineteen you went to your mother and you announced, “My life is over.”
Adya: Hm, hm. Yeah, I’d just been experimenting with meditation and reading some spiritual books, most of them were on Zen Buddhism and I just got intrigued by this idea of enlightenment. I didn’t know what it was, I hadn’t even formed a concept or an image of what it was, like something for me to chase, but I just read it and when I read it, it was almost like something in me just like exploded and I just knew…
Renate: Caught fire.
Adya: …this is it, I have to find out what this is. And yeah, I woke up one morning and I just knew “that’s it,” life as I knew it, is over. I don’t know what the life to come is gonna be, but I know that this pull towards finding out what this enlightenment thing is, it’s not something that I can take or leave. It’s not something in my control. It’s something that kind of grabbed me and it has hold and that was a real shift.
Renate: How did you feel about that?
Adya: A strange combination of emotion. One of the emotions was a lot of excitement. It was like the ultimate adventure, it was very, very exciting ‘cause I sensed intuitively great, great possibilities, almost infinite possibilities, without knowing what that even meant. Simultaneously it was quite frightening…
Renate: I can imagine.
Adya: …to realise the way I've led life, my very idea that I am the director of my life and I have control over it, it’s gonna go where I want – to wake up and realise that that is not going to work for you anymore, was also frightening and scary.
Renate: Yeah and what happened then?
Adya: Well, as the journey began, you know …
Renate: You found your teacher…
Adya: Yeah, I found my teacher in the back of a book by Ram Dass and she was the closest Zen teacher that I could find and I expected to find a Zen teacher in traditional robes in a temple and all that stuff and she was a housewife in a town fifteen minutes from where I grew up and she taught out of her home – very unassuming, very hidden. There was never more than twelve to fifteen people that were there when I was with her, the whole time I was with her.
Renate: So you were told to look at the wall, to sit and look at the wall. Isn’t that what they do in Zen? [laughs]
Adya: That’s what they do in Zen, yeah.
Renate: So you meditated every day for two to four hours?
Adya: Yeah, yeah. I meditated a lot.
Renate: And when you didn’t meditate, what did you do? I was reading you were a bike racer and you trained…
Adya: Yeah, I hadn’t stopped my athletic life, which was very serious bike racing, so I would spend many, many hours a day, riding my bike, training. And then I took that same sort of a male, very male, energy of real willpower that I used in athletics and it’s very useful in athletics.
Renate: So very driven…
Adya: Very driven.
Renate: Very disciplined…
Adya: Very, very driven. And that capacity had really served me in life, not only in athletics but growing up as a child I had learning disabilities – dyslexia – and I learned if I just decided I was going to learn something and just put all my willpower behind it, I could do it. So it was something that really worked for me and so I just transferred that willpower into my spiritual seeking.
Renate: And what did your teacher say to that? She must have realised that. Didn’t she say “Adya, you need to slow down?”
Adya: At a certain point she did. At a certain point, yeah, when I would tell her how much I was meditating and sometimes on the weekends I would take a day and meditate like from four in the morning ‘til twelve at night. You know Zen is very encouraging of meditation, so if your Zen teacher tells you you might be doing too much, you know you’re really driven [both laugh]. So she suggested that I maybe do a little less at times and the teaching that I remember more than anything else when I would see her, she would often hold her hand up in front of her [makes fist] and she would just squeeze it and go “too much like this (tightly closed fist), not enough like this [relaxes and opens fist].” “Too much like this, not enough like this.” [repeats gestures]
Renate: Did you understand?
Adya: Of course I understood what she was saying but I was so lost in my driven spiritual seeking mode, there was nowhere for that teaching to land in me. Even in the moment, my thoughts that I went and shared with her but I would literally think I don’t have time, I don’t have time to relax, I don’t have time to let go. I have to find out what enlightenment is tomorrow. So that was…
Renate: I want to get it over with?
Renate: What was your fantasy? What’s going to happen after enlightenment?
Adya: I didn’t have a fantasy, I had no idea what it was, really. ‘Cause you know in Zen Buddhism when you read about it, especially at that time, I mean, this was going back, you know, close to thirty years. There wasn’t like it is now, there weren’t all the teachings available and lots of Zen teachers and all kinds of spiritual teachers and teachings. There wasn’t the web. All this wasn’t really happening, so it was a lot of traditional old stories of old Zen masters and they don’t make any attempt to explain anything about enlightenment, like we in the West would expect. They actually explain it in a way that’s so direct, that it sounds like nonsense. So I couldn’t even form an idea about it. I think my sense of it was, which tied back into that insight as a little child, which was; something about enlightenment has to do with reality and reality has something to do with seeing things as they actually are, of not being trapped in your mind, not being lost but actually having a real intimate connection with the real. ‘Cause what I saw as a child is it was real easy to lose connection with the real – that the world around me seemed to have lost it long ago.
Renate: So you saw this in your mystical experiences you had as a child?
Renate: And there was this yearning to find this again what you experienced?
Adya: I didn’t even link it back at the time to the childhood stuff. Only many, many years later did I make these ties back to what I had seen in childhood and certain things that I’d realised, certain experiences I’d had but at the moment, at that time I made no link between the two. There was a link…
Renate: Yeah, sure.
Adya: …but I was not conscious of it. I was just driven.
Renate: So you were sitting all this time in front of the wall. What was going on inside you?
Adya: Well a lot more than I would have liked [both laugh]. I had this very common idea that I needed to stop my mind. Not that my teacher ever told me to stop my mind. She didn’t, she never told me that, but somehow I got this idea that my mind was the problem and to stop it was at least part of the solution. Well, if you want to make your mind really noisy, just go around trying to stop it for hours a day. It just tends to increase the noise.
Adya: A lot of those times in meditation were actually spent in a lot of frustration actually, of not being able to stop the mind. There would be moments where, or times when I would sit down and everything would just sort of settle very naturally, mind would become very, very quiet and I could sort of sense a very… a depth. I hadn’t had a real realisation at that point, but I could sense something very, very, very deep. But whenever that would happen it would be quite spontaneous, it would just… in the midst of all the seeking and struggling and all of a sudden it would all just relax, do you know?
Adya: So a lot of it, it was a combination of both but since I was so driven I could be very prone to getting very frustrated.
Renate: So at the same time you must have also had a lot of patience because you did that for fifteen years.
Adya: Yeah. Just drive. I was just driven. I wouldn’t say that I was patient at all, just driven.
Renate: But I mean to stay with this one teaching for such a long time?
Adya: Oh, yes.
Renate: And think you will get it eventually and stay with it, stay focussed with it, that’s…
Adya: It’s strange you know because again…
Renate: It is strange! [laughs]
Adya: I didn’t know anybody did it any differently, until I started to teach. I literally had not a single spiritual friend the whole time I was sort of seeking ‘cause I was usually the youngest kid in the room and to me it was a very intimate, very private affair. I didn’t even feel like I really needed to talk, or wanted to talk to anybody about it. So the strange thing was it never entered my mind to go seeking for other teachers. It never entered my mind that a teacher could somehow give me what I was looking for. It never entered my mind to do more spiritual window shopping was gonna be useful in any way. They literally never entered my mind. I never realised until I started teaching that some of these thoughts are actually common, you know. A lot of people do go through a really wide range of different teachers, different teachings all that. It never even occurred to me, not a single time.
Renate: And then there was this day when you were sitting, trying to calm your mind down and what happened?
Adya: Well the first time was when I was twenty five, was my first opening and strangely enough for the five or six years before that, I had this intuition – very clear intuition – that I was gonna die at twenty five years old and I thought it was gonna be physical death, I just… what else could you assume? The strange thing is – again in retrospect – it never concerned me whatsoever. It was like a piece of information that was given to me and my mind made nothing out of it. It was just like a fact and I didn’t have any relationship other than it was a fact and somehow I knew it was gonna be true. So fast forward, twenty five years old and I sit down to meditate and I was really, really intensely trying to have this breakthrough for a long time. I would walk the sidewalk, the streets going to work and I would literally have this mantra in my head like “what is this, what is this, what is this?” ‘Cause I felt like I had something inside of me, this intensity, this thing that wanted to be known. And it was almost like I got invaded by it, as well, it felt like something came inside.
Renate: You were possessed. [laughs]
Adya: That’s what it felt like and I would just literally, in my mind, “what is this, what is this, what is this?” all day long. And I used to think, “I wonder what day I’ll actually have some sort of psychotic break, or psychological breakdown?” ‘cause I knew that I couldn’t sustain that intensity indefinitely. So I used to think about that. So, anyway, one day I had this real intensity and I sit down to meditate and I just have this feeling of “this is it. I'm really going to somehow do it.” And I sat down and it was like all my will just focussed, within a couple of minutes, I focussed like I’d never focussed and right at that moment I had an insight, which was, “I can’t do this.” It wasn’t a great insight, it was like complete defeat, just utter, devastating defeat. Like “not only can I not do this, this will never happen, this is… I’m defeated.” And as soon as I had that sense, “I'm defeated, I can not do this.” This immense sort of opening happened.
Renate: So when you said, “I cannot do that anymore” meaning the meditation…
Adya: The whole thing.
Renate: ...the whole thing, the search...
Adya: The spiritual search, the enlightenment, the whole project. I just met like this wall that I’d been pushing and pushing and pushing on and I was defeated by it –intellectually, emotionally, physically even – energetically, I was just completely defeated.
Adya: And as soon as I was defeated, in the next instant… it started out as an energetic thing, I guess they would call it nowadays a Kundalini experience and I felt this immense rush of energy and started breathing quite heavily and my heart started to beat; boom, boom, boom.
Renate: Were you on your own?
Adya: I’m just sitting there meditating in my little meditation hut in my parents’ backyard. And having been an athlete, I knew what my maximum heart rate felt like, I knew what a heart rate of around two hundred felt like and my heart was beating way faster than that and there was so much energy, the heart was beating, it felt like my heart was going to explode, I was breathing hard and yet, I'm sitting there meditating, you know. I can’t move and I just had a thought “this is gonna kill me” and the next thought I had – when I knew it was gonna kill me – the next thought I had was “if that’s what it takes, let’s get it over with.” And it wasn’t like a courageous thought, it wasn’t like a masculine, fearless, “okay I’ll do it,” it was just a very simple “okay, I’ll die. I’ll die right here, right now, I’ll let my heart explode. I won't move off this cushion, I won't go anywhere.” And I really thought I was gonna die, one hundred per cent. As soon as I thought ‘okay, I’ll die now” all of a sudden, I was instantly in a different – I don’t even know what to call it – instant different dimension. I wasn’t aware of my body anymore, absolute darkness, total infinity of black and I wasn’t even there anymore. It was just this infinite, open, sort of black space and after a while, what I could feel was there was like these insights coming, almost being downloaded through the top of my head into my body, like a computer program was being downloaded.
Renate: And what was the insights, could you differentiate the information?
Adya: I couldn’t, I couldn’t. They were coming like a hundred a second, just way too many for me to have any conscious… but I knew they were insights. Just like if you can imagine Ah-as! going off like a popcorn popper but so quickly you couldn’t stop to really recognise what you just realised and so there was this downloading of, almost like information and Ah-as! And then, slowly after some time, I don’t know how long, I became more aware of my body and the energy had settled, everything settled and after a while I was just sitting there, totally normal, absolutely... no high, no low, no… it all just [makes noise like air expiring] and I’m just sitting there. And I think “well, there’s nothing left to do, I guess I’ll get up.” And I got up and I…
Renate: You didn’t have any after thoughts, what this blackness was?
Adya: Not at that instant, it was just so… looking back, it’s almost strange I didn’t have these… I just thought “well, I guess I get up.” I got up and I did the bows and I bowed to my Buddha statue figure that was always there with the incense lit and I bowed down and by the time I got my head back up I was just laughing hysterically and I just looked at that Buddha and I thought “I've been chasing you for years” and I could see that that which I’d been chasing, was this that was chasing it. I didn’t have any more definition than that of what that was, what I was, what I’d been chasing but I knew that what I had been chasing, was what I am and that’s where the laughter came from – just laughed and laughed and laughed. And then right in the middle of that, I turned and opened the door and this voice that I’d always had any time I had even the smallest insight, this voice would always say “very good, now, keep going.” It was like this voice that would not let me settle for anything less than what was really real, ultimately true and I used to get upset with it ‘cause I would think, “I had this nice insight, let me, let me…”
Renate: Enjoy! [laughs]
Adya: “…let me enjoy. Give me a day, give me a week.” I've seen other people that have had insights and they get to, you know, think they’ve achieved everything you know, for at least a week, or a month or two. Anyway, I turned around, I opened the door and that voice came in and it just said, “this isn’t it, keep going.”
Renate: How did you feel about that?
Renate: Here you knew, who you were…
Adya: I know, I know.
Renate: …and yet at the same time something says, “That’s not it.”
Adya: “That’s not it, keep going.” First of all, as soon as I heard the voice, I knew it was true, but I also knew that it wasn’t discounting what had happened. It wasn’t saying “what you experienced was completely false, and there’s no truth and get rid of it and move on.”
Renate: It was not a superego attack, or something?
Adya: No, not at all.
Renate: It was a guidance, was more like a guidance?
Adya: Yes. It was always like a guidance. It was and I knew that what it meant was “this isn’t it” just meant, “this isn’t the all of it. Don’t grasp this, don’t stop, don’t think you’ve arrived. Keep going.” But yet I didn’t feel like what I experienced in any way was being discounted. I knew that it was extraordinarily significant, you know, I knew it. And I also knew when I heard the voice, that there was more, there’s more for me… there is a clarity... there was more to see. I didn’t know what that meant.
Renate: But something big also happens – the seeker stopped.
Adya: That’s right, the seeker stopped. That drive, the seeking of it, the strain, the struggle, the seeing it as separate, all... ‘cause I knew that I wasn’t separate from what I was seeking anymore, it all just disappeared. I never had that seeking energy after that day, ever. And yet I still would get up each morning and in the evening I would still do my meditation. I would… everything looked…
Renate: …the same?
Adya: …the same. And most people would look at it and they might go, “you were still seeking” but I wasn’t. It was just, “this was what I was to do.” I just knew it was the thing to do. If someone said “why are you doing it?” I couldn’t tell you why, ‘cause there wasn’t any seeking to it, but I just knew that this was the thing for me to do.
Renate: So what happened? So the seeker was gone and yet you knew there is further to go for you?
Renate: Did you feel you had to do something for that?
Adya: It never entered my mind that I either did, or didn’t, have to do anything.
Renate: So you knew you just had to relax?
Adya: Just like that voice told me – “keep going.” And so then I would sit down in my meditation and I would… actually what start happening is what my teacher always told me, “Just sit.” “Just sit, just sit.” And I used to try to just sit, which you can’t, right? And now, I could just sit, I would just sit and if someone would ask me “what are you doing?” I would say, “I’m just sitting, I'm not doing anything.” So meditation was a time when there could be total allowance to do nothing. I would call it “the doing of nothing,” the practice of doing nothing and no seeking, no nothing. But I just knew, this is what I am to do, there’s more… and I was left with a question – I knew that that what I had been seeking was what I am but the question that came into my mind now was “what exactly, precisely is this that I realized.” I know it is what I am, I know it’s not of time, I know therefore I can’t die, I was never born, I know all that, I know that but what exactly is this… that I am and I could not… I didn’t know that. I knew that I was it, whatever it was, I was it. Not me as an ego, but me as it – I knew that. So that question, that was what I was left with “what exactly is this, that I am?” And that took me another seven years – six or seven.
Renate: And then you started getting restless again with your athletic side? Started working really hard and being driven to become the world champion. [laughs]
Adya: You know the strange thing is, part of all that aftermath of that experience, was my competitive athletic endeavor stopped making sense to me. So I would be like in a race and I would be thinking “what am I doing out here?” As soon as an athlete asks “what am I doing out here?” your athletic career is over. As soon as that thought arises, forget it. That’s too much clarity. It’s not gonna work, so over the next few years, I stopped competing, but strangely I kept training as if I was competing. I knew what was happening. I knew what I was doing was maintaining the identity of the athlete because the athletic identity, it has a lot of pluses to it. It has a sort of physicality, of strength, even though I’m a little guy but you know I could ride a bike for seven hours really fast. So there’s a whole very positive identity that goes with it, that’s who I had been for many, many years and even though I knew that what I was doing that I’m creating this thing, I'm maintaining this identity that’s not true. I knew it wasn’t true, but it was like there was that conditioning and I couldn’t not do it. I just couldn’t not do it and so I did it and a few years later, I got sick for like six months – all sorts of illnesses that were undiagnosed but serious. In bed for a lot of six months and that crushed the identity. You can’t be strong, super athlete man, when you’ve sat in bed for six months, you’re really weak. And after those six months I felt wonderful; to be free of that athletic, physical identity was wonderful. I went, “wow, this is great.” Be nice if I could tell you that it never came back. [Renate laughs] Time went on, before I know it –like a drug addict or something, you know what I mean? And I did it again.
Renate: Well, you said “I was addicted to the ‘me’.”
Adya: I was addicted to that particular identity, yeah, even though I knew it wasn’t me. Strange.
Renate: Yeah and did you also know that this is the very thing that probably was in the way…
Adya: Yeah, I knew that too.
Renate: …to finish your path?
Adya: So it’s strange to have a lot of consciousness about something, but that not being able to stop you from doing it.
Renate: Did you find in your teaching, working with people, that’s the most difficult thing – to go beyond safe identification?
Adya: Yeah, it is – the identity. I've seen that people can actually have great insight at moments beyond it and to see that that’s not who they are and often that insight, often it’s not really enough to really break down that identification. It’s like one transcends it but it’s like still there lurking in the shadows.
Adya: So that when you’re… I call it the honeymoon of your awakening you come back from it, there will be that old identity waiting for you and it often slips in like slowly and incrementally and it’s almost like you don’t even know that it’s happening until you kind of feel the lights go out a little bit again.
Renate: And it has so many different faces.
Adya: Doesn’t it?
Renate: You know, layers and layers and layers. You know when your wife, Mukti, said to me ,she was in Vienna, I felt immediately “oh, Vienna” you know I felt my identification with… it’s all over, how can you ever get out of that?
Adya: Yeah. It’s everywhere, there’s just so many layers, it’s so subtle, so sort of has its tentacles everywhere.
Renate: Yeah. Okay, so where were we? [laughing]
Adya: So, I'm still meditating and then after the six month illness I start, you know, start riding because I did… I've always had what I call a blue collar body. My body likes to work and I had been very, very physical from the time I came out of the womb almost. I was walking before I was a one years old but that was just a part of not, so much intrinsically not an identity, just a way that one’s hooked up and so that would start and I would start to ride my bike and it was really nice because I didn’t have the identity, you know. And if someone passed me, I didn’t care and it was just lovely but incrementally, you know, it comes back and before I know it, you know, I'm training like I'm an Olympic athlete again and yet, I'm not competing, I don’t want to compete. I knew again, I knew it was happening, I watched it, it was recreating this identity again and once again I was seemingly powerless to do anything about it and so it got created again. Not as much as before, it was like a very wounded identity ‘cause there was a lot of knowing that it wasn’t really true, but nonetheless it came and well, I got another six month illness. A mono and a lung infection and a sinus infection and all this nasty stuff all at the same time put me in bed and crushed it.
Renate: So you had a lot of time to think about the identity.
Adya: Yeah, yeah. And when I started to regain my health then I had lost the taste for it. I had no aversion to it, but I don’t think it’s so much that the identity goes away that’s important, as the taste for it. Which is kind of a desire for it, but I think it’s… desire’s such an abstract word, right?
Renate: Yes, yes.
Adya: But when we have the taste for something, that’s what inclines us back towards it.
Renate: Yeah, it’s almost a whole bodily feeling.
Adya: Yeah, it’s very physical isn’t it? And emotional and everything, yeah. I didn’t have it anymore.
Renate: Yeah, it’s a grabbing, kind of.
Adya: Yes, it’s a grabbing. Even if you don’t want what you grab for. So I didn’t want it anymore. That second illness… I look back on both of those as purification of that and after the second illness I’d somehow been purified of the taste, the wanting for, not only that identity but any identity. There was just no wanting in it, there’s no draw, no pull, you know. It wasn’t even that I pushed anything away, it was just gone.
Renate: It did it all itself?
Adya: Yeah – with two, six months bouts of illness and four or five years and yeah…
Renate: It took the time [laughs].
Adya: It takes whatever time it takes. We all live through… Our lives, I think, are tailor made for our own awakening, our own clarity, yeah.
Renate: And one morning you got up…?
Adya: That was a few years later after I’d met Mukti, my wife and we had been married, gosh, less than two months and it was really interesting. When we got married, I had a great feeling that, “this is a wonderful relationship, I cannot ask for more than this.” I cannot ask for someone more than she is, it just was from a relationship point of view, everything I’d ever wanted and yet, somewhere inside I realized one day, “it’s not enough.” And what I meant that wasn’t enough, was I realized, that spiritual thing – whatever that was – it was unfinished, undone, that putting this fantastic relationship, even that wasn’t going to satisfy that spiritual movement. Nothing was going to satisfy it and I just thought “Hmm, strange. Nothing’s gonna satisfy it, nothing on the outside, nothing. Nothing that anybody looks for, you know, soul mates and all this stuff. It’s like, like I tell people “go find your soul mate and you’ll realize, it might be wonderful for your relationship life but it’s not gonna solve the deepest thing in you.” And so that was just there, but of course now there was still the absence of seeking but I was still meditating. One morning I just sat down to meditate and again, things – significant things for me in meditation happened immediately when I would sit down – almost immediately, not after I’d, you know, got into some wonderful state – and I just heard a bird outside and I heard the bird and a question arose from my gut, not from my head. I literally felt it start in my gut and travel up my body and register in the brain and the question was “who hears this sound?” And as soon as that question, came up, hit the brain, then there was just the bird, the hearing of it, the hearer of it, all of it was just one thing. There was no separation at all between me, the hearing, the bird, the anything. It was just one event and it was surprisingly simple, you know, surprisingly simple and yet extraordinary in its own way. The thing was though there was, at that moment, there was no emotional content – none. No ecstasy, no excitement, no nothing, it was completely devoid of any, what I would call, by-product. It was just that pure knowing of One.
Renate: So, is this, would you say the witness collapsed?
Renate: So you were the seer and the seen and the hearer and the heard – that was just all the same thing?
Adya: All the same, all the same.
Renate: So, you were gone?
Adya: You could put it that way, yeah. I was gone and in a strange way I showed up as I’d never shown up before. ‘I’ as a sort of a separate thing – separate from a bird or from you or from… that was gone but somehow, wow, something was finally extraordinarily present.
Renate: And then something fascinating happened – it fascinated me when I read about it – you saw a string of pictures.
Adya: Oh, yeah.
Renate: And you saw where you were trapped – I guess you as awareness was trapped – and as you put your attention…
Adya: On each of one of those, yes. So I got up. Again I’m sitting there, there was just, sort of the next thing to do, was to get up. I had strange questions like – I mean literally the way I'm hooked up is very practical, so the first thing I thought “let me see something really practical.” I looked at the stove and I said, “see, is it the same as the bird.” Sure enough it was. And then the last thing, I mean it sounds silly to tell the story because it sounds so unspiritual you know, I thought, “what if I really push it, how about the toilet. Let’s open the door to the bathroom” and I looked in there and “I’ll be damned – same.” There’s no… the seer, the seen, the seeing.
Renate: So you were the toilet?
Adya: The same, yes. So I went to the most practical things, you know. ‘Cause of course, a bird – okay, a tree, a cloud, a sky – of course.
Renate: It’s [all] very spiritual, but a toilet… [laughs]
Adya: Yeah, something in me was testing it, right. So, at one point I was literally walking across, what we called the living room, if you can call a four hundred and fifty square foot cottage a living room, it’s just a room which you could go through in ten steps, or less. And I'm walking across it and then all of a sudden any experience of unity or oneness just disappeared and I don’t know what happened then ‘cause I wasn’t aware of anything around me and there was just absolute… an infinity of nothingness.
Renate: So that’s when you said consciousness completely woke up?
Adya: I suppose one could put it that way, I probably have at some point in time.
Renate: So when you say nothingness…?
Adya: It was like the knowing that was dawning then was that Oneness arises from this. The knowing of Oneness arises from this – this infinity of… it’s like before something, or nothing. So, I call it nothingness but if one would think of nothing, an infinity of nothingness and then just get rid of any idea of nothingness, which you know, one can’t imagine…
Renate: It’s beyond, beyond, beyond [laughs].
Adya: Yes, right. Sort of like the Buddha scripture would say, right, “beyond, going beyond, always going beyond.” And so that occurred and then it was kind of like coming back in sequence from nothingness, from that nothingness and then into the awareness of unity, right and then, sort of almost like stepping down from the source, without losing it though, you see, without losing it. And then to answer, or to talk about what you spoke about – and then very shortly after that, still I'm in the middle, standing in the middle of the living room, not even aware of the living room at that point and then these string of… this sort of vision – which I'm not mystically oriented, you know, I don’t have lots of visions, I don’t have lots of strange… that’s not necessarily how it was oriented, but I did have this, sort of string of, literally in this nothingness, I would see a string of what people would probably call ‘past lives.’
Renate: Yeah, which is here, right now, at the same time.
Adya: Of course, yeah that’s how I like to always describe it, like you had a dream at night and you dreamed you had past lives – all those lives would be being created in the moment you were dreaming and there is not any…. it just feels like past. So there was this feeling and what I could see, it was like, literally like little pictures out in front of me and I would just – I could go up to each one and it was like going up to a knot hole in the fence. You know when you get right up to the knot hole then you can see everything on the other side of the fence and all of a sudden – boom! All of a sudden I would be like in this other lifetime and I would notice myself as someone in particular in that lifetime, an event, something was going on and each of those events, each of those little lifetimes were moments of confusion. Sort of real core spiritual confusion – lots of them had to do with death, like one of them not even knowing what happened, when I was drowned and it happened so fast I didn’t even know I was dying. But I could see what had happened and I could just go in and the ‘me’ in that moment, I could just literally, just like whisper in its ear “you’re dying, that’s all.” Whatever the point of confusion was, I could see what it was, I could go in, I could tell myself in that other life exactly what I needed to hear and I could feel almost like in that scene, it would just let go and it would just kind of let go and everything would disappear. It was like that life was rectified and then I’d go to the next one and then there would be what I’d see in that past life and I’d see exactly what I needed to see to bring completion to it, or resolution and then that would just disappear and then I’d go to the next one and each time I did this, it was as if – and this is all metaphorical because we’re speaking about something that’s actually timeless, but I can only speak about it as if it’s in time – but each time there would be this resolution, I could feel this energy of resolution going backwards and forwards in time. I could feel the resolution back at that moment, in this event that seemed to happen and I could feel a resolution in this moment, in this life stream. Because whatever happened then was affecting now, it was still alive, right and it would just release and I just went through the ones I was shown.
Renate: So when you said you could feel it, it’s still connected to this life, where did you feel it?
Adya: That’s a good question.
Renate: If nobody was there… [was it] a sensation in the middle of nowhere?
Adya: Yeah, yeah. The whole idea at that moment of, when I use these words like, “I could feel, then and now” and “I could go into this and I could go into that” there was no definition of what that ‘I’ was at all. It wasn’t like ‘me’ as a particular person and ‘me’ doing… none of that at all. It was really more of you know, just consciousness doing it and consciousness can go into its focal point, even like as we sit here, right?
Renate: Yes, yes.
Adya: And if it comes into this focal point enough then there can be the sense, what I call the perfume of self, which is what I think all self gets created around this sense, but it’s just a sense, and that sense gets created into something that seems solid. Or it can be a sense and at times that sense just totally disappears. But at the moment all this was happening, I was not even considering what that was because it was all like just this play. I was on all sides. On this side, on that side – everything.
Renate: I’m interested in what you said that you… Somehow we think the absolute is the end of the road, but you didn’t call it absolute. You said you just cannot say it; does that mean we never know who we really are? Is there a point when we go so deep into the mystery that we lose all…? I don’t know…
Adya: Yes, that’s my experience, is all the definers, even the subtle definers, which I’ll use when I teach too – awareness, consciousness, sometimes I’ll say an awake space, all these things, one, they can be experienced, do you know and yet what I would call the ultimate is that which is inconceivable, inexperiencable – unexperiencable, it cannot come in any of these categories that we usually we put it in. It’s almost like as soon as we open our mouths and talk about it, we’re lying in a certain sense – hopefully with good intentions.
Renate: You cannot hit the point.
Adya: You cannot hit the point. Because like I say, if you take something and then you take absolute emptiness, nothingness and then you go really completely outside of duality, something and nothing, what’s there when there’s not even nothing? Imagination can’t go there, can it? Mind can’t go, imagination, experience, nothing can go, but something, that which is even beyond nothingness, before it, prior to it – that, it’s there and it does know itself but it knows itself, as that which is completely, absolutely unknowable. If there’s a defining characteristic, it’s the unknowability in the defining characteristic.
Renate: I went once to this place too and I asked my teacher and he gave a name for that and he said, “that’s the Divine Coma.”
Adya: I like that – the Divine Coma [both laugh]. That’s rather graphic isn’t it?
Renate: Yeah, we can have a picture and identification with it.
Adya: One could, I suppose, yes, yes, yeah. But somehow there’s an intuitive way of understanding that immediately.
Renate: Yes. It’s there, it’s always there, but you cannot see it, you cannot explain what it is.
Adya: Yes, right, that’s the amazing thing isn’t it? It’s not explainable even with the words… we try these very transparent wording, I think, often when we talk about this, ‘cause we’re talking about something that’s so transparent, it’s almost not there and yet even a transparent wording feels heavy and it feels dense. And it’s not even something you can really point to, you can’t really even teach about it. If it happens for someone, then you can be a mirror for them, or you can be a companion or you can give word to it like that – what was that word your teacher…?
Renate: Divine Coma [both laugh].
Adya: When someone’s experienced it, they know what you mean; you know that’s the humour of it, right? You tell someone who hasn’t – Divine Coma – that’s gonna feel terrible.
Adya: Right, right.
Renate: Well, I’m aware of the time rushing ahead. Do you think Adya, you’ve reached some kind of end, or...
Renate: … is it still expanding, like the universe is expanding, we are expanding with it?
Adya: To me it’s sort of a paradox in description. Because it’s sort of that ultimate ground which is outside of time, expanding, contracting, more, different, deeper, all of that. It is what it is and yet it itself has an infinite capacity to reveal itself. We can call that revealing of itself deepening, never-ending, or the Buddhists would say, “always being, always becoming.”
Adya: Always being, always becoming and that rings true for me, always being – it’s like this infinity is always… I always think of it almost like a jokester going, “look what I can become. I can become the greatest insight you’ve seen. Here, try me in that form. That will not exhaust me. Here, I’ll give you this, try this and try this and try this.” So I think of it as an inexhaustible infinity. In that sense what reveals itself is infinite. But what is revealing itself is, there’s never more, nor less of it. No more, no less, at any moment in time.
Renate: Well, it’s a beautiful mystery.
Adya: It is, yes.
Renate: I’m sorry we have to finish, Adya. It was wonderful talking to you. I just want to show some of your books: The End of Your World – I just love this book, it’s actually written for people who had an awakening experience, or are awakened. A meditation book with a CD inside – True Meditation. My Secret is Silence – poems, which are very beautiful and Emptiness Dancing – it’s a great title. The last book Adya wrote is Falling into Grace. If you go on Adya’s website, you’ll find lots and lots of wonderful CDs and teaching. So thank you for being with us, Adya.
Adya: You’re very welcome. I enjoyed you so much.
Renate: Thank you. And thank you for watching conscious.tv and I’m sure I’ll see you again soon. Bye, bye
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