Deborah Westmoreland – Being Knowing Being
Interview by Renate McNay
Renate: Deborah is a poet and an author of Being Knowing Being, which is an upcoming book of spiritual essays. She's a spiritual teacher and she's visiting from America, and we are really happy to have you here, Deborah.
Deborah: It's wonderful to be here.
Renate: So, Deborah, one of your big questions was, since you were a teenager, "How can I end suffering?"
Deborah: Mm hm. First question was, "What is suffering? Why do I experience it and how can I end suffering?" I think in high school and in English class reading Franny and Zooey and Siddhartha and reading about the eight-fold path really lit something in me.
Renate: And what did it tell you?
Deborah: When I read it, it was a real mystery to me but I couldn't quit reading what the eight-fold path was. And it just seemed like ‘I don't know what they're talking about. I don't know what Buddha's talking about. But there's something here. There's something here that I have to keep investigating until I do know what it's talking about, what it's telling me.’
Renate: How did you investigate that? I know you had several tragedies happening in your life and I guess that intensified the suffering?
Deborah: Right. There was a difficult divorce in high school with my parents, and then I moved out on my own when I was only 17, finished high school at night school, and then waitressed to pay my bills, and found an apartment on my own. So after that time it was really more of taking care of myself, of becoming an adult. So there wasn’t a lot of purposeful investigation, it was a lot of just looking at myself while I became an adult.
I was raised in a military household and we moved every two years, so that creates a lot of integrity and self-reliance and introspection because you're alone a lot, you're your best friend. A big time for me was when I was 11 and my father left for Vietnam and someone told me, “Go give your dad a hug and a kiss, you may never see him alive again.” And that moment was a big shift for me as a child. And then in high school, that I just talked about. And then the rest was becoming an adult, for a long time. When I was a waitress, waiting on tables, I had probably 10 tables – it was very busy that day – I was going around refilling people's coffee and I was saying, "Coffee? Decaf? Coffee? Decaf?" It was, you know, pouring people's coffee and then, for a moment, I completely disappeared and then came back online. Everyone was looking at me, so I don’t think it was more than seconds but I don't know. And it frightened me to such an extent that I went home, called in sick for 4 days, stayed in bed and said, "What is going on?" The answer that I came to was ‘I need to make something of myself. I need to go to school. I need to find a career that I like. I need to fortify or create Deborah.’
Renate: How did this answer come?
Deborah: The answer didn't really come that way. That's an answer that I can give now about what happened. What happened then was I was very, very frightened by the nothingness and, in order to shield myself from what I am, at the time – because I was so young and had no idea what was going on – I created a self, an identity, in which to guard me from whatever happened in that dining room that day.
Renate: It seemed it was a mantra, "Decaf? Coffee?" But not the kind of a mantra that guided you exactly, what a mantra is supposed to do.
Deborah: There was a hum and a pulse to it, absolutely, yes. And so I finished my undergraduate work and went and got my graduate degree in Library Science. It was wonderful. I really enjoyed it and felt like that I was on track as an adult. I was checking things off.
Renate: Were you happy?
Deborah: Yep. I was happily married to Andrew for 13 years. And then the sudden and tragic death of him sent me into a very deep immediate spiritual path. I knew that, in all the tragedy and grief, I still knew that it was the place I was supposed to be and that it was what I was supposed to look at.
Renate: So when you say “spiritual path”, what happened? What did you do? Why do you call it “spiritual path” because I think you never had a teacher?
Deborah: No. I would listen to people. Later, after this, in the 10 years after Andrew's death, which was a very intensified inquiry for me, I didn’t even think of it as a spiritual path, my whole life was inquiry into… When grief comes upon you so quickly, you have no defences left. Your belief systems become flimsy, there's no safety net under your feet like you assume there is. And I found there are either two things to do: you could either ignore it and become bitter and feel like you had a right to be in that anger and grief; or, you could choose to look at it and see what it had to tell you. And I chose to look at it.
Renate: And what did it tell you?
Deborah: Nothing immediately, but the unravelling began because I was willing to look at it, because I wanted to know ‘how do I end suffering?’ Because tragic things happen all the time but our birthright is not to live in tragedy and grief and despair. We are to live in peace, no matter what. Not happiness, not joy, not sadness. We are to live in an underlying, indestructible peace.
Renate: And was that something you intuitively felt?
Deborah: As I've said before, there was an eternal part of Deborah that I knew since I was very young – quiet, spacious, peaceful. So I knew that was there all the time and it was just peeling off the layers of an identity to be there again. So I looked at everything in my life, every single moment – how I responded to a phone call, my thoughts. When I first decided to meditate I was too angry to do sitting meditation, so I started running meditation and I ran and I listened to my footsteps and my breath and I never got ahead of my breath and I never got behind my breath, I just stayed with it and I just ran. And eventually I started doing sitting meditation because I wondered what it would be like to have no thoughts. So I would sit wondering what would it be like to have no thoughts and then, one day, I completely separated from my thoughts in meditation and I realised that thoughts run all the time but they're not mine. And that was one of the greatest liberations of my life, that I am not my thoughts.
Renate: So did you have any goal? I mean, yes, you wanted to find ways out of suffering, did you have any further goals like ‘I want to awaken, I want to get enlightened?’
Deborah: No, I didn't really know about enlightenment, or awakening, it's so funny.
Renate: You didn't?
Deborah: No, I knew that Buddha talked about enlightenment but I just thought that ‘oh, when you end suffering, that's enlightenment. When you no longer suffer, that's enlightenment. Because, if you're at peace with everything, that must be it.’ That's what I thought. So I knew that I instinctively… The only way for me to find peace was for me to intuitively know that I had found it, that no one else could tell me I found it, or didn't find it. That it was a solitary journey that only I could answer and I knew that from when I was very young.
There were writers that I loved to read – mostly poets. Wallace [Stevens]’s poem The Snow Man is just one of the most incredible poems I've ever read. And Jane Hirshfield – these poets… and Mary Oliver, you know, led me to these places but it was me that had to sit there.
Renate: Yes. OK, so after you realised you are not your thoughts, what happened?
Deborah: Life got really light. I went to listen to a Buddhist nun, Robina Courtin, when she would come in town where I live, and one thing she said was… She talked a lot about attachment and aversion and it was really a great lesson to get from her because she said [that] we're like a rubber band nailed to a piece of wood and the rubber band can stretch from aversion to attachment. Either I really, really love this or I really, really hate this. And it's this wide spectrum that causes you suffering, and try to get the rubber band not to swing so much one way and another. Try to be centred and not let things pull you around.
And then what I noticed was that there was a difference between desire and enjoyment. Desire is usually self-prescribed like ‘I want this. I don't want that. I want it to go this way.’ Where enjoyment is whatever comes in front of you is there for you to relish and enjoy. That enjoyment is beautiful, desire causes us suffering.
Renate: So, enjoyment is more in this moment?
Deborah: Mm hm. Right. When someone makes you a meal or invites you to dinner or… That is the banquet opening to us.
Renate: It's happening now.
Deborah: Right. But when we try to organise it ourselves, when we try and place our desires on it, that's what brings us suffering. One of the ways. Because we want to do this or we want to have it this way, where if you just wait and let things open and be guided by your intuition, life brings everything your heart desires. Maybe not as you see how you want the unfolding to happen, but it still happens perfectly, everything happens perfectly. And I don't think there's one of us that can say, "I'd go back and change that," because of what any circumstance gives us. What I noticed about tragedy is that we really don’t move through things. We want things, but for some reason we don’t have the capacity to move ourselves as fast as we should. What tragedy does is it gets you from one point to the other in lightning speed.
Renate: Can you say more about that?
Deborah: When we're comfortable and we're happy, in status quo, there's still some longing, or something, to know what I am, to be without suffering. How do we get there? We try endless things to do it, but the organic nature of life – tragedy, grief – propels us into a situation which unhinges us and allows our intuition, and our spirit and the divine, to work changes to our heart's desire really quickly.
Renate: Would you say tragedy is really for us?
Deborah: Yes, I would. [Renate laughs] I would. I'd say I think it's the greatest gift. Whether it's an illness, or the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job. Or anything like that, that allows our perception to be shifted, is of great value, immeasurable. We fight it all the way, until we relinquish. And then we take a look around and it's much different and we see what the work is that was done. I'm so appreciative for how fast I get to someplace else through the things I have to work through.
Renate: So it needs surrender, don't you think, it needs surrender to the tragedy?
Deborah: Yes, right. I always say that the divine is not addicted to love, the divine's addicted to surrender. And every moment is surrender, of letting go. That's why we call our yoga, or Chi Gong, or meditating, or painting, whatever you do, that's why we call it ‘a practice’ because our daily practice is letting go, every day letting go. Letting go of a resentful thought, letting go of expectations that didn't go our way, anything. And the best work we can do is to learn to let go.
Renate: You're right. But, in order to do that, we need to slow down. Normally we just rush through life and are not even aware what is going on: the feelings we have, the thoughts we have. And we just run on our adrenals. But we need to slow down.
Deborah: That's what illness and tragedy does, it stops us in our tracks. It's a brick wall, it's like an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.
Renate: When did you wake up?
Deborah: It was October, 4 years ago.
Renate: And how did it happen?
Deborah: I was going to the SIG retreat, I had never gone before but a friend said, "You should come."
Renate: The SIG retreat? Can you just…?
Deborah: It's a self-inquiry group: selfinquiry.org. It's the group where Bart and I teach.
Renate: And just for the information of our audience, Iain just had earlier an interview with Bart [Marshall] and Deborah [is] his wife.
Deborah: I went out Friday night, but I got there late and I couldn’t see the path so I went home and decided I would watch a video on Margot Ridler because she was speaking the next day. And I watched an interview she had with Richard Miller –
Renate: On ‘Never Not Here’? [an internet TV channel]
Deborah: Yes. And then she had a piece of white poster board and on one side it was blank and she said, "This is what is," And then the other side – she flipped it over – there were hash marks of crayon and she said, "This is the static over what is." And she just flipped it many times, "this is what is," (the white space), "this is the static over what is." And I was just laying there with my dogs before I went to bed and I, intellectually, said out loud, "Oh, I get it." And then I went to bed and I woke up the next morning to teach pilates before I went out to the retreat, and I was standing in the back yard with my dogs – I have curly coated Retrievers – so I had my hands in their beautiful fur and my feet in the green grass and it was a beautiful fall day in North Carolina and the breeze was blowing through the rosa banks and the blue skies with some clouds and it was just an incredible, beautiful day and then all of a sudden I said, "Oh, I get it!" And then all boundaries to everything, all boundaries to my hands and the fur and the grass, all distinctions of things being separate disappeared. And then Deborah disappeared. And then, I don't know how long it was, but I'm sure it wasn’t that long, I came back online and suffering was gone. The intact structure of Deborah was gone and there was no suffering and no questions and all boundaries disappeared.
Renate: When you say, “Deborah disappeared…?”
Deborah: The structure that believed it was a separate entity living in a world of separate things, that were labelled and valued or not valued, disappeared. Good, bad, right and wrong disappeared.
Renate: And that stayed?
Deborah: Mm hm.
Renate: You also said the biggest gift was still to come.
Deborah: And I didn't know it because at that moment: ‘how do I end suffering?’ – it was given to me. And a few months before that morning – about 6 months before that morning – my attachment to things, or my aversion to things, disappeared and I say it was like zombie-land for me. If someone was upset it didn't disrupt my peace, or if someone was really excited or nervous, it didn't disrupt my peace, or things happening in my life – I was laid off from my job – it didn’t disrupt my peace. And I noticed, I said, "This is a really beautiful place to be. If I can live my life from this place of peace…"
Renate: And you made a commitment to not let anything come towards you and disrupt you?
Deborah: I think it wasn’t really a conscious commitment. What happened was it was a complete shift in perception, which altered the personality of Deborah. Deborah, for some reason – and this was before the October morning – Deborah for some reason was not in control anymore, didn't want to be in control anymore, had decided to surrender everything. Like I remember thinking, ‘I need to put a resume together and get another job and, you know, things are falling apart in my life…’ A relationship, my car blew up, you know, my job, I was laid off. It was the school board's decision, I was a librarian at the time, I loved my job. But instead of fortifying, instead of saying, "I need to get a resume out, I need to look for a job, I need to find out what I'm going to do with my car, I need to do all these things." Instead of fortifying that stuff, I said, "Wow, something really wonderful must be coming up in my life to have to make this much space." I say ropes on the dock were being let loose. There was like, you know, my whole life was structured, like I have a job, I'm this person, I live in this house, these are my friends… And one by one they were changing, or I was losing them and instead of thinking ‘oh, my goodness, I'm a failure! I need to refortify myself and get a new job and you know, become Deborah,’ I just sat back and waited because I knew, instinctively, that anything that creates this much space in my life demands my attention, demands me to just sit. And I let go. I said, "I have done everything asked of me as an adult in this culture and it's all been taken from me, so it's not my job anymore. The universe, the divine, is going to take care of this and I have to just observe and listen.”
Renate: There was no feeling of doubt, or no anxiety, nothing?
Deborah: No, there was a peace. But my mantra at the time was I decided to start doubting all my thoughts and then trust everything that manifested right in front of me. So I said, "Whatever's happening right here is what is asking for my attention. Whatever my thoughts are saying, they can be lies, I don't know. But I'm not going to live my life by thoughts. I'm going to live my life by what is right before me."
Renate: You know what's fascinating, Deborah, this all seemed to just come out of you completely on its own. There wasn’t anybody out there who gave you any teaching, or who told you, “You have to let go of all your thoughts,” or anything. That's so fascinating because we have to believe, we need a teacher. Only a teacher can guide us towards freedom.
Deborah: The only thing a teacher can give you is to somehow illuminate to you that you are your own teacher, that you're your satguru. A teacher's priority should always be for you to look at yourself. A teacher should facilitate how you can let go of whatever egoic restraints, or constrictions, or structures are there that are preventing you to see what you are. And also every path is so different, you cannot do what another person does and find what you're looking for. Like Buddha said, "If you meet Buddha on the road, kill Buddha." If you are going along on your own path and all of a sudden you start emulating someone else, you've lost your way. It's not to say that people aren't mentors, I had many mentors and many books, and writers, and people that were very wise that I would read and listen to, but it still had to be me to figure out how do I meditate. Like no one told me, “You should try running meditation.” I tried to sit and I was thinking, ‘nothing's coming of this, there's too much energy in this body to do this right now, what do I need to do?’ And really that's the hard work isn't it? Because it's so much easier if someone could give us a list of five steps.
Renate: A formula.
Deborah: Right. Here it is, the formula. And when you do this formula you will know what you are. But that's not it. It's turning around to yourself and saying, "Does my intuition say that this is for me?"
Renate: Yes. You know I always felt intuitively… I was in, still am in, a great teaching… and listening to so many people, there's this nagging voice in me which says, "I want to find it out all by myself, I don’t want to take somebody else's concept on, or his experience on, and try to fit myself around it."
Deborah: And have you judged that as wrong?
Renate: No, no. It's just a habit and it takes me such a long time to put into place [both laugh]. But talking to you is very encouraging.
Deborah: Thank you. Everything's for you.
Renate: Tell me more about that.
Deborah: Every little thing is for you. When you close your eyes all the eternal now is there. When you open your eyes, all of creation bursts forth and it's all for you.
Renate: Because there is only me.
Deborah: You're the point of God because it's only you. And not Renate-you, you.
Renate: Yeah. Me, where I meet you, helps.
Deborah: Within you is Renate and Deborah.
Renate: Yeah. So what was the biggest gift to come?
Deborah: After that October day… Franklin Merrell-Wolff talks about the high indifference, like you really are not affected by anything. And I felt I woke up to the high indifference. It was not an emotional experience, it was not a heady experience, but a high indifference, a sacred indifference. That I didn't care how anything went, that everything was perfect. But I noticed that it distressed my loved ones, they'd say, "Where are you?" and "Hello?!" And, you know, I wasn’t as present in conversations. And I said a prayer to the divine, I said, "What about my heart? Where's my heart? What is love?" You know, there's only emptiness and consciousness, but I still waited on its ways. And then one night, while I was laying in bed, the whole galaxy was within me. And that was my heart. And so in that moment my prayer was answered.
And then, I think a few months after that, I was just out for a walk with my dogs and I was in the woods and I was peering into the woods looking at a dogwood tree blossoming – and I was raised Irish Catholic so the dogwood tree was very sacred, because it was a symbol of Christ's crucifixion, and we never picked a bloom off the tree ever. And I was looking at it and I noticed that the way – death, crucifixion, death and life – the way of Christ is how it is. There's the suffering, there's the death of self. And then there's the resurrection, which is life. And in that moment I knew I was God, and I'd always been God. And the sin was ever thinking anything less. And that was it. That was life, that is life, is God. That there's nothing else. That I had never moved, never will move.
Renate: But everything moves inside you.
Deborah: Mm hm.
Renate: How does Deborah live? What is Deborah for you?
Deborah: I often talk about the proximity point because there is this texture of Deborah. I think of life as nothing but textures, some days are like a really heady texture, busy and complicated, and some days are really calm texture. And Deborah provides a lot of texture.
Renate: Because she's very complex? [both laugh]
Deborah: She is, she is! And what's amazing is she's very endearing to me now. I mean, there's no more censorship over the character of Deborah. Deborah's Deborah, you know. Just as my dog, Khufu, is my dog and acts as it is.
There's this proximity point where our senses are, which interacts with the dream, with creation, life. And then there's this character around it and then there's the world. And people say, "Why's the character here?" The beauty of it is that we get to know both the personal and the impersonal. This lens of the absolute, of the divine, sees it all, can relish in all of it. The impersonal objects are no different than Deborah. Deborah just comes with a lot more attributes, is a little bit… you know, it's like HTML code – there's a lot of tags around Deborah. Around this glass of water there's not so many tags. But it's all the same, it's all the same. Sometimes, I think of Deborah as just a satellite that takes in all this beautiful texture of creation, of life, and just gives it back to the divine - the nothingness that wants to know everythingness. And I often think of that as that's the only thing going on is the prayer: know myself and I will know myself. And that's all that's being said every single second.
Renate: Know myself…
Deborah: Know myself and I will know myself.
Renate: That's beautiful. So you're just a satellite?
Deborah: It feels like that [laughs]. A satellite inside myself. It's difficult to talk about.
Renate: You said something interesting about the senses and I actually have it written down: "Senses are the most accurate tools for perception into awareness, into the everythingness that explodes from the nothingness of the absolute void. Smell, feel, taste, hear, touch, the immediacy to which the moment beckons." That's the only truth?
Deborah: Well, I think that's the best advice for someone who wants to know what they are because, when we let down our defences, all that is is this raw intimacy. And the best way to get to see it – it's all here - is to drop thoughts and observe what comes in through your senses. It's possible to know you're not your mind, meditation can give you that. You can separate from your thoughts pretty quickly with a daily practice, but to know you're not your body is a very different thing. I think it takes most of us – before any sort of awakening – it would take death, or a near death experience. But through the senses, if you just relish this gift of the senses, and you observe everything that it brings in, it starts to give you a more accurate picture of what exists and what doesn't exist.
Renate: Can you give us an example?
Deborah: Well, I don’t really feel my fingers until I touch something. And it's not my fingers I feel, it's the thing I'm touching. Or when I have a scent through my nose, unless it's jalapenos, it is the scent that's being experienced, not the nose. And just these sort of little experiments you can do with what actually is happening right now through my senses. Do we feel our eyes seeing, or is there just images before us? So it really slows you down when you start moving with that.
Renate: Well, it is said, "The seer and the seen is not separated." And I am not separated from the glass I'm touching? Is it through the senses I'm not separated?
Deborah: I think, when you start analysing exactly what the senses are doing, you get a clearer picture of truth. But when you accept the belief systems and thought patterns that are set up for us, that, you know, this body exists separately and this is how it works and stuff... We're told that from a very young age and we accept that but, on further and closer investigation, what can we actually report right now? What is happening for us as we engage in this life? In this one precious life?
Renate: In this moment Deborah, is there an outside world happening?
Deborah: No. There's the drapes of the studio, the camera, there's nothing that exists that I can't see.
Renate: Where is everything?
Deborah: Everything… I have to go into… I have to go towards it, for it to manifest.
Renate: Hm. So as I'm going towards it with a thought in mind of expectation, I am manifesting it?
Deborah: No, it’s not… I would say that I don't think thoughts govern it as much as… your stomach tells you to go make a meal. Your heart might tell you, "I'm uncomfortable, I need to exercise, or stretch." I think the mind is always a few seconds behind what the body is saying. I think the body is a much more accurate relayer of information.
Renate: So what about my grandchildren? My son? Where are they?
Deborah: Where are they? I know! Where are they?
Renate: In the dream?
Deborah: So tell me, where are they? Right now, where are they?
Renate: [laughs] Right now they are in my inner world.
Renate: And then I go and look for them and here they are.
Deborah: And there they are. It's not as busy of a world as we think it is.
Renate: Ja, they say the whole world fits in a grain of sand! So what is your reference point in your daily life? Is it the void? Is this where you are operating from, through Deborah?
Deborah: I wake up in the morning and Deborah comes back online. That's how it feels, but there’s really very few thoughts, unless thoughts are required. My mornings are very still and quiet, and then it seems like a momentum gains and a day unfolds with things to be done, or written, or learned, or experienced. But there is the underlining pervasive peace of what I am. That, once you know home, you're always there.
Renate: Yes. And when you are at home… [both laugh]
Deborah: Which is always.
Renate: …which is always… and everything is you. Who is your lover?
Deborah: Who is my lover?
Renate: What is relationship for you?
Deborah: Actually, everything is other. Everything is… there is nothing but other, but that includes Deborah.
Renate: The other is with you, with Deborah?
Deborah: The other is manifestation of life. Other could be a cup of tea. Other is definitely and, most importantly, Bart. Other is my dog. Other is a sunset. Other is a cashier at the grocery store where, just in the looking, we know.
Renate: And you never feel lonely?
Deborah: No. Oh no… even alone.
Renate: Yes, that's what I mean. When you woke up, you said, "I was wrecked by the absolute." Can you say more about that?
Deborah: For me it was so humbling, and a dropping of so much that felt physically heavy, that when all of that stuff fell away, it was a period where… it was a huge period of rest. When you think you have responsibilities of keeping up an identity and an ego is always in charge, that this one thought's been in charge for so long ‘I am a separate self.’ I often talk about a gyroscope and you'll see a true gyroscope runs all different ways and there's many, it's called, ‘degrees of freedom’. And, in our natural state, there's unlimited degrees of freedom. But when we get stuck on this mind point, that ‘I am a separate self,’ you're like a gyroscope spinning on one point and there's no degree of freedom. And it is exhausting because the ego will do anything it needs to do to fortify and keep itself present, that ‘I am a separate self.’
I don’t know why it's the way it is – maybe because surrender feels so delicious to the divine. But, when that releases, that one constraining thought that's been holding everything in an illusion, in a lie, goes away, you feel weightless. At least I did, and I couldn't move, I couldn't read, my friends were like TV screens to me. It was a very interesting time. It wasn’t disconcerting at all but it was definite down time. I was off the grid and I knew I was off the grid and I would never be on the grid again. I would never be connected to that single thought ‘I'm a separate self.’ It had been demolished.
So the one thing about it is that your passion and your drive and your determination to do things and to make things happen falls away. The notion of a passionate life does not exist anymore. You realise everything is freely given and that we are to relish in it and certainly not try and control it, that everything is perfect just as it is.
Renate: Do you still have preferences?
Deborah: Deborah has preferences. Less though, she has less. And I would say my preference now is surprise. And the prayer I say to the divine is, "Thank you. Yes. More please. Thank you. Yes. More please." Because it is unfathomably more exciting and delicious and rich without Deborah in the way. It's like, "Yes. Thank you. More please." Everything's a surprise.
Renate: But does Deborah still get sometimes anxious? Or upset?
Deborah: Upset, yes. She's not an anxious character and she's pretty fearless too. So, I would say, a pretty determined character. So life unfolds. Life doesn't start until you wake up and then it unfolds and there's no longer really a quest. But there's the textures the divine wants to know. An illness could put you through a myriad of textures that brings you more things to cherish and understand. ‘Understand’ in terms of the dream.
Renate: Yes, you had Lyme disease a few months ago. How was that?
Deborah: It was pretty interesting. Someone said, “You must have been really afraid,” and I wasn’t afraid. It put me in bed for three months and I had double vision, and no vision, and my body was not working. I was very, very tired. I was dizzy, I couldn’t walk on my own. But in the state of the awakening, it's all just interesting. It's just the divine wants to take an exploration, of which Deborah is the vehicle for this exploration and, you know… "Divine, what do you want to know? Or not know… What do you want to see? What do you want to hear? Who do you want to meet?" So the divine wanted to meet an acupuncturist, the divine wanted to meet a massage therapist. And it's rich and beautiful and it makes my writing much more interesting. It makes my friendships more beautifully textured. When you understand the expanse, the expanse, there's not anything you won't let in because you know it's already in you. So it's just the turning of the jewel so you get to see a different side.
And you don’t have any reasons not to do it, you don't have any aversions to going through whatever it is you're being asked to do. Whether it's your wedding day, or whether it's an illness that takes you down. You don't even have the mechanism to look away anymore. It's what is and it's so incredibly beautiful. It's such a miracle that it even happens, that it doesn't matter what's happening. It's just a miracle that it's happening.
Renate: It is. I think it's a huge miracle that we are sitting here. And I haven't a clue what is sitting here. Something is sitting here talking. It is such a miracle. And even the not knowing is divine.
Deborah: The not knowing is divine. The state of wonder is the best place you can put yourself. Just a state of wonder, and also cultivating whatever puts you in a state of wonder. I often tell people to be really selfish, because wanting to know what you are is a selfish journey. You have to say, "No," to other things in order to say, "Yes," to what you need, in order to know what you are. So cultivating a state of wonder takes time alone. And it takes honouring what it is that you really respect in nature, or a practice, or whatever, and giving yourself permission to do it and a lot of us don't give ourselves permission to do it.
Deborah: But wonder and gratitude for everything.
Renate: Where are you with suffering? You say suffering is optional, it is self-imposed.
Deborah: Suffering is when you cannot reconcile to the moment even though it's in full unfolding exactly as it will. So trying to reconcile to the moment, actually looking at ‘Why can't I reconcile right now? What is it in this moment that's making me angry?’ Because the moment's not going to change. Your perception of the moment needs to change and then the suffering drops. So it's really reconciliation to everything. But reconciliation to everything sounds like a huge undertaking. But reconciling to the moment, and having introspection and self-inquiry right then, gives us a lot. And then finally you realise that it’s… In pilates – I teach pilates – there's these degrees of knowing the work in your body and the last degree of it is called ‘unconscious competence’, which means that the movements are past second nature to you, that the movements have become how you move in your body, that you're highly competent and it's called ‘unconscious competence’. The step before that is called ‘conscious competence’, where you have to consciously enlist these movements in your body but you're still very competent in it. So self-inquiry and introspection can become unconscious competence before you wake up. You can have a mechanism that works, or you can quickly reconcile to a moment, where you know yourself so well that you can pinpoint why you're not reconciling to the moment and let it go. But it takes a matter of training, usually mind training. Sitting and wondering, but you can do it. It is possible to find peace before you wake up. And when you find peace you don't care if you wake up, and then the gift is granted. [both laugh] Because you don't care anymore because when you live with peace all the time, you don't care.
Deborah: You don't care if you know what your real home is, or the abyss, or the void, or the absolute, because you're at peace with everything. But then when you let go of all that, then the gift is given because it's not necessary anymore.
Renate: We have about two minutes left and I know you prepared some poems…
Deborah: I have a couple of poems I could read. This one is called The Breaking and a friend of mine inspired me to write it because they're going through a hard time on their path and it's saying that I always feel like I'm living with a broken heart. Like this time in my life I feel like I'm always having a broken heart, and there is a point where you feel that way when the self starts to disintegrate and there's nothing to fall back on. And this one's called The Breaking.
If I were to be honest
And let that little hole of thought
To tell you what I know
You might not want to hear
But because being weary, afraid and wondering
Is much more disconcerting than the Truth
I'll hold it up and let it go
This one Knowledge you can rest in;
It is always breaking
And the wonder in that breaking
You've designed it all.
This is a poem called Breast Flower and it was being in the oneness. It's about the oneness of the world and I have a quote by Denise Levertov, at the beginning.
‘So much is unfolding
That must complete its gesture
So much is in the bud’
How might it be
To tussle under a fort
With the same dirt
And the same sky
That runs through
The same skin
And the same smile
To what is
This one is called Watercolour and this is just how the world looks.
The ripples resound
Love is liquid
The painting void.
Renate: Beautiful. I guess we have to stop now, Deborah.
Deborah: Can I read this one real quick? It's very short. It's advice for… it's called Risk:
Let's say I take
This one brave step
And take another brave step
This time again
And once more
I am only a brave step;
Courageous, precious and all that is.
Renate: Thank you. It’s a beautiful ending Deborah and I'm certainly looking forward to… Your forthcoming book will have also the poems?
Deborah: Yes. A book of spiritual essays and some of my poems.
Renate: You know when it's coming out?
Deborah: No. I probably will finish it in the next year.
Renate: Next year? [both laugh]
Deborah: Unless my friends keep rattling me about it, I'll get on it faster.
Renate: Well, I should remind you.
Deborah: Please [do]!
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