The Silence and The Fear - Helen Hamilton
Interview by Iain McNay
Iain: Hello and welcome again to Conscious TV. I’m Iain McNay and my guest today is Helen Hamilton.
Helen has written an impressive seven books and she has quite a story. And we’re going to basically like we often do on Conscious TV, we’re going to go through her story and we’re going to look more in detail of what happened, why it happened, perhaps, and the impact of what happened and how she dealt with that in her life and how it changed her life.
So, Helen, when we were talking on the phone the other day, you were saying that when you were young, you would see colors around people as a child so can you just talk about that? It sounds quite interesting.
Helen: Yeah, it was, a very strange thing at first. I didn’t realize that…I thought that everyone could see these colors, there would just be these colors around people.
Some of them were brighter than others, some of them were sort of darker and it was just normal to me, it didn’t occur to me that it wasn’t what everyone else was seeing and it was I suppose…
I’ve tried a lot of times to describe it but like a language really that was kind of telling me things about people, just subtle impressions about them and I just without realizing, I guess, learned to work with those colors as well as what people were saying to me.
Iain: So okay. So it gave you information about people. What kind of information did it give you?
Helen: It was like what they were feeling, you know. Somebody could be really pretending to be okay and they really weren’t okay. It was kind of obvious that they were really quite sad. Or sometimes if somebody was angry, if I’d done something, you know, got myself into trouble like kids do and take one look at my mum and run away, not because she was being mean or anything but you this intensity of energy.
And it took me a good long while to realize I was the only one seeing it. I thought everyone was seeing it and it was quite strange when I first began to vocalize it to people and it just met with these blank looks from other people.
Iain: So you tried to talk to people about it, I guess, and there was no real response or understanding.
Helen: Yeah, it’s I think I got told several times I was making it up or it was my imagination, you know, that kind of thing, which made me just go into my shell really.
I was always quite a timid child anyway and that really didn’t help. So, I started off feeling that there’s something really different about me and I wasn’t able to see it as a good thing then at all; I wanted to get rid of it completely.
Iain: Yeah, you also told me that you could tell people’s health, if they had bad health; the colors you saw were more subdued and if they were in good health, they were more vibrant so that again is something at a young age an ability you seemed to develop.
Helen: Yeah, it wasn’t always a hundred percent, I mean there’d be some people I was sure that had something wrong with their body and it wasn’t manifesting physically or at least yet, you know, some kind of illness but there were times when I could see something was wrong with that person but they didn’t seem to want to know or have any idea. I think I learned quite quickly that it’s best not to say those things to people because they just didn’t want to know about it most times.
Iain: Yeah, and you could see angels and other bodies.
Helen: Yeah, I didn’t know any words like angels when I first started seeing them, but they were beings really, without a physical form that were noticeable at situations where there was a lot of trouble or suffering or when I just really down myself, could notice these beings that were just there. More what I could feel from them really, rather than anything, there was a kind of a shape or a form very subtle thing, but they were just, it felt very, very loving very benevolent, just as if they were, I guess what you’d classically describe there to help, to guide, to inspire.
Iain: And I guess when you feel quite alone and people don’t understand you, that’s very important especially when you’re young.
Helen: Yeah, it just gave me that little sliver of some sense that I was supposed to be different but that it wasn’t necessarily something negative about me, that maybe it was a positive. You know, it took me a long while to accept that and being able to see these other beings just really helped in that there were good things to it as well as just being an oddball I still felt like.
Iain: Yeah and I gather that also as you got a bit older you were trying to fit in to people and society and like so many people we interview on Conscious TV, that was hard because you essentially saw things and felt things differently and yet you were trying to be normal in a way.
Helen: Yeah, very much it was a very awkward teenager that just didn’t feel at all part of what we would call normal. Very different. I just became quite withdrawn at some points, you know. I tried to do the normal things you know, I went to college and discovered alcohol and you know all of that like we all do perhaps. But I always felt I was trying to cover something up about myself that was fundamentally flawed or something.
Iain: So you studied biochemistry at college and that’s something obviously you were interested in and you started a family quite young, didn’t you?
Helen: Yeah, rather sooner than we’d planned to; I’d always planned to have a family but life took a different turn which was wonderful but it really wasn’t what I had planned, you know. This was on a time scale, at least, so it was a quite an early lesson that life has a different agenda than we do, it was shown to me quite early.
Iain: And I guess you felt isolated again with that, that life didn’t have the agenda that you wanted somehow.
Helen: Yeah, I think that my whole life even when I was doing this biochemistry degree at university, I just didn’t really know what I was supposed to be doing with it, it just seemed like I did this degree because people said it was what I was good at, you know.
So I did that and I always had this feeling that I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. And it was exactly the same when a family came along you know it was wonderful to be a mother but I still kind of had this fish-out-of-water feeling that only intensified really at that point.
Iain: So when you were in your late 20s you were eventually diagnosed with post-natal depression; you were feeling down and you were a bit lifeless and so how was that, just talk us through that, the feeling and what happened to start with.
Helen: I think it had been, I mean it was officially diagnosed as post-natal after my son was born, but it had been going on for a very long time looking back. It was just this feeling that I didn’t belong, didn’t fit in, didn’t seem to value what other beings did value.
And it just built in intensity and the monotony of the routine of having small children, I loved it and at the same time, it just felt very confining in some ways. And, of course, it intensified my own unworthiness about myself and just came to a head where I really just couldn’t cope anymore, couldn’t get through the day.
I was just kind of scraping by and eventually, my partner at the time said that I needed, you know, to get some help. And it was a relief really because I couldn’t see a way out at that point, I felt like I was in this dark hole that I couldn’t seem to climb out of.
Iain: Yeah, you told me on the phone, you even felt suicidal at times which must have been very hard.
Helen: Yeah, it was perhaps the worst time of my life looking back, it seemed that there was no way out of it and I didn’t…On the surface I had three wonderful children and a really good relationship, and you know, we were getting by financially, so there didn’t seem to be any real reason for it which I think made me feel worse because I had what most people would call a good life.
But there was just this void or something, this hole inside that was just getting bigger and I had started to drink quite a bit at that point, it was a coping mechanism I guess, you know, to deal with that feeling.
Iain: So what happened next?
Helen: I went to get some help and I had some counseling sessions and I took some anti-depressants for a while which really all of that helped, and I really began to get curious about the depression because I was determined to climb out of that hole and never to go back, you know, to make sure that I didn’t…It seemed to take everything I had to climb out of it.
So I began to research what happens in the brain when somebody gets depressed what’s actually going on and I began to learn about things like our brain waves and serotonin production. And that’s why I discovered meditation as a way to generate more serotonin to make sure I was going in the right direction. ‘Cause I didn’t want to be on medication forever and the counseling really, really helped but it became a passion of mine, the meditation to stabilize myself.
Iain: I gather your first meditation session was quite significant.
Helen: Yeah, I remember sitting down and thinking that this is never gonna work, you know, this is going to be the longest half an hour of my life. My friend gave me this CD that I think was about 20 minutes long and about 30 seconds into it, I just felt this amazing bliss and love and a sense of being completely loved, accepted, worthy, adequate. And it was just so extraordinarily different to how I’d ever felt in my life, because I assumed that that was gonna happen every time, [laughs] which didn’t, but it was…I was hooked from that point basically. I really realized this is what I’ve been looking for my entire life. There was something in this for me.
Iain: And did you realize at the time how lucky you were that your first meditation session going to bliss, [laughs] I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else that had that immediate experience.
Helen: No, I didn’t realize at all and I think, looking back, I’d always tried to, I’d always wanted to escape life in some way and this kind of meditation just really helped me escape what was going on up here constantly like for most of us. So I thought that was it, you know, I thought every time I sat down to meditate the same thing was going to happen but it absolutely wasn’t like that, of course. It took quite some time to learn that, you know, the best way was to relax and to let go and that if I tried to get to that feeling again it, it just didn’t work. It had the complete opposite effect. And over a couple of years I really got very, very good at letting go in meditation and experiencing this kind of deep joy and bliss and wonderful states of consciousness and then I would open my eyes and go about the rest of my day and it was quite opposite experience let’s just say.
Iain: Yeah well, we’ll come on to that a bit later but integration is really the key isn’t it?
Helen: Oh yeah.
Iain: …for so many people. Many people have experiences but unless those experiences are brought into the reality of day-to-day life they’re pretty empty.
So, you were saying with the meditation that sometimes you get the blissful feeling and sometimes you didn’t get the blissful feeling and you had to learn not to try and push trying to force to produce this blissful feeling. So that’s always an interesting process. We talk a lot about letting go in the world and you try and let go and that in itself can be a doing, so how did you learn to actually let go, so it worked in a way?
Helen: It’s a good question. I realized if I was trying to meditate in-between school runs for example, if I had an hour and I thought okay, I’ll sit down and meditate, it just didn’t work because I was constantly aware of the time so I began to get up at sometimes
4 A.M. before…the kids were still small and they would be up at 6 A.M.
So I had two hours and I’d just sit there with these thoughts, with this noise going on and whatever negative emotions were there, there was a lot of fear and anger but as I just sat with that without trying to make anything happen, I stumbled accidentally into realizing that if I don’t try to make anything happen, that’s when it happens.
Plus, I was using this technique where you close your eyes and look at the third eye chakra and that helps the brain to slow down a little bit as well. I kind of stumbled on that accidentally that if I literally just sit with no idea about what’s supposed to happen – which took me a good long while to have no expectations after that first experience – it would just come upon me at some point, this deeper state.
Iain: Yeah, so it’s a degree of patience and it’s a degree of commitment and of course having the technique helps to some extent because it gives you a focus to take you out of the thinking mind, doesn’t it?
Helen: Yeah, it gave me something to do while I was waiting but that commitment for me was easy because I knew what was waiting at the end of it after that first taste. And I often wonder if that’s why I was given that first taste to say, hey, it’s really worth persevering through this, it’s worth letting go and relaxing. Meditation for me, I took to it like a fish in water. It was the rest of life that I was having a challenge with.
Iain: Yeah, so I know from some information you sent me that you did actually explore all kinds of things like the direct teachings of Adyashanti, Mooji, Papaji, etc. So obviously, that triggered an interest to understand everything more.
Helen: Yeah, very much so. There was this huge hunger that just developed that I just couldn’t satiate, I just began to read everything I could get my hands on, watch everything I could find and somewhere stumbled across this term enlightenment. I still don’t really know where I first heard that awakening; some idea that it’s possible to feel how I felt in meditation all the time, you know, that of at least a deep peace, and a joy and an absence of fear as a constant thing.
It’d been my entire life this fear, so it began to really soak up everything I could find and you know, read from every source I could find about truth. And, again, it was exciting because I felt like I discovered some whole new thing to embrace in my life. It was just a sense was developing as well there might be something deeper behind all of this, something more than just going through your life achieving what you can accumulating what you can and then it’s over.
Iain: Yeah, so you found the direct teachings helpful because some people I know, they study the direct teachings and they work hard at it but it doesn’t quite trigger something in them, it doesn’t quite work for them but you got something out of that.
Helen: Not at first really. It just intensified my seeking, intensified the sense inside that I wasn’t where these people were talking about and after a while turned away from it, but something was drawn back to it. I became very aware that it wasn’t in my control anymore, let’s just say something was driving this search and that desperation in the end to really understand, to really BE that place that I was experiencing in meditation to not feel cut off from it as well because I felt extraordinarily painful when I felt I had to do things in the world in my normal life that desperation drove me to really stay with that teaching. I knew inside something wouldn’t let me stop.
Iain: Yeah, there’s a lot of people [who] always talk about this; different parts of their life, they can sit down, they can meditate, they can find a degree of peace and bliss and then they open the door – and you had young children or people have to go to work or whatever – and then everything goes.
So what were the stages or the clues that you had in combining them if you like. So you’ve got so-called real life and you’ve got your meditation. How did you begin to integrate those?
Helen: It was just sheer desperation in the end, of experiencing this wild swinging between bliss and joy and peace and then I the rest of my life, I’d just be saturated with fear and this anger, this sense of injustice; I don’t even know what it was AT, this injustice but some deep sense that life isn’t fair, life is against me and that directed itself at awakening, the more I pursued it. It’s not fair, I can’t achieve this, I can’t seem to do it and it just got so opposite, it was probably two years I think, really in this deep opposite experience between what I was feeling in meditation [and] when I feeling the rest of the time. I couldn’t take it anymore and I ended up eventually on my knees praying to every single awakened teacher that I could remember and think of. I had all these pictures in my bedroom of all the great masters that I had revered and just begging for help, I can’t do this and it was shortly after that, I stumbled across Adyashanti’s teaching again that said something that “Truth isn’t an experience.”
Iain: So, truth isn’t an experience.
Helen: Yeah, it was just that simple sentence, said in passing and I must have heard it a thousand times before that, but it really just hit something, that what I was experiencing in meditation was an experience, it was coming and going and so was the other side of it what I was experiencing in my daily life, I didn’t feel like that all the time.
And it just became clear in that moment somehow, some grace or something – good luck – that as good as I was experiencing in meditation that that wasn’t it; that wasn’t what I was looking for, there was still something deeper to pursue or find. It was exciting then, because I felt I had somewhere to go with this now, some direction to deepen in.
Iain: Okay, so what form did that direction take?
Helen: I think I was lucky enough to be able to admit that I didn’t have a clue what that deeper place was but I began to realize, it must be at least peaceful all the time, it must be without these extreme intensities of swinging up and down.
So I began to literally sit here and ask, what else is there to discover? And I could have felt quite lost at that point, because I was sure I was a good meditator and I was sure that I was getting somewhere, but actually, I felt very excited for the first time, until that point I’d been backed into this corner, I thought I knew where I was going and where I was heading.
It was actually an enormous relief that I didn’t have a single idea about what was next, what was deeper. And then I just began to…a couple of days after that experience this very quiet silence in the background. It wasn’t extraordinary, it wasn’t joyful, it wasn’t anything, it just seemed totally normal but it was quiet and it was restful and there wasn’t any fear there, or any anger, when I first began to experience it and when I learned how to recognize it I could find it. This silence, this quietness, even when I was cooking or when I was driving, so it was quite exciting because I didn’t have to be sat in meditation to access it.
Iain: Okay, so it’s as if you experienced – that may be the wrong word, but we use that for…you experienced something that wasn’t you or wasn’t the you that you knew and you could then start to feel that or experience that or reference that in your day-to-day life.
Helen: Yeah, it was just such a massive relief that I couldn’t suffer there. There was something this place, there was no – I’m calling it a place, but it’s not, there isn’t really a word for it, is there. But just the relief from the fear, this constant dread that had been with me as long as I could remember that something was about to go terribly wrong.
I couldn’t feel that in this quiet place. It was restful and it felt like it was having a deep effect on my body. It was relaxing my body, my mind would start to slow down. It didn’t really matter that though, it was just enough to be in this quietness. And because of that, it was quite addictive. I started to look for it all the time when I was out and about and I’d start challenging myself. Can I hear that in the supermarket, can I hear that when the kids are fighting, can I hear that when there’s music playing and it was extraordinary because I realized I could actually, even with noise going on, either inside or outside, it was still there.
Iain: Yeah, and something else you told me when we talked the other day was that you were realizing more and more the bliss you experienced in meditation could be addictive.
Iain: It was bliss but on the other hand it had an addictive nature to it just like any other addiction.
Helen: Yeah, it was very much. I realized that I was kind of addicted to it as a way of…
I was actually just using my meditation to hide from the rest of my life, to get through or as a coping thing, like we would’ve used or drunk alcohol for that same purpose, in the worst of the depression. So it didn’t even matter in this silence that there wasn’t any bliss at first, it was just so nice that it was always there, available, that was just so affirming somehow. And it just made me feel adequate, whole, complete, more and more. And the more I recognized it, the more I listened for it, the stronger – it sounds crazy to say the silence sounded loud but it was almost tangible at times, somehow very prominent.
Iain: So, what was the difference between the bliss and the silence in a tangible way?
Helen: That’s a really good question. I knew the silence wasn’t going to come and go. I knew it was always reliable and I knew it didn’t have an opposite. I’d come to really see if I was experiencing bliss that I have to experience the opposite of that.
The silence, it just seemed to take away the trying. It seemed to start to calm down this desperate, desperate need, urge, obsession that was me at that point and trying to feel better, trying to find some relief. And the more time I spent just sitting in this silence, the more everything just began to calm down a little bit, to slow down and it was dependable, it was reliable, it was just stable as well. And it felt other than me at first, it didn’t feel like the real me; I had no idea this is really what I was, but it was enough; it was like a resting place.
Iain: So at that point there were two things, there was you and the silence.
Helen: Very much, yeah, very much so.
Iain: Yeah, it’s interesting. Yeah. And I know that you – again when we talked on the phone you had this and you referred to it in this interview – that you had this feeling of fear, a very kind of basic fear and it couldn’t always be tangible, you couldn’t always feel in a tangible way but it was always there.
And you also told me that the more your relationship with the silence developed – talking about you and the silence at this stage, the more intense the fear could become. So you were grappling with this intensity of fear, yet at the same time, you were experiencing this silence, which is quite a dilemma, isn’t it?
Helen: It was definitely but the fear was…I was encouraged by the fact that the fear was different when it came up sitting here listening to that silence, just resting in it, it began to feel more like a stillness as well, it began to have this real restful quality and when I was feeling that, I seemed to be somehow immune to the fear. It would still be there but it wouldn’t be – I mean looking back now – I can see in the silence I couldn’t identify with the fear as a separate being but I didn’t know that then; the fear was just there but I had some distance from it for the first time ever.
My whole life I just remember this feeling something was about to go very, very wrong, you know, the sky was going to fall at any moment and that was linked to my unworthiness, as I’m sure a lot of people can identify with. But it just didn’t affect me the same in that silence. I was less and less able to push against it, although it was coming up stronger paradoxically.
Iain: Yeah, and you also told me that you that you also started to do a lot of self-inquiry, so you wanted to understand the dynamics of your mind, the way it was working.
Helen: Yeah, as you so rightly said there was very much two versions of me at this point, this thing that I could experience that was so much more than I could ever visualize about myself, this deep, deep silence. And then there was this other part of me that was just terrified, absolutely terrified and it just became…I watched some YouTubes on self-inquiry and I thought, there’s something here for me. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but I accidentally…
I think that openness that began to develop in meditation just really helped at this point, that I didn’t really have to know what self-inquiry was even that just the urge to find out was an openness and that began to…
I remember the first time I actually looked for this being called Helen, that I was sure that I was and there was just nothing there at all, nothing tangible at all and it was quite a shock, an absolute shock but as shocking and as frightening as it was, there was also something inside me that just kind of; wow, what is that? It didn’t occur to me at the time that that was the silence that I’d been feeling, it seemed like something new altogether, completely different.
Iain: So, I’m just interested and I think this might be helpful for some people about…can you give some clues about what form your self-inquiry took? I know that you also did a lot of contemplation as well and when we talked on the phone we talked about the difference between contemplation and self-inquiry. Can you talk a little more about that?
Helen: Yeah, self-inquiry for me was more…it was very clear to me that the fear was coming from this idea that I was this separate being, I was this small limited being so I began to just try to understand what that being was and when I actually tried to find it, it wasn’t there, there weren’t any edges to that and I got very, very good at doing that and recognizing that just every time I looked there wasn’t a separate being there at all.
But of course, this had an effect of all my egoic, my karmic patterns began to rise even stronger to the surface at this point because on one hand I was seeing that I wasn’t a separate being and [on] the other hand I still felt some part of myself deeply afraid and insecure and unworthy and angry.
So I began to really question what this anger was about, what this fear was about, what this unworthiness was about because it was very, very opposite it seemed to this silence that I’d been experiencing where there just wasn’t anything wrong ever.
So when contemplation began again, I didn’t really know what I was doing at all with it, I just became interested in, there was this openness again in what these feelings were about. I spent so long as we all do, rejecting them and pushing them away and it was just very, very clear that the more I did push them away, the worse they got.
So I accidentally stumbled into being open to them, wanting to see what they were about, being interested in what they were actually about. And some contemplation…it’s the same openness as self-inquiry but it was directed more at specific negative emotions I was feeling.
Iain: Yeah, so it’s a simple thing in a way – it’s not easy in practice I know, but it’s simple – just understanding the dynamics of the process of your mind, and I like the fact that you did it on your own. Because there’s a lot of these days especially there’s so many groups, movements, teachers that teach self-inquiry, teach contemplation. But somehow I know even at this point you had periods of difficulty where things didn’t flow but you kept with it and I guess there was enough in terms of you finding answers for yourself to keep you on this path.
Helen: Yeah, self-inquiry and contemplation – I wouldn’t have called them that at that time, I had no idea what I was doing – but it just felt so good to feel open. It began to become clear that to be interested in something, to be curious about it, that I began to experience the silence again, just by being open.
And it became clear that if I was going with the thoughts, I immediately began to feel closed off and really limited, constricted and the emotions would intensify. If I was interested in them and what they were actually about, this openness, gave me greater and greater distance from them.
Like I discovered with the fear that I was either believing the thoughts and feeling them and suffering from them or I was inquiring, open and interested in what they were actually about, what they really were, and just naturally, of course, wanted to feel better.
So I took refuge in this more and more permanent contemplative attitude, when I was sitting down at home but also when I was out and about if some fear would come up or something I would begin to question, what is this really, what is it about. It was just crystallizing into this realization that I can believe a thought or I can question if it’s true and that they’re going to be extraordinarily different experiences.
Iain: Yeah, and as we touched on earlier, the more you looked, the more you felt the silence, the challenge got greater because you felt the fear more and that one sometimes would question that. Oh my gosh, here I am on this journey and it’s getting more and more difficult. So it takes courage, doesn’t it, to keep going in that situation.
Helen: It does and that’s probably why the unworthiness was the last thing to really leave me because I began to associate these intensifying emotions, patterns were coming up stronger and faster as me doing something wrong in my awakening and sort of became an attacking thing inside, attacking myself that if I was doing this awakening thing ‘right’ it should be getting better, not worse.
So it took a long while to realize that it was supposed to come up so that I could see them because there was a real strong desire to LIVE AS THIS and not just to experience it. And to do that, I realized I was going to have to really unravel these patterns and look at them.
It took a lot of courage but also, there was no way back. I couldn’t go back so I had to keep moving forward there was no…I had gone too far to go back to believing I was a separate being and it was very clear to me that this separate sense of self wasn’t in control, that something greater was driving this awakening. So, courage, yes but also like I was being shoved from behind sometimes quite literally.
Iain: Yeah, and you also told me that because a lot of people do this question self-inquiry ‘Who am I? Who am I?’ and you see what comes up. And it can be a fundamental thing, it can be very superficial, it could be all kinds of answers. But the question that worked for you was ‘WHAT am I?’ more than ‘Who am I?’
Helen: Yeah, the ‘Who am I?’ question, I wrestled with it for a long time, feeling I should be able to make it work, but it was a fundamental lesson actually in itself that each person has their right question or the question that’s right for them at that moment.
And for me, the ‘Who am I?’ question just stimulated so many more thoughts and seemed to intensify this idea that I was a separate being, or someone trying to find awakening. Rather than the ‘What am I?’ just seemed to slide underneath that and begin to experience this vast emptiness of being that I first touched upon in my first-ever self-inquiry but the ‘What am I?’ became very much more direct.
Iain: So, what was the point – I don’t think you directly answered this so I’m going to push a little bit on this – but what was the point where you realized you were – or not so much realized because you don’t really realize that – but you became the silence as opposed to Helen and do you fully live from the silence now, or is there still Helen hanging around sometimes?
Helen: I can’t actually really tell you when it shifted, when identity seemed to…what I deeply felt myself to be shifted gradually. There was a point where I remember where something happened, I think it was an argument with my daughter and it would have normally triggered a whole load of guilt, anger, you know a massive emotional thing that just, it just didn’t happen this time. It was this curious watching of, wow yeah, here’s what would normally happen and it was just absent inside.
And then two weeks later…about two weeks, there was an uprising of emotion that was triggered, but again it was just completely allowed to arise and I realized as that was happening that I couldn’t, something had changed, I couldn’t push against it at all. There was nothing within me seemingly, that could go into opposition with anything anymore.
So even if strong emotions arose, or strong positive states, there was nothing left inside that I could…like no ability to say this ‘should’ be happening or it ‘shouldn’t’ be happening, to argue with this moment.
And it’s just been like that ever since, that there’s been strong emotions coming sometimes, thoughts, fragments of my old way of thinking, seeing the world and myself but they’re just embraced in this silence, another word for it is love. It just embraces, it just allows, it’s not able to push against anything or grab like my egoic sense of self was.
And there’s still this sense of Helen and it’s still a sense that we’re having this conversation now, but it’s that’s moving through my day and all of that but that’s a very superficial thing happening inside this greater silence that’s stillness, consciousness, awareness whatever we want to call it, that’s just so obviously here and so obviously me. But it happened very, very gradually. I imagined this big firework moment where I would know that that identity had shifted and it just wasn’t like that.
Iain: And so, the inherent fear, is that completely gone?
Helen: It came back quite a few times, really intensified into some kind of real terror and I would just sit out the back of my house, it was summer when it was really really strong, one summer and I’d just sit with it. I’d just sit there with it and I felt deeply that I was being asked to just feel it, really just to be with it. And I realized, I’d never done that before, I’d always wanted it to go or I’d always wanted it to diminish or something.
And it really taught me a lot about what love actually is in that moment, that this thing that my mind was sure was a negative thing, it should disappear and it was just something inside me was greater than that, that couldn’t deny the fear at all.
And probably six or seven times with these intense moments – the last time I think it was all day – just lasted a whole day and I just went about my day as best I could. And it just began to diminish then and it has never come back as strong as that. Every now and again there’s an odd flash but it’s 15 seconds or something. I began to see that the more I embraced it, the quicker and easier it was to let it…my body just needed to feel it, let it be felt.
Iain: And that’s somehow a key isn’t it, that you embrace something, so you’re not denying it’s there. You’re not necessarily always trying to work it out, there’s a recognition, I guess, it’s there and then, there’s a waiting and seeing.
Helen: Yeah and that’s one of the reasons I fell in love with the contemplation because in the openness of the question I couldn’t be analyzing. I realized what I thought was acceptance before was tolerating it, ‘I’ll feel you as long as you go away,’ at some point. You know as wanting something out of that moment.
So, it became clearer that the more I just was completely with it with no agenda…Of course, that was a work in progress, it’s something we all have the capacity to do I really feel. But it’s not natural to us at first, we’ve been taught to push these things away.
So that took a while to develop that. And it’s still increasing now. I always just love something more. And it was pivotal for me to understand that loving something doesn’t mean liking it. We can accept it but we don’t have to enjoy…we’re never going to enjoy feeling terrified or really angry or something; but you can still embrace it, allow it to exist rather than pushing it away.
Iain: It’s something I feel sometimes; a strong feeling isn’t necessarily just a personal feeling insofar as I noticed during the lockdown, it was the same with Renata. We felt this down feeling which we didn’t feel was necessarily just ours; it’s a collective thing and – I ask you that – I wonder with the fear you felt and how intensified as you develop, whether there’s also an element there of a collective fear and not just a Helen fear.
Helen: Very much so. Sometimes – going right back to where we started this conversation – seeing this energy around other beings, it was clear to me, that on some level, there wasn’t a boundary between my energy and the other person in the room and that we’re constantly exchanging energy, that there is this collective fear.
Pretty much every person I’ve ever met has had this insecurity, this fear, this unworthiness that seems to be part of our human condition and there is a certain amount of transmuting that, that goes on as you are getting better and better at embracing it.
You can do that on a non-personal level as well, that begins to happen sometimes if someone, like at the supermarket if they’re really just feeling extraordinarily sad and they don’t feel they can cope, there’s some kind of ability to help them with that, even if they have no idea what’s going on.
Iain: And there’s two terms that you’ve used, you’ve talked about silence and you’ve also talked about vastness. Are they the same thing or do you see them slightly differently or are they slightly different?
Helen: That’s a really good question. They seemed extraordinarily different at first.
At first, the only way it appeared to me is this real Self; it was a silence at first. And then it seemed like a stillness and consciousness, awareness, presence, sense of being, and it presented itself to me in all of those ways at different times. Sometimes it feels more like one or the other of them but at some point, I saw they’re all the same; they’re just ways of describing the same no-thingness that we are, the same emptiness.
And I found it was helpful for me to look at, how is it appearing to me today? This real Self, how is it showing up today when I inquire into it and look for it. Because I realized I had this set idea about how it should be appearing and if it wasn’t appearing as silence, then I’d feel that I’d lost it or something. Again if I just realized if I open up and look, it must be here if it’s infinite. It must be here, how is it right now? It might be just feeling more like a sense of presence or something.
Iain: So how long did this whole process take from the first time you experienced the bliss in meditation which was your first clue, in one way, to the point where you felt there was a pretty large degree of integration?
Helen: Probably twenty, twenty-two years, [Iain laughs] something like that but it was faster and faster as it progressed and the more open I became, the faster it happened so that led to even more openness so it sped up at first.
The first 10 years I felt I was going the opposite direction, a very polarized experience, as we talked about this spiritual life in meditation and the rest of my life but after learning self-inquiry, it really, really sped up and there’s a good three, maybe three-and a-half-year period where it was just looking, being with whatever was coming up and investigating it and this sense that this stuff just had to be looked at, it wasn’t identified with anymore. It wasn’t me, it was just how I used to think about myself but it was asking to be healed or reintegrated into the whole of me somehow.
Iain: So people have to be patient [laughs]
Helen: Yeah, but I think the major benefit of seeing the silence first which is what I’m always trying to get someone to have an experience of that silence or awareness, is that a lot of that integration work can be done from that quiet place and it’s easier from there. And you can feel why it’s worthwhile doing it from there and perhaps sometimes we can ONLY do it from there. So, there is some patience definitely, but if we’re doing it from and AS that real Self, then it’s just so much quicker and easier and natural to not be in resistance with anything.
Iain: Okay, Helen. We have maybe five, six minutes left, so do you want to talk briefly about the work you do, because I know you have students that you work with and you’ve helped them a lot. Just give us a few clues about that.
Helen: Yeah, we have regular satsangs which are all free to anyone, there’s a whole lot of free stuff on the website. Mainly, one thing that comes up again and again in my own awakening is this sense in people that they should know how to recognize silence or
this deep feeling that ‘I should know how to awaken’ and then we blame ourselves when that’s not occurring.
We’re never taught how to recognize that which is here constantly, we’re only ever taught as human beings how to see things with our senses and think about them with our mind.
So, a lot of the work we end up doing is recognizing that we’re learning a new set of skills here and that we can’t know them until we know them. Nobody’s ever going to come to you in school and say ‘Here’s how you recognize that which is always here,’ we’re taught the opposite, how to ignore what’s constant and how to focus on what’s changing and moving and all of that.
So, there’s some meditation that we do to recognize that silence, there’s some contemplation work, some self-inquiry. I think a healthy path is a mixture of all those, some surrender, some letting go, sometimes some deep investigation, something may need really looking at when it comes up, some things, it’s just enough to be with them let them evaporate. It’s a mixture of all of those really.
Just really always working…the one belief that comes up for everyone is that awakening is hard and that it takes a long time and that it’s only possible for a few beings, which I feel deeply passionate that’s not true. I mean I really experienced that belief as being true until I saw through it. It’s just finding out how we can access what’s real when we find our doorway in and it’s with silence or that sense of stillness or whichever way it’s showing itself. Then that’s half the battle won then.
Iain: Okay, thanks and I know you were saying earlier you’ve written seven books, very impressive and I normally hold up copies of the books at the end of the program but I haven’t got any here so if you want to hold up your own books that would be good just to give people…
Helen: These are the two that we work with mostly. These are meditative techniques in “Dissolving the Ego” and it literally goes through those doorways of how to find your way and there’s all these different chapters really on the same thing.
And then this one [Helen holds up “Reality Check” book] I wrote because it’s the final stages of awakening or the last duality I should say. “Reality Check” tackles that. I found a lot of people stumble over this idea of how to come to LIVE from that place where the unmanifest silence and the world of form are the same thing appearing two different ways. So that was another enormously frustrating part of it for me, so both books came out of the frustration. Well, all of them did really, but these two especially, trying to simplify that process.
Iain: Okay, great. All right, Helen. Well, I appreciate you taking time and being on Conscious TV and chatting with me.
Helen: Well, thank you very much for the opportunity. It’s been lovely to talk and to share.
Iain: And thank you everyone out there for watching Conscious TV. And as always I hope we see you again soon. Goodbye.
To watch the original video
interview click here. This programme has been transcribed on a voluntary basis. If you would like to offer to transcribe a video on the same basis, then please
All text copyright © Conscious TV Ltd.