Adyashanti: Ultimate Flexibility

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March 9, 2010

Adyashanti: Ultimate Flexibility

Adyashanti March 9, 2010

Tami Simon speaks with Adyashanti, a spiritual teacher trained in the Zen tradition who lives in Northern California. Adya (as he is called by friends and students) is often described as a non–dual teacher, someone who teaches about “awakening to oneness” or what he calls awakening to “non-division.” Sounds True has published many programs with Adya including Spontaneous Awakening, True Meditation, and The End of Your World. Adya discusses the way many contemporary non–dual teachers talk about how important it is to be “without position”—to not believe in the reality of any thought or belief or take a position on anything and how to make sense out of your thoughts. (36 minutes)

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Adyashanti is an American-born spiritual teacher devoted to serving the awakening of all beings. His teachings are an open invitation to stop, inquire, and recognize what is true and liberating at the core of all existence. His books include Emptiness Dancing, The End of Your World, True Meditation, The Way of Liberation, and Falling into Grace.

Asked to teach in 1996 by his Zen teacher of 14 years, Adyashanti offers teachings that are free of any tradition or ideology. "The Truth I point to is not confined within any religious point of view, belief system, or doctrine, but is open to all and found within all." For more information, please visit adyashanti.org.

Author photo © Mukti

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Also By Author

Waking Up: What Does It Really Mean?

Adyashanti is a widely beloved, American-born spiritual teacher whose practice is rooted in Zen Buddhism but has expanded beyond any one path or perspective. He has created many books and audio programs through Sounds True, including Resurrecting Jesus, Emptiness Dancing, and Healing the Core Wound of Unworthiness. In this episode of Insights of the Edge—which previously appeared as part of the provocative interview series Waking Up: What Does It Really Mean?—Tami Simon and Adyashanti inquire deeply into what exactly constitutes “awakening.” Adya describes his own experiences of awakening, vividly comparing and contrasting his felt sensation of each of these life-changing experiences. Tami and Adya also discuss whether awakening is a sudden or gradual process, and what one can and cannot expect from these moments of profound epiphany. Finally, Adya shares his pith instructions on how to encourage such a spiritual awakening.

Adyashanti on Awakening

Please enjoy this interview excerpt with spiritual teacher Adyashanti and Sounds True producer Mitchell Clute about The 30-Day Wake Up Challenge and some common misconceptions about awakening . . .

 

Mitchell Clute: The 30-Day Wake Up Challenge is a bold title for this new journey you’ve created with Sounds True. Can we choose to wake up? And how do the practices in this journey support the awakening process? 

Adyashanti: The whole idea of The Wake Up Challenge is really the outcome of 24 years of teaching. Early on, I saw that the first thing I needed to establish was the idea that awakening is possible. If people think, “Awakening is rare. It’s for very unusual beings and maybe I’ll get there in 10 lifetimes if I’m lucky,” they’ll tend to manifest that thought pattern in their experience and it will seem to be true, whatever meditation or inquiry or other practices they’re doing. But as soon as people begin to challenge that idea, it just makes so much possible. The biggest challenge is often opening our minds to the possibility. 

Through all my years of teaching, I’ve seen that awakening is readily available to everybody. I’ve seen it in people who really have their act together, people who have good lives and relatively well-adjusted egos. I’ve seen it in people whose lives seem to be a mess, whose egos are really struggling. They can awaken. People come to me with very difficult backgrounds, with terrible traumas very early in life, and they can awaken. And I haven’t actually seen that any one of these groups has a greater advantage in terms of awakening to their true nature. 

I used the word “challenge” because I really wanted to challenge people. When I made this program, I took the best pointing-out instructions that I’ve developed over the years to induce insight. It’s not a program about processing your emotions, or about healing, or even about your spiritual path—though all those are an important part of life. It’s really narrowly focused on awakening to one’s true nature. 

I’ve been interested in making this program for over a decade now, and one day I thought, “I’ve thought about this long enough. I’d better just sit down and do it.” It was one of the most enjoyable—and challenging—things I’ve ever recorded. 

 

MC: One of the misperceptions it seems people have about awakening is, “If I just awaken, life will be good.” We believe that somehow, in light of that experience, clarity will automatically come to our relationships, our work, and our own journey. 

A: That’s an important point, because a lot of people hold this misperception. It’s a little disappointing to hear that awakening doesn’t instantly fix everything, but the truth is always more freeing than whatever our fantasy about the truth may be. Awakening is always one of the most seminal, transformative experiences we can have in life. And it does have a bleed-over effect into other dimensions of our life—the make-up of our healthy ego structure, our relating, our healing. But each of these areas of life—including emotional development, relational IQ, and personal healing work—[is] each a separate line of human development. They all interact together. But I’ve never met anybody who had an awakening and suddenly had an A+ ability to relate when they didn’t before, or suddenly healed everything that needed to be healed. It doesn’t happen that way; it didn’t happen that way for me. 

Awakening seems to have a different effect on different people. For some people, it transfers to their lives to a great degree, but we all have parts of our lives that need attention, that aren’t instantly clarified even with the deepest awakening. That’s just part of human life. But I think we can approach all those areas of life from a more benign position if we’ve had some taste of our true nature. Then, even if we have to do some healing work or emotional maturity work, we know through our own experience that we’re not coming from a place of lack, because we’ve really touched upon our unconditioned nature—that which is always and already complete.

So, awakening is always one of the most transformative moments in a person’s life, and can become a foundation from which to address other issues from a state of wholeness and with less fear or existential dread. But it’s not a magic cure-all for everything. 

 

MC: In Zen there’s the idea of “always being, always becoming”—of attending to both our humanness and our essential nature. But many students, and even some nondual teachers, seem to put all the emphasis on the being, our eternal nature, and almost nothing on the becoming. 

A: I think that’s something within human nature; we all want our securities. We’d all like to live in a world of absolutes, feeling if we could just find those absolutes we’d be safe and not be subject to the challenges of being and existing. 

Every dimension of consciousness has its own delusions. One of the delusions that is almost always inherent in awakening or the revelation of our true nature is a sense of confidence. We think, “Oh, this is it,” because we’re touching upon what is always and already complete. This confidence can tie right into our unconscious desire for fixed, final conclusions, because they provide a sense of security. 

Also, most people come to spirituality through some degree of suffering and difficulty. There’s a big motivation to want to have an experience that will put all that suffering behind you. Psychologically, we’re caught living in denial. We think, I’m done, I’m finished, I’ve realized an absolute truth and now I’m not subject to all these other aspects of being a human being. These delusions are inherent in the revelation of true nature, because any time we touch upon a facet of our true nature it feels whole and complete. 

But in the end, we realize we’re embracing a paradox. That which is always whole and complete is also always in a state of becoming. To me, this is the real nonduality. It’s not going back and forth from one side of duality to the other—from “I’m a human being” to “I’m spirit or consciousness.” Reality embraces this paradox of both sides. Always being, always becoming. A human being and pure spirit. It’s the nature of a more mature realization that we can not only see but begin to embody these paradoxes. 

 

MC: The 30-Day Wake Up Challenge has four parts. There are sections on the three types of awakening—the mind, the heart, and the ground of being—and a final section on how to put these insights into practice in our lives. Why did you present them in that order, and what do we need to bring to make the most of these teachings? 

A: I offered the teachings in the order they’re generally easiest to approach. As you know, I talk about awakening on the level of mind, heart, and gut or ground of being, and mind is usually the easiest one. They often unfold in something like that order, but not always. 

In my case, my first awakening was to the ground of being. Since I grew up dyslexic, my whole spiritual unfolding was dyslexic! It was backwards. But the reason I arranged the journey this way is simply that for many people it happens that way.

The power of our own honesty with ourselves plays such an important role. We can have revelatory and amazingly transformative experiences, but at the end of the day, our honesty about our own experience is going to tell us, “Oh, this seems to need more work,” or “I’m actually suffering in this area of my life,” or “Relationships seems to be an incredible mystery to me, and my awakening didn’t seem to give me great relational intelligence.” If we’re honest, we’ll see it, we’ll identify it, and we’ll focus on that for awhile. 

If there’s still healing work to be done, we can live in denial. It’s common in spirituality. People think that if they keep going back to the transformational experience over and over, it’s going to make everything else go away. But if we remain honest and don’t use that experience as a place to hide, then our awakening can give us real clarity, so that it becomes clear what we need to work on. 

And it’s hard for human beings to do—to simply be honest with ourselves. It sounds easy, but it’s not easy. But our experience tells us what needs attention. When we have an emotional or psychological or spiritual “ouch” that’s the way our system gives us feedback. It’s not mysterious. It’s not hidden from us. 

So there’s work to do after awakening. But we can also indefinitely postpone awakening by believing that we need to be some sort of semi-perfect being before it can ever happen, and that’s simply not true. 

 

Continue your awakening with our brand-new journey with Adyashanti, The 30-Day Wake Up Challenge. We begin Thursday, August 15.

LEARN MORE

Awakening the Spiritual Heart with Adyashanti

Adyashanti is an American-born spiritual teacher whose work adheres to no single tradition, but points the way toward awakening for all seekers. He has published many books and audio programs with Sounds True, including The Most Important Thing, The End of Your World, and Resurrecting Jesus. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Adya (as his friends and students call him) about The 30-Day Wake Up Challenge, an upcoming online course designed to take listeners on a journey through the layers of awakened consciousness over the course of a single month. Tami expresses her excitement about the course and asks Adya whether it’s really possible to “wake up” in just a few weeks. Adya talks about the liberation of dropping into the Spiritual Heart, leading listeners in a practice for touching this sublime, compassionate inner space. Finally, they discuss the everyday applications of touching awakened awareness, as well as why The 30-Day Wake Up Challenge has been one of Adya’s intensive projects.

(66 minutes)

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Be What You Want to Receive: Three Ways to Experiment ...

At a time when we’re marinating in trauma and dealing with the test of a lifetime, we all wish things were different. When what we want from life is a million mile march from what it actually is, it can seem like we need a massive intervention to keep facing what’s at hand. 

But research shows that small things can make a big difference. Just like stress is cumulative, so are the daily steps we take to grow and give.

Microdoses of bravery add up. To start, consider moving from asking what will the world offer me, to what will I offer the world? Tiny bits of strategic courage are sources of nourishment that can help you become what you want to receive. 

Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is a tall order, but worth doing. Microdosing bravery can help us build the strength and stamina that helps us heal, create, and liberate from fear, despair, and isolation. 

Here are three ways you can experiment with microdosing bravery including journal prompts for reflection.

Worth the Risk - Be What You Want to Receive

 

BE LOVE. 

Loneliness is being called “the new smoking,” a modern health risk. For some, the global pandemic has strengthened relationships, allowing for bonding and teamwork like never before. For others, it’s wreaked havoc: leading to feeling smothered and stuck. For those living alone, distancing has been brutal, making love feel far from reach. Loss, whether through death, divorce, breakups, or other factors, singes our hearts. We can become avoidant and skeptical of our future potential to love and be loved. 

When we strive to embody love, it’s essential to keep an open mind and heart. Loving connections are protective factors to our well-being. Consider these microdoses of bravery to strengthen your relationships, your sense of belonging, and the co-creation of new love paradigms in your life:

  • Get real. Go through your friends on social media and make a list of all the real people in your life with whom you can be yourself. Make a conscious effort to spend time outside of social media. Thank them for being so real to you and vow you’ll do the same.
  • Spark connection. Initiate a conversation with a partner or friend to see if you can build greater intimacy or camaraderie. To improve your connection, ask them what would mean a lot to them, and offer your own thoughts too.
  • Seek affinity relationships. Write a short poem or essay about yourself to clarify your various identities and then seek an affinity connection. Invite that person for coffee. Don’t shy away from sharing yourself and nudging them to do the same.
  • Be innovative. Create your own bravery microdose to help you be love.

Take note:

Write down what you chose to do and reflect on how it cultivated love in your life. Consider sharing this with someone you trust to help you maximize your efforts.

BE HEALING. 

The level of trauma at hand has ravaged our lives, making healing feel elusive on a good day, impossible on a bad. Given the magnitude of suffering at hand, healing should not be trivialized as a three-step process. Healing requires enormous courage. Microdosing bravery can help us reach out and tap in to the many forms of restoration available to us.  

Understanding how resilience works is a helpful way to begin healing. Gone are the days when it was viewed as a character trait—something you’re born with or not. There’s a lot of hype about being gritty and never letting anyone see you sweat that gets in the way of us finding the right support. Here are some ways to microdose bravery to foster healing and build resilience:

  • Recognize you’re not alone. The biggest lie our difficulties tell us is that we’re the only ones dealing with such intense suffering. All of us are living in a global mental health crisis, with exorbitant pressures and crushing circumstances. Suffering is part of our shared humanity. Finding solidarity and safe community can serve as a catalyst to healing. As we get traction in our own healing process, our acts of courage can be nourishing and healing to those around us.
  • Self-advocate. Healing requires intentional change in our communication. Many of us are comfortable and willing to give help, but few are asking for it. Identify one trusted person in your life that you know has the emotional maturity and skills to listen and support you. Tell them what you’re going through and work with them to identify potential roads toward healing, such as therapy, strategic behavioral change, and targeted self-care.
  • Set boundaries. Untreated trauma and unresolved issues can haunt us and impair the quality of our lives. By paying attention to what we say yes and no to, we can ensure we are leaving space for growth after we’ve gone through significant stressors. Find language to courageously share what you can commit to, and what you cannot. Enlist support to help you firmly protect your time so that you can devote attention to healing and restoration.
  • Identify resources. Take some time to scan your direct environment for things that nurture and sustain you. Select one or two things that can be microdosed to build your bravery.

Take note:

Write down things that help you experience healing. How can you continue to build off this?

BE A LIBERATOR. 

Society can project a lot onto us, caging us into patterns of conformity that can become harmful. Freedom to live as our truest selves isn’t something that comes with safety or ease. The work of unhooking from social prescriptions and ills can be fraught and exhausting. Still, when we find the courage to call out injustice and fight for a more humane world, we can experience exuberance and help change paradigms.

When we strive to liberate, we realize that we must dismantle oppression. That we must advocate for inclusivity and human reverence, particularly for social identities that are marginalized and harmed. Constrained living hinders human progress, individually and collectively. Consider these microdoses of bravery to liberate from social constructs that are harmful:

  • Let go. Take inventory of so-called social “norms” and become less apt to cower in the face of social impositions that are dismissive and destructive toward “difference.” Embrace your own multidimensionality, and that of humanity.
  • Speak up. We all have opportunities to be active contributors rather than passive bystanders in the world. Practicing accountability means that we call out injustice and work to eradicate forms of human suffering and imprisonment—whether based on race, gender, orientation, age, place of origin, or other social identity categories.
  • Practice human reverence. Move from me to we. See the glory and wonder across the human spectrum. Honor varied identities and perspectives. Work to find and engage in diverse relationships, rather than staying insular or spending time with those that look like, love like, and think like you. Become a liberator by standing fervently with those who’ve been marginalized, oppressed, or discriminated against. Seek ways to forge change, bit by bit.
  • Break Free. Create your own bravery microdose to help you liberate.

Take note:

What do you need to be liberated from? Do you know someone who is struggling in a similar way? How might you join forces and work together to become freer?

Author Kristen LeeKristen Lee, EdD, LICSW, is an award-winning Behavioral Science and Leadership professor, clinician, researcher, activist, comedian, author of Worth the Risk: How to Microdose Bravery to Grow Resilience, Connect More, and Offer Yourself to the World, and host of Crackin’ Up. She has over two decades of clinical experience in mental health, and twelve years of teaching and leadership roles in higher education, focusing on underserved populations. She leads the Behavior Science program at Northeastern University. For more, visit kristenlee.com.

 

 

 

 

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