Saturday, January 31, 2009

Book Review: The Revelation of Oneness

Jeff Foster's The Revelation of Oneness: Dialogues on Nonduality and Spiritual Awakening (Non-Duality Press, $21.45) is an excellent assemblage. There are four sets of dialogues, and they cover a plethora of topics, including the myth of the mind, death, the appearance of time, unity in diversity, the body/mind, the fallacy of cause-and-effect, and the recognition of our natural state.

Foster's responses to seeker's questions are clear, sound, and refreshing. When someone queries about the "paradox" of trying to understanding nonduality, the author astutely counters, "But actually there is no paradox. There is just the thought 'there is a paradox.' So this entire world of thought that the mind has constructed, it's gone in a flash, when the thought isn't there."

And here is a cogent explanation how this notion of the "me" is created a multitude of times throughout the day: "Yes, everything is creating you. Take this [statue of a] bird up here. We think 'I am seeing the bird', when actually the bird is creating the 'me'...The bird is creating the one who sees the bird. They arise at the same time and dissolve at the same time. And that's all that's ever happening." In other words, this is merely an innocent occurrence of apparent duality.

There are some pithy pointers throughout the book, as well. A fine quartet of them follows: "Already, there is only Oneness"; "This is the end of duality because it is the wide open space, the vastness in which duality appears to arise in the first place"; "Once you get tangled up in words and concepts and meanings, we are so totally, completely, utterly lost"; and--the author's own brand-worthy admonition--"Life has no center".

The Revelation of Oneness can be ordered through Amazon or directly from the publisher at:

Monday, January 26, 2009


Why move from this? You say you must practice mindfulness, repeat your mantra, raise your kundalini, or center on your chakras. My only question is, "Why move from this"?


When you are told to pause a thought, you aren't being instructed to stop your thinking. (Well, at least not by credible teachers.) Just notice that before the next thought appears, there is a bare spaciousness directly before or within you. Now relax into it. It is that simple.


Every single time you meditate, you are doing the very opposite of what will help you to discover who and what you are.


One of the glorious things about awareness is that it is something upon which you are already gazing. All you need to do is to perceive its immediacy and fullness, or to see that there is not one individual person in existence.


By giving emphasis to your thinking, you give sustenance to the idea that you are, somehow, your lofty thoughts and concepts. But the mind cannot exist by itself. Thus, there must be some presence even greater than it. See that there is something in which your thoughts are arising. It is sheer, timeless, and ever-peaceful. It is your natural state.


The most esteemed teachers of all ages--from Buddha and Huang Po to Shankara and Nisargadatta--all point to one thing: Pure, nonconceptual awareness. Don't get waylaid by divisive commentaries and tangled spiritual concepts. "Looking within, finding stillness"--that, said Buddha, is the "sweet joy" of existence.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Question & Answer: Heart of the Matter

Question: I loved the piece about sitting in the garden ["Promenade"/Jan 2, 2009], and would be interested in knowing how the awakened life lives itself in your daily life.

Rodney: Nothing is different, and yet everything has changed. You can forget the old gurus’ tale that you suddenly become this blissed-out, sluggish-moving, semi-conversant person. For personalities tend to remain the same. Mine certainly has. I still can’t go anywhere without a couple of books in tow (blame my lovely mother--she was a librarian); I persist in having a Southerner’s keen reaction to rudeness; and I continue to dream, despite the myth that you no longer do so after self-realization. But my dreams are now brief, and with little or no intensity. (Nisargadatta and Ramana Maharshi also continued to dream, by the way.)

Significant differences? I used to get insomnia a couple of times a month for years and years. The only thing that would put me out was Ambien. Now, I go to sleep before 8:00pm. Sometimes, I even have to hasten to bed, lest I collapse--in somnolent exhaustion--in the middle of the living room floor!

One other difference needs mentioning: My relationships with people are richer. There is a compassion, honesty, and liveliness that wasn’t there before. Also, it’s quite something to look into the eyes of another person and behold--utterly and clearly--that radiant and unconditional truth that each of us are.

A couple of days before Christmas, I was standing in line at a downtown (Columbia) Subway to get one of their sumptuous Veggie max sandwiches. When the line stalled, I turned and gazed out the window at rush of passing cars, shoppers, and tourists in the chilly dusk. Through the dense plate glass, everything and everyone could be vividly seen, but not heard. That is how your lived existence becomes with the recognition of your natural state--suddenly, there is a certain hushness to life. Everything is accurately seen and heard, but your stand is in presence, not individuality. Thoughts and emotions come up, but they just a quickly fall away.

I go into these details only because self-cognizance--in its daily context--has been given short shrift. Questioners are curious (and rightly so) about what exactly changes with the advent of this understanding. So I’m replying to it as fully as possible, while also declaring that there is no “exactly” exactly. What occurs with the body/mind labeled “Rodney” won’t necessarily be the case with “John” or “Christine.” But the bottom line--always and unequivocally--is that your own ordinary awareness is the “heart of the Teaching.” It is irreducible, and it never wavers.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Book Review: Paradise Found

Charlie Hayes graciously sent me a copy of his excellent Paradise Found: Recognizing and Living as the Infinite Love That You Are (Nondual Expressions, $24.95). It's a nondual, no-nonsense hodgepodge of quotes, pointers, humor, discussions, and admonitions (e.g., "Look for yourself. Don't believe, disbelieve, accept, or deny any concept!").

Up front, Charlie furnishes us not only with the basics of the book, but of ourselves: "YOU are Awareness, simply being. No one can say they do not exist. That existence, the sense of 'I' as in 'I Am,' is undeniable and inescapable...So the simple pointer is, what you are IS That Presence of Awareness."

I think of Charlie as America's Nisargadatta. His toughness is matched only by his compassion. I get the feeling that if he were to toss you out of one of his weekly discussions in Enid (Oklahoma) for being overly conceptual, he would give you a hug first. (I can't see the sage from Bombay doing that!)

And speaking of teachers, Charlie's nondual lineage is absolutely top-of-the-line: He came to his understanding through the writings of and conversations with Bob Adamson (who was taught by Nisargadatta) and Bob's premier "student," John Wheeler. It goes without saying, then, that Paradise Found is not to be missed.

You can order the book from Amazon or (for only $19.95) from Charlie's store at:

Also, there are other versions of this work available. You can email Charlie at:
His excellent Website can be found at:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Two Poems


I greet it every morning: Sin Grasa on the label
of my French Vanilla coffee creamer. It was there

in sleep, as well: Awareness without grasa, without
the fat of consciousness. It is brighter and sheerer

than any Virgilian dawn, and needs only to be savored.
It is the muse that sings within me, that through me
tells the story.



As a boy, you would grieve for things:
The stark, solitary tree; a rotting boat-dock in
some mournful cove; and homeless dogs and kittens
(which would propel you into near-catatonia).

Now, everything is as it is. You celebrate the single,
yellow thistle peaking through searing concrete.
You give food to the destitute, whether kitty or human.

Or sometimes you don’t. Or can’t. There are only

apparent choices to be made. So go ahead.
Relish them...with joyful apparentness.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sheerness of Being

There is something that does not move. It is the bare essence of your existence. It can't be your mind or your personality because there are times when you have no thoughts, feelings, or preferences. Neither are you your body, because the body--while amazingly intricate--doesn't possess the ability to know itself.

What about consciousness proper, i.e., that state or fact of being mentally aware of something? Surely we are that! As conscious and (for the most part) intelligent creatures, we have produced magnificent art and literature, made tremendous medical and scientific discoveries, and brought digital organization to vast amounts of information. How could consciousness or intelligence not be what we are? Because consciousness has states; among them are waking, drowsiness, dreaming, and deep sleep. And our fundamental nature can't be something that inherently changes.

What is it that does not move, that is existent, knowing, self-evident? It is this simple presence of awareness. You are THAT! You needn't search for some scriptural reference of what you think self-realization is supposed to be. You are that which is prior to all thoughts, emotions, and ideation. See that there is a presence, right here and now, recognizing the fact that you are conscious and reading these words. That is the sheerness that does not move. Full stop! Emaho!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Book Review: Everyday Enlightenment

Gathered and edited by Australian filmmaker and cinematographer Sally Bongers, Everyday Enlightenment: Seven Stories of Awakening (Non-Duality Press, $12.95) is a laudable collection of essays from people for whom "the self image" has fallen away.

The seven contributors--for reasons not made clear, we are only given their initials--hail from Europe, the U.K., Australia, and the United States. They include a man brought up as a Muslim, a forty-nine year old female artist in Amsterdam, a fifty-eight year old strategic consultant in Melbourne, an accountant from Chicago, and a sixty-nine year old man from New Orleans.

The artist recounts the way in which she came to see that she is not her thoughts, body, or feelings, but a kind of "is-ness." She goes on to say: "'Is' is alive. 'Is' is aware. 'Is' is consciousness, pure consciousness, pure awareness. The sea is alive. It's aware. Douglas Harding used to talk about an 'ether', you know, the glassy ether, or glassy essence. It's just aware presence."

A Chicago accountant expounds on how awareness "was always there as a background thing that was completely ignored. It has no meaning, doesn't mean anything at all to the mind. That's why, when it's pointed to, it can't be found with the mind...There may be intellectual understanding or frustration but usually there is just an ignoring of it and going on with one's story."

And a former Regent College student notes that being in the presence of a self-realized teacher or speaker has its own kind of magic and energy: "When I heard Tony Parsons speak, I instinctively knew what he was saying made absolute sense to me. There was no question about it. And I was blown away by it. It wasn't so much that it made sense in my mind, it 's like I knew at some level, somehow I knew it already."

The understanding in a couple of the people appears not to be solid. Their "story" is still very strong with them, and they make telling, erroneous statements, e.g., "You need [techniques/practices] early but you don't need them after, I think." Of course, you need them neither before nor after.

Still, as Jeff Foster points out in his appealing Foreword, this book is such a welcomed one because it brings "awakening right back down to earth, and emphasizes its ordinariness, an emphasis that seems to be missing in a lot of the current spiritual literature."

Everyday Enlightenment can be ordered either from Amazon or directly from the publisher at:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


When a thought is present, you know it. When a thought is not present, what is it that knows that the thought is not there?


Nonduality (or advaita) is a deep and earnest inquiry into self-knowledge. The literal meanings of "not two" and "oneness" are often given. Both definitions are decent enough. But in essence, we aren't speaking numerically here. We are saying that there is no subject and object. There is only awareness, which is the ultimate Subject.


There is no progression to truth, just a sudden seeing or understanding. There is sometimes a period where one's preconceptions about this natural state are dealt with and cleared away. But throughout it all, presence remains vibrant and clear.


We are taught that consciousness is the epitome of existence. But if you will notice, you are aware of being awake as you read these words. Consciousness is occurring inside of that sheer and consummate spaciousness, which is none other than yourself.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Ah, my annual holiday walk along the Horseshoe at the University of South Carolina, in Columbia. The Horseshoe is the heart of the campus, with its lush lawn and brick-path promenade that showcase nearly a dozen 19th-century buildings and a multitude of towering trees, including Southern magnolias and majestic live oaks. As always at this time of the year, there are less than a handful of people about.

My secret place is in one of the five gardens that are located between and in the rear of the various buildings. Within the garden's firebrick walls, there are is a snug greenhouse with its opalescent exterior; dormant rose bushes and vines; cropped crape myrtles flaunting their smooth, cinnamon trunks; and, slightly to the rear of the space, a circular, softly-pruned rosemary bush. I dip my hands into the leaves and gently rub their evergreen fragility between my fingers. Several seconds is all that is needed before my hands are pungent with the herb's aroma.

I sit on a bench in front of the gun-metal, three-dish fountain (its steady murmurs formed by a thin stream of water). Again and again, I bring my cupped hands to my face and relish the camphoraceous scent. Through the years, it has always been a delight to come here and savor the quietness. But this year, having finally become clear on who and what I truly was, I discover that there is a space within the quietness, a space that is--at once--subtle, beginningless, and profound.

I then do something that I don't often take the time to do: I simply sit with THIS...Anyone entering the area would intriguingly (or annoyingly) think I was meditating or praying. But no, all seeking has stopped; and if I were praying, it would be for thanks, not supplication. There is just this sitting with the wafts of rosemary and the soft gurgles of water. Or as Dogen Zenji wrote--

Awakened, the one great truth:
Black rain on the temple roof.