Non-Dual Being~ a Journal Writing from July 29, 1991

There is an experience
beyond the many endless concepts,
classifications, beliefs, and even
imaginations of the mind
where there is freedom
that is perfect beyond any organization.
Where there is no preference
no distinctions are made
where nothing is identified
and there is nothing separate
or other than,
merged. Only One. All of all.
This is real.
All struggle and striving in Life
is longing for this experience.
This experience has no pain
it has nothing, no thing.
Therefore, the mind can never know it.
And words, worn out tools,
can never be it, nor give it.
Surrender yourself.
In painful revelation of falsity
in your life, be willing regardless
to surrender it all.
Willing to die
for you will when you surrender.
For death must be, for birth
A birth of your Self
true You
that is I
a return to no time, no limit
no end, no beginning

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An Awakening

Back in 1991 I had an awakening that dramatically changed my life. I had been living a life of meditation, yoga, chanting, devotional concerts, walks in the old growth forest and daily soaks in the hot springs as an artist in residence at Breitenbush Hot Springs for a year. I was slowly becoming more and more subtle. On this day, I went so deep into silence that “I” was completely gone. There was no one left. There was no thought. There was imensity of silence, as if silence “was” something, something that went on forever out into infinity. It was a greater bliss than I ever knew was possible. There was knowing without thinking. Knowing everything, because one ‘was’ everything. You knew it, because you were it.

This lasted many, many hours. Slowly there was a thought and an awareness that there was a body. For months after, it was just a bliss, a stillness, a great love for all that is, and a moving the body around in space. When the body was settled, it was resting in infinity and stillness.

I realized who “I” am. Something so very vast, that the body is just a drop in the ocean of That.

And since then, it has been “after the ecstasy, the laundry”. It has been integrating and watching when thoughts and patterns want to appear and how the mind wants to grab hold of them and say “this is me”. But there is a knowing of who I am that cannot believe in any particular story of who I am, no matter how lovely.

How blessed are the moments we see the truth. They inform us forever more.

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Just Love Them

My very dear friend just found out in the ER he has a brain tumor. He will have surgery tomorrow. He hopes to wake up. When I said good bye to him tonight, I realized I may not see him again. And I realize tonight at home that what life seems to demand every moment is a form of love. He just wanted to feel loved, deeply loved. That was by far the most nourishing thing I could give him.

Sometimes love is holding a hand. Sometimes it’s bringing someone food. Sometimes it’s telling someone it’s time to grow up. Sometimes it’s planting flowers. But there is a distinct feeling within the heart. There is a softness; an openness, a sweetness, even if it feels like it’s breaking.

My heart has been stretched so wide in these last few months. And I feel like love is living me. I feel like I have given myself to it, and it has taken me over. And there’s no room to say I can’t handle this. Or that. There is just a constant meeting the moment. A constant opening to how love will use me today.

So many changes are happening in the world. We are having to meet immense change, on a moment’s notice. This is when we put into practice the ability to breathe, to rest in an untouchable peace, to find the strength that comes from our source. We can be love in our actions, and we can at the same time rest in the unchanging depth of our being. It is such a beautiful and mysterious paradox.

Give your self to love. No wiser words could I offer.

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Where do you place your attention?

It’s so clear that we vibrate with the energy of what we focus on. We become like what we place our attention on.

I recently had the most beautiful retreat experience, giving a retreat at Lake Tahoe with my dear friend and co-facilitator, Sarah McLean. We had such a lovely group of people, almost all women, and one brave man! Something about our group was particularly open, there was a certain willingness and consciousness that was ripe to open even more, to experience a greater love and a greater joy. It almost astounded me where we collectively went. We were there committing to deepening our spiritual practices of meditation, chanting, prayer, affirmation, self-reflection, and communion with nature. And together we reached such an experience of unity. In that feeling of one melted heart, there was a truly wonder-full bliss. There was a remembering of our eternal being and a resting in that.

I notice since I’ve been home, that I at times get temporarily involved and identified with limited realities. Watching too much news, one can get identified with much suffering, as that is the dominant focus of what mainstream news reports. It is not that I do not want to know what’s happening in the world, but if all I attend to is suffering, if my attention is mostly on what is painful in life, and what is not working, I lose my strength, I temporarily lose my inner peace and forget who I am and identify with limited aspects of this world.

I see in my teacher, Amma, Mata Amritanandamayi, an ability to fully be present with each person who comes up to receive her darshan. She feels for them, and with them, yet as she so fully knows her eternal nature, she does not get lost in all these realities. At the end of the day, she knows herself to be the Mother of Immortal Bliss (that is what her name means). She knows herself to be blissful, eternal being, that has no death,  no limit,  no end. She does not get stuck in any realities or stories of this world.

And so, it is my challenge, and perhaps yours, that we take time regularly to focus on, to place our attention on, the peace, the well being, the calm, our illumined presence that is free of the world. As Christ said, “I am in the world, not of it.” I believe he was like Amma, able to stay awake to his true nature, in spite of a world that could look so dark and at times could inspire despair.

Let us love, and serve, and remember our truest nature as peace, bliss, stillness, eternal being. Let us help those who need our help, do our best to be kind and useful in this life, but not get lost in looking for a sense of security in the ever changing world. Instead, if we take time to feel the love of the One within, the peace that is in the sound of the raindrops falling on my roof right now, placing our attention on peace that is here now, we can rest from worry.

I am readying for a drive to Lake Tahoe again this Thursday to provide music and chanting for a Silent Retreat Gangaji is offering at Fallen Leaf Lake. I will so welcome the silence, the time in nature to empty out all identities, to let go of all roles, to chant the prayers of my heart, and rest again in the awareness of who I am. I do this for all that I am, all beings everywhere. May all beings be happy. May all beings know their true self as bliss, and completely free from all suffering and bondage. May all beings be at peace.

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Many Paths Coming Together

I just had the most beautiful evening. I was part of a very beautiful Interfaith Program in Redding, CA at a beautiful Catholic Church. I walked in early, for the end of a Catholic service, and was touched by the feeling of sacredness there. Such stillness, such prayer pervaded the walls. I felt blessed to be there right away. Then I felt excitement when I saw the Native Americans, the Jewish Rabbi, the Ministers from the Methodist church, the Sikhs, the Muslim leader, the Buddhist from the Thich Nhat Hanh chapter, the Religious Science ministers, and the Interfaith choir all gather together for the upcoming evening program.

As the program began, with the native drumming and dancing, and then each spiritual path sharing their prayers and their rituals, I just was so very touched that we were all there together. How interesting to see a beautiful Native American Dance in full regalia with the Cross and the Altar in the background; and how contrasting as well to hear the Sikhs play the tabla and harmonium right after the choir sang a hymn. How lovely I find the ritual of the wine and bread becoming the body and blood of Christ in the beautiful Catholic rite.

Everyone so loved the prayers of their path; spoke them with devotion and conviction. And everyone also honored all the other paths expressed on this unusual night. And As I sang a closing song, Send Your Love, I just felt the One Heart of us all. I felt everyone melting into that heart; forgetting differences, remembering how alike we all are in our desire for peace, in our desire for love, in our wish for happiness.

Oh how I love humanity when it comes together, takes a leap, opens and shares from the heart, and finds that there is such greater strength and power in unity.
Have faith in Humanity. There is such good. And if I hadn’t been willing to go and give the gift of a song to this gathering, I would have not been so incredibly blessed with the beauty that overwhelmed my heart tonight. It is in giving that we receive. So much. I am so grateful. I send my love.

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What Can We Do?

What can we do? We can breathe and exhale the tension, fear and worry, to start with. We can calm the mind and emotions, and get in touch with our true nature as love and compassion. We can hold our planet, and especially the people of Japan, in an embrace of love and compassion, with a mental resolve that they will get the help they need. That they will feel a sense of peace and comfort even in this chaos, danger and destruction. We can vow to live a life of love in action in the best way we know how, from moment to moment. We can send money to Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Salvation Army, and other organizations helping right now. We can comfort each other, share our feelings, and contemplate further ways to use our creative energy to help. We can lend our voice, signature, time and money to halt nuclear power development until it doesn’t produce waste that will kill us if it isn’t contained somewhere. Because with these earth changes, how can that ever be assured?

Have a good cry. Release the energies of fear, despair, helplessness, shock and hopelessness. Realize that you holding an energy of love, stillness, peace, openness to divine presence and guidance, a calmness in the storm, is a gift you can give. Align your life so you are doing everything possible to express the love, wisdom, creativity and peace of your true nature.

We must stretch beyond the mind’s limited conception, and tendency to judge it all as only terrible. Remember if for just a moment there is eternity; and that we are not only the body. Have great compassion, do all you can in action, and try not to paralyze your energy field with despair and worry. To act with great love and peace, one must remember a greater reality than just the physical.

You are connected to great wisdom, guidance, strength, courage, creativity, peace and that which all of this happens within. Return to the Source for help, in humble prayer, in meditation, in communion with spiritual friends and teachers, in all the most wise and spiritual sources. Cultivate and offer peace and clarity.

I send love out to you, I feel our connection, I am grateful for the love, compassion, peace, wisdom and healing presence you allow to be who you are.

With great love and prayers for healing,

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Looking into Religion

Dear Friends,

Warm greetings to you! I have been deep into my studies as I am in One Spirit Interfaith Seminary to become an ordained Interfaith Minister. I have been on a spiritual journey for most of my life, and so these Interfaith studies are an addition to a very devoted path that has long been established.

As I learn a bit more about Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Taoism, and Confucianism, I realize that there is profound and deep truth, that inspires something within  that knows, expressed in many of these teachings and sacred writings.

At times though, it is clear that some of the Religions were more useful and profoundly revolutionary at the time, but are now a bit outdated in their need to evolve towards more equal human rights. There are instances of blatant sexism in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity in particular, which to me reflect a less than fully enlightened view. I believe there is a lot of good in the teachings of these religions, but there needs to be a rooting out of what was clearly an expression of fallible man, not illumined God-consciousness.

It’s interesting how those historical religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam all had mystical branches that formed their own sects. I have always been attracted to the Christian mystics Meister Eckhart, St. Francis, St. Augustine, and Teresa of Avila. I also am especially attracted to the Sufi path, which is all about love, ecstasy, and intuitive/direct knowing of God.

What I realize is that I have only minimal interest in “information” about Religion, but am  deeply interested in direct experience of the Divine, which every Religion points to. All spiritual practice is to help us realize the Truth. To help us discover the Self that is so much more than we imagine or experience ourselves to be most of the time.

Something that I have felt more strongly aware of lately is the feeling that we (as a society, community, and family of friends) need to commune together. We need spiritual support. We need that “jewel” that the sangha or spiritual circle of friends or community is. Where we can be reminders and reflections to each other to make every effort to awaken, to stay awake as much as possible, to live a gracious, generous life about love, kindness and mindful living.

People seem to need two things. One, skills for living a meaningful and gracious life; and two, spiritual wisdom and inspiration that inspires one towards discovering the mystery of the true Self.

Great teachers are an indispensable help. There are some very great teachers here on the planet now. I recommend Amma, Mata Amritanandamayi, the Hugging Saint, as her example is unparalleled. There is also the Dalai Lama, Tich Nhat Hanh, and a number of lesser known but helpful teachers whose lives are solely lived to awaken humanity. We only have so much time left here in this life. How will we spend it?

I leave you with a very beautiful and rich quote from the Tao Te Ching that rings so true to my heart and inner knowing:

Empty your mind of all thoughts.

Let your heart be at peace.

Watch the turmoil of beings,

but contemplate their return.

Each separate being in the universe

returns to the common source.

Returning to the source is serenity.

If you don’t realize the source,

you stumble in confusion and sorrow.

When you realize where you come from,

you naturally become tolerant,

disinterested, amused,

kindhearted as a grandmother,

dignified as a king.

Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,

you can deal with whatever life brings you,

and when death comes, you are ready.

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Experience of Maui

There is a real reverence here for the setting sun… everyone stops what they are doing around 5:45 pm and goes out to the beach… people for the most part sit quietly and gaze at the sun as it lowers towards the ocean…the clouds provide a canvas for pinks, lavenders, periwinkles, fuchsias, brilliant oranges, and silvery rays shining through like a direct line to heaven. You can walk on the beach as you watch, lounge on the sand, or find a nice, smooth lava formation by the water to sit on. And it is always an awe-inspiring moment, when the sun seems to kiss the water, slowly dropping into the ocean, closing another beautiful day. Everyone then gently blows conch shells.. announcing the sun’s departure. It’s a beautiful sound… very sweet, soothing, ancient.

And then there is a love of flowers here… there are so very many varieties, every brilliant color, size, shape and smell. People here have vases of fresh flowers all over the house, as why not bring the beauty of nature indoors. I marvel at the magnificence of the creation of flowers. They have such a high vibration. They seem to exist to bring beauty and joy to the world. They make my heart rejoice.

And then there are the wonderful creatures of the ocean. The whales for one, they are everywhere. They jump clear out of the water making a giant splash, sometimes very close to shore. They will sometimes flap their tails, again, and again, and again. It is such a sight, such a display of power and energy! Snorkeling about, the tropical fish are as amazing as the flowers; so varied in color, shape, size and personality. There’s  the puffer fish, how unique, so round and cute! And the unicorn fish, they have this horn sticking out of their foreheads, and are such a beautiful blue/green/purple.

Everything here softens my being. Even challenging moments feel soft; as if they are happening inside a cloud and one cannot become too bothered as the tension would seem so out-of-place. I noticed on my flight on Hawaiian Airlines over to Honolulu today that even the recorded information before take-off has a woman with a very sweet and comforting voice speaking. People everywhere smile; the tourists are SO happy gratitude oozes from them. And the locals are kind and seem like they have been permanently affected by the softness.

How blessed I feel to be here. And to express who I am as I am so touched by all this beauty and gentleness. I love who I am here. I am in awe at the beauty that this reality emanates. May this gentle aloha spirit waft across the oceans and bring a soft peace to all beings everywhere.

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The Mystery of Dark and Light

This world is a world with everything in it. It has such beauty, such love, such sweetness, and it has almost unbearable challenges, heart ache, and what sometimes seems like insurmountable darkness. There is a very thoughtful quote from Joseph Cambell I’d like to share on this subject. He says, “The first step to the knowledge of the wonder and mystery of life is the recognition of the monstrous nature of the earthly human realm as well as its glory, the realization that this is just how it is and that it cannot and will not be changed. Those who think they know- and their name is legion- how the universe could have been had they created it, without pain, without sorrow, without time, without death, are unfit for illumination.
So if you really want to help this world, what you will have to teach is how to live in it. And that no one can do who has not themselves learned how to live in the joyful sorrow and the sorrowful joy of the knowledge of life as it is.”

In Hinduism they talk about this world being a “middle world”, a world in which good and evil, pleasure and pain, knowledge and ignorance, interweave in about equal proportions. And this is the way things will remain. That the worlds purpose is to provide a training ground for the human spirit. That what we do is important, it‘s important to build character, to evolve; but we delude ourselves if we expect it to change the world fundamentally.  Jesus expressed a similar view when he said, “this world is a bridge: pass over, but build no house upon it.”

I find this helpful; it offers food for thought and a certain explanation, though incomplete, as to why there is such polarity in life experience. I have found there is a place in consciousness, in pure stillness, where thoughts of right and wrong, good and bad, light and dark all cease. Even the world and all things of the world cease. There is great peace in pure stillness. There is total relief from the world, from confusion, from any thought at all. And with out thought, there is no world, there is no person in the world. There is just a wonderful wideness of being, still, blissful, vast, untouched, unaffected being.

It seems to me when we rest at least for a time in this still being, we return to action in the world refreshed, and reminded that one need not hold too tightly to anything here. To anything “of this world”. Then we can be in the world, but not drowned by it; not overwhelmed by its demands or dark corners. Be still and know that which is untouchable peace. Then bring that peace into each moment of worldly life.

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The Blessing of Amma

I am here in San Ramon, spending time with my teacher, and my spiritual inspiration, Amma, the hugging saint. Amma has such a powerful way of helping me deepen; helping me commit once again, and more fully, to make my life about love, about kindness, about compassion, and about finding a way to bless and serve others. She teaches most of all, by being the greatest example of this kind of life I have even seen. She inspires, supports, and spiritually guides so many, and I am grateful to be one recipient of this great grace. She reminds me that to look for lasting love, happiness and peace in the world is to look in the wrong place. Those things are possible, but it is in knowing God, in merging in God, in experiencing union with the divine that we can have lasting peace and happiness. And that is possible. When that is what we want, most of all.

And so, here in her presence, I turn my attention fully to That. Tears flow, my heart opens wider, and my mind through all this spiritual practice because more refined, more still, and more peace is felt. This is all she wants. Our peace. Our happiness. Our life’s fulfillment. And she tirelessly re-directs our focus to where these things are found.

How very grateful I am for a great teacher. How grateful I am for this grace and this inspiration. It fills me up, that I might fill others up. May all beings truly find lasting peace. May all beings feel happiness. May all beings finally be free of suffering. Thank you Mother for this guidance towards this freedom.

Blessings and love to All.

Kathy Zavada

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