The Self Cannot By-Pass Itself

"Spiritual by-pass" is trending in new age conversation. But dealing with our pain and trauma, as spiritual practice, is not just the flavor of the month. Embracing suffering has been a venerable tradition in Yoga practice, Buddhist Tonglen, and Tantra for centuries, and was quite the cult in Medieval Christianity.
This identification with pain can be as much a spiritual trap as pouring a layer of honey all over ourselves and calling it “ananda.” One trap is often a reaction to another. Today it’s sometimes hip to define spirituality, not as "holier than thou," but "more traumatized than thou."

On the one hand, we bury our fear, our anger, our lust, our envy, our chaos, under a sweet self-induced hypnotic coma. This trap is easy to fall into when we employ a master hypnotist, the "spiritual teacher," who sits cross legged on a stage and charms us with his, or her, mellifluous voice.

On the other hand is the trap of egotistical woe. We identify so completely with our past trauma, and invest so much energy in telling the old story, that this pain becomes our spiritual ego. We regard the trauma story as our very self. In fact, the notion that we might be free of this old pain threatens our identity. We become indignant at the suggestion of healing.

In reality, the Self cannot by-pass its Self. Our pain and our Self are the same substance, the same energy. And our trauma, if it is alive and not just stored up in the mind’s memory library, is always in the present moment.

The old story does not need to be told, because healing is never in the past, but always now. No one has ever been healed in the past. Now is where the energy is, and therefore the healing.

The healing begins when we are willing to de-link the energy of pain from the mental library of images and stories. If we are not willing to do this, the pain will become so intense that it will eventually do it for us, demanding all our attention as a furious Presence, a “Wrathful Deity” as the Tibetans would say, on whom we must meditate with our whole heart. Now we can plunge into the fierceness of pain-energy, as a living wound that contains its own maelstrom of healing.

In dynamic meditation, we not only embrace our pain, but merge with it, hug it with our whole body, on a cellular and molecular level, co-mingling the breath of Awareness with atoms of stored trauma.

In the healing balm of pure Awareness, knots of stress loosen and unwind. Pain first intensifies with focus, then lightens up, transformed into a rainbow of available possibility. When Awareness penetrates pain completely, pain dissolves into Awareness.

So even our pain is vibrant, clear, and useful. For it was never anything but furiously condensed consciousness.

Awareness cannot by-pass Awareness. The Self cannot by-pass the Self. Only thought can fabricate a temporary illusion, a by-pass. Therefore we practice the meditation which transcends the mind, but does not transcend the body. For true meditation draws us deeper and deeper into the body, through the cellular, atomic, and even sub-atomic strata of energy, unbinding knots of trauma and stress, until we rest in the Source of creation, and divine silence pervades every photon of our Being. Here in the field of unity, we are the pain, we are Awareness of the pain, and we are the healing. Dissolving the body into silence is not a “spiritual by-pass.”

Around every battle is a stillness. Around every trauma is a space. But we must widen our Awareness in compassion for ourselves. A block of ice becomes water when surrounded by warmer water; so a block of pain floats in Awareness, and melts into Awareness. The beauty of this meditation is that it actually fills us with energy, instead of requiring energy. It is not work, it is grace.

Our shadow, our trauma, does not require energy to heal because it IS the energy of healing, locked and knotted in neurological stress. That energy in its subtlest form is pure Awareness. Even our pain is made out of Sat-Chit-Ananda: being, consciousness, and bliss.

Unconditional vulnerability is invincible strength. When we touch our core, the dark broken flower that seemed so heavy with the toxins of human experience suddenly blossoms into what is so light, so fragrant, so whole. Why? Because it is no longer the mere content of our awareness, it is Awareness itself.

Beneath the pleasures and torments of our world is a continuum of awakening: an empty mirror underlying its reflections. Whatever disturbances appear, the nature of the mirror remains untainted. Even while reflecting the most violent troubling image, the mirror remains still and clear.

I do not say, “imagine you are this mirror.” Of course you are, but until it becomes a direct experience, this would only be imagination, a false mood, a plastic joy. I do say, however, practice deep meditation and embrace your pain.

You will inevitably observe that what embraces must be larger, more expansive and spacious, than what it embraces. What embraces must also be clear and empty. Only clarity and emptiness can embrace and embody.

Embrace and embody the energy of your pain in the present moment, without super-imposing mental images of the past, and you will be embraced. You will be embraced by your Self.

For y are neither pain nor pleasure, sorrow nor joy. You are unbounded Awareness, encircling the furious battle of opposites with exquisite serenity, as if they were your little children. There is room in you for all, for all. Because you are the mother of your own heart.


Layers. Layers of weather. Layers of perception. Layers of consciousness.
Troubled gray clouds of mind overhead, dark green body of earth below, between them a brief opening... Here in the Northwest Winter, a sudden clearing between storms, a gash of blue sky. Ah, it is just as when pure awareness opens between thoughts, the sudden grace of unboundedness, where the mountain of divine Light floats like a feather.

But we are so immersed in the density of our particular layer of consciousness, we think it is solid, we think it is the whole world; only to discover that it's just another husk to peel away. And even when we imagine we've gotten "woke," or arrived at a "higher state," this too is just another husk to peel away.

Yet there are moments when we penetrate all husks, all layers of maya, piercing to the heart's core, which is, in fact, No-Thing at all. Here at the center, we know the Self.

But to "know the Self" implies an object, a thing known by a knower, when in truth there are not two, and there is no thing known.

It would be better to say that we merge into the Self, die into the Self, and dissolve. In the words of the ancient sage Ashtavakra, "Layam vraja: Dissolve now!" For the Self is not a static noun, it is an active verb that ever destroys and re-creates. The Self never ceases its effortless work of expanding, pervading, giving birth to a myriad dancers out of dynamic stillness. This work is the energy, the Shakti, of the Self. The Self is Shiva, and the energy is the Goddess.

What work are we really here to accomplish? It is time to expand our intention. To earn a few dollars? To acquire a few capital letters after our name? To feed a few mouths? All of that is good, and very good, but there is a subter and deeper work to do. To free what has gotten stuck. To dance what has gotten stiff. To glorify Matter by offering the world back into Bliss, her divine Energy.

E = M ÷ C (Energy = Matter ÷ Consciousness)

This world, just as it is, floats inside me. No need to rise above or go beyond, for the sweet scent of transcendental awareness already pervades every boundary, every peel of the blessed smelly skunk cabbage.

The Self permeates matter, and only needs to be awakened, which means to become a grateful heart, infinitely Present.

Now the gentlest breath dissolves form into energy, trauma into consciousness, matter into sat-chit-ananda. To conduct this secret alchemy of love, pay less attention to the outer husk, and rest at the core. In the darkest pit, a luminous seed has been sleeping all Winter long.

Photo: Took this yesterday on a walk with my dog, Finn.

Meditate on the Self for the Sake of the Other

A cellphone metaphor: if we have a weak connection to the signal from the tower, all our phone conversations are unclear, broken up by static. Just so, when the mind has a weak connection to its Source, all our relationships are troubled.
But our Source is not above, in a tower or satellite. Our Source is within: the silent radiance of pure awareness, the Self who is deeper than thought, transcending the mind. This is why we set aside some time each day for meditation: not just for our own sake, but to nourish all our relationships.

For the sake of the other we tap into the Self, the bubbling golden emptiness of Sat-Chit-Ananda. With a few minutes of morning and evening meditation, we recharge every atom of our body, and re-establish a strong connection with our true nature.

Choose Beauty

This breath is the Goddess.
Don't waste a single exhalation
complaining about the world.
Just choose beauty and sing.
The gift will not appear
until you are grateful.
Under the snow, seeds listen.
The softer your voice of praise
the more they reach upward,
empty cups of thirst and yearning.
Here is the secret:
Creation happens in quietness.
You are the cause of Spring.


From the top of my head to the pit of my belly, dangles a rosary of 10 thousand jewels.

Each precious stone is a cluster of distant galaxies in the hologram of my body. For distance, though invisible, is the last veil of illusion, leshavidya.

This breath is the hand that tells these beads without a word, only a whisper of fragrant light, in a realm of subtly beyond thought, where all the senses are one delectable nectar.

Sap in an undulant green stem, my inhalation flows upward, offering its sigh to the sun that is, after all, just a golden droplet distilled on the breeze of the breath itself.

And from this spacious intimacy, where there is no other, the gentle rain of my exhalation showers down, nourishing the loam of bones and flesh.

Beneath my feet, the groundless dark Mother, whose womb is alive with the larvae of the dead.

Above, the interstellar emptiness, virgin bell of the void, unstruck yet ringing, ever so faintly, with the murmur of all forms, davening out of the formless.

And upon my crown a ringlet of flames, with no center but blue silence, opening into the desert of heaven.

Swirled through a vast chaos of beauty, I am reduced by metanoia to one primordial power - Listening.

Listening is the answer, the ecstasy, the Name.

For One Who Grieves This Burning World

"The world is burning. The species are being wiped out. The reefs are dying, and I cannot hold it all. I need some soothing nectar for my grief!"

Dear one, I mean this from the groundless bottom of my heart: the grief IS the nectar. You must drink it all, drown in it, feel it not through the insulating concepts of the mind - which only create stories about the past and future - but feel it in every cell of your body as the force of Presence.

Merge with the grief and it will ferment into something that cannot be described, only tasted as life-giving strength, pouring out of an infinite well of Unknowing. That is the true meaning of Faith. You are not alone.


'In the beginning, when Elohim was creating the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless void, and darkness was over the face of the Deep
('Te'hom), and the Breath of God ('Ruach') was stirring over the waters.'
~Genesis 1

Breath is a river
returning to the Deep
where every creature is conceived
as a wave of silence.
If you drown in this water
there is no more thirst,
no more searching for a spring.
What pours always pours
from fullness into emptiness.
Now clash and break
like a song-stone in the foam
on the edges of a blessed
then grow still with wonder.
The appearance is mirror-like,
yet beneath the glass
is an imageless ebb and flow,
the undertow of love,
pulling your heart ever
downward into that
burgundy sea of aloneness
all lips yearn for
Come, night.


The energy of Ananda permeates all boundaries, all forms, all circumstances in the world, yet the world does not in any way cause or affect the awakening of this boundless, ever-expanding bliss-consciousness.

Awakening happens deep in the Hridaya, the transcendental heart, which was pulsing and surging with oceanic vibrations of Ananda before the world was ever created. This is why Christ said, "My kingdom is not of this world."

This awakened heart becomes an invisible fountain of radiance, bathing and healing all humanity, imparting an invincible inner splendor to all souls, regardless of their external conditions. This why Christ went on to say, "I have overcome the world."

Christ-Consciousness outshines creation.

Mandala by St. Hildegard of Bingen


"Meditate in eternity. Don't stay in the mind." Lalleshvari

The Mantra given by the Guru is not a word or a thought. It is a stream of Grace made practical in the form of a sound.

The sound is heard, not by the physical ear, but by the receptacle of yearning in the core of the heart.

In deep meditation, it is not one's responsibility to do, but not to do. Doing is the responsibility of the Guru's breath.

All You "do" is simply give up clinging to thoughts. No need to suppress them or control the mind: just give up grasping.

The stream will carry you to the ocean, an ocean not above you, but within you, the ocean of your very Self.

Who can fathom the mystery of the Guru's grace? The one who, for a little while, does nothing, knows nothing, is nothing. Every-thing blossoms from this no-thing.

Who can fathom the mystery of the Guru's grace?
The one who, for a little while, becomes like a child at the breast of the Mother.

And who is the Mother? The womb of darkest silence. She gives birth to the flame that passes from the Teacher to the yearning heart.

This takes place in the abyss of the Ordinary.
The Ordinary is the door ever open to the Infinite.

Painting from Krishna Art


In the words of the Mahayana Uttaratantra Shasta: "I bow down to the Buddha who is un-created, spontaneously present, and not to be realized through any external cause."
In other words, I honor the Buddha who is my own pure awareness, prior to thinking a single idea, even the thought of "I."

This is not an "Eastern" way to bow down. It is very much the Biblical way of worship, the meaning of the Sabbath.

In Hebrew, "Shabbat" literally means, "Stop!" Stop the mind's incessant doing and thinking for one hour. This is bowing down. This is worship.

Too grueling? Then stop for one minute, or even for the duration of one breath. This is certainly enough to accomplish the whole creation.

Then you will see the earth as a dancing sunbeam in the mist. Why grope for what you already are? Why get rid of what you never carried?

Such effort is better spent gazing at clouds that carry their weightless cargo of mountains.

Nothing to attain, nothing to renounce. This is what you learn from dripping cedars in white emptiness.

I took this picture from my little town one year ago today: the Olympic Mountains seen over Puget Sound.


Awoke this morning with the clearest conviction that each moment on earth is a miracle, each atom of the world is a temple of beauty constructed by the tireless skill of countless angels, and each sensation of this human flesh, tongue, ear, and eye, is a sacramental wedding kiss of Lover and Beloved. Merely by breathing we are heirs to inconceivable abundance, and if we lack anything at all, it is just a little awareness.

Lord Shiva is pure consciousness, the eternal subject. His Beloved is the Goddess Shakti, the objective world, dancing in myriad forms of energy. They dance and embrace as spirit and matter, "chit" and "sat," meeting in the bliss of "ananda." 

It is only the veil of our opinions, this restless mind full of names and labels, shrouding the world in a gray cloud of thought, that prevents us from seeing earth as it truly is: the foreplay of the Divine.

My Comfort

A feathered intuition,
the mottled thrush returns
to the Winter forest where
the only leaves are
frost etchings.
The sensuous cat strokes my hand
at 3 a.m. with her whole body.
Has she come to me for love, or food?
And how will night come?
Solitary, homeless,
with her bundle of suns.
There is some black and silent generosity,
the motherhood of sod around a spring,
the groundless wound I grow out of.
My spine the imperishable
tree of death
dancing beyond the wind,
I shake stars down and all fruit free.
An axis I am
through the desert stone, Uluru,
to the moon's pearl island,
to Saturn, Pluto,
out through a laceration
in Andromeda's heart
to the intimate Unknown,
that purple bruise in eternity.
What comprehends me,
I cannot comprehend,
and this is my comfort.
I only know, there is a whirling,
therefore I am free.
I am uncertain,
therefore all things are possible.

As Though You Are Not

I served the pomegranate queen
and tried to be her stem,
careful in my green trajectory.
But she taught me to burst,
radiant to the unborn stars,
radiant to blackest loam,
radiant through every shattered
window of my body
until all that remained of 'me'
was the fragrance of no-birth
suffusing the whole garden
like a vanished rose.
Those who need a path
call this perfume
But those who fall in love
with falling itself
perish into the motherhood
of seeds.
Now Be as though you are not.
Let Not-Being pervade
every pebble with emptiness,
the space between stars,
the hollow in each atom
of the mountain, making
the mountain float on a cloud.
Absence is holy, expanding
Presence everywhere.
Note: I did not say, 'your.'
Comprehending this, the wise
become fools and attain peace
because there is no attainment.
Friend, when you cease striving
even to Be, you will surely
welcome your next breath
as the ocean of grace, a gift
of luminous lethal delight
poured into the grail of your chest
by the wine steward whose gaze,
whose face, cannot
be imagined, only loved.

Kris Waldherr

Which Emptiness?

A small closed darkness
brittle as the cinders
of a used story,
enveloped by a velvet darkness
the size of night.
Which emptiness
are you, Raven?
How could there be
two, Raven?
Now circle yourself,
restless as a star,
your wings the beaten
shadows of silence,
and out beyond what
names and knows,
become what you are,
the healing darkness
of God.

Ravenart by my dear friend, Elizabeth Miller


We Western intellectuals who have studied a little Indian philosophy often try to attain Advaita, 'non-duality,' by superimposing a concept of 'oneness' over our subject-object experience of the world. But this only makes the mind dull, tentative, and artificial.
Advaita is not attained by thinking about it, but by allowing our awareness to tap its source in pure consciousness, the field of Sat-Chit-Ananda, which is the substratum of both subject and object.

Then there is a spontaneous up-welling of Grace in the Self-luminosity of a thankful heart, stimulating the effusion of soma-nectar in every nerve cell, divine light in every photon of our flesh.

Love innocently leads to surrender, and surrender is true Advaita - the culmination of Bhakti, not the rejection of Bhakti.

'Non-duality' never negates relationship, but fulfills relationship. When honey overflows the comb, the comb is not obliterated. Every cell gushes its golden essence, and the bee’s work is done.

Illustration to the Rubaiyat by René Bull, 1913