I was invited by One The Magazine to share the story of the awakening realizations that radically shifted perspective and changed life beyond, way beyond anything that could have been imagined. This ‘story’ is offered in service, in joy, in gratitude….
Originally published in June 2015. Thanks to Shanti Einolander and One The Magazine.
Living Simple Truth
Life is a map of consciousness, unconsciously followed to a point. The Seeing… a revealing of silent treasure woven into the invisible mandala of divine unfolding!
I can only tell this story as it is alive in this moment, for awakening can only be here in the ever-present now. Each time I start to tell of this unfolding, I get to a point where it suddenly feels strange and unreal and I stop. It feels somehow meaningless, and yet simultaneously every happening is seen as significant and perfect.
What I see is wordless holiness. What is expressed through me, Clare, appears as an individual and a personality in a unique expression that carries the essence of what is.
So how can I keep this very simple?
I grew up in suburban London, UK. My adult life was lived mostly in London but also in Paris, Rotterdam, and Brussels. In my late 20’s, I studied Interior and Spatial Design and went on to become a lecturer and studio leader at the University of the Arts London. In 2002, I started an apprenticeship in Tibetan medicine and spiritual philosophy. In 2005-6, I trained in massage and Maya Abdominal Therapy and set up a healing practice for women.
In August 2007, I followed a soul call and immigrated, alone, age 39, to Vancouver Island, BC, Canada where I continued my work with women—healing wombs, hearts, and teaching feminine embodiment, yoga, and meditation.
Life was simple and beautiful in my new BC home. I spent a lot of time in nature just sitting listening, and this was a time of personal retreat and deep inquiry. I was committed to healing myself and others.
A Simple Moment
On a sunny afternoon sometime in 2009, I came across Gangaji’s website. I heard her invitation to stop and call off the search and it landed deeply. It was like a bomb of stillness that stopped me in my tracks. I stopped searching and dropped into a much more gentle way of being with what is. I allowed and felt my feelings fully and stopped looking for anything. On this day something changed.
In Fall 2011, I experienced a particularly dark period of inner reflection. It lasted a few weeks and was intense. It felt like something was dying. I had a dream of being an autumn crispy leaf that crumpled into dust and was gone, but day after day my story, the darkness and suffering, still seemed to be there! I seemed to spiral around in thought patterns and beliefs that I could not find a way out of. I had a powerful mind, a variety of tools, and a lot of awareness around my process, but it was like thick mud, so I stayed fully present in the feelings and spent a lot of time in nature and in practice. The culmination of this time was the realization that I made choices that did not always support my highest self, so I made a simple and honest commitment to Truth. I made a fire, sang Sanskrit chants, danced around my living room, put a silver ring on my finger, and made a solemn vow that above all, my commitment was to Truth and nothing would take me from this path. At this time I still believed, like so many of us, there was a path!
One thing I had all along was faith. Perhaps I had always had faith in something greater, and this was what drove the seeker in me. I knew I was a part of something more profound and truer than I could know. I called it Source.
In September 2012, I attended a retreat with Lorne and Lucia Hoff, an awakened couple who offer Awakening Retreats on Vancouver Island. Whilst the retreat was profoundly beautiful, I found all the talk of enlightenment and awakening a little unfamiliar and quite frankly not really what I (as my ego-self!) was interested in. I was not looking for enlightenment and had attended the retreat purely out of curiosity, as my partner had been retreating and listening to Lorne and Lucia for a couple of years.
In the concluding meeting of the retreat, in my moment of sharing, I offered how I found the discussion around awakening and different levels of consciousness unfamiliar. I shared that I’d had a devoted spiritual practice for 15 years and had a beautiful life, that I knew how to be peaceful, and that I was committed to Truth and was not looking for anything. I added that I still got bothered by my stuff and my story, but it was manageable. I felt grateful and peaceful. I was aware that underlying what I expressed was a niggling feeling of not being worthy and a questioning of all my beliefs and concepts. The foundation that my life was built on had been shaken by the weekend, but I was not ready to fully admit that!
In the weeks after the retreat I found that thoughts of awakening started to arise and penetrate my “peaceful” life! I recall reflecting that I was afraid of the end of my world, of the delightfully dramatic story of Clare and what that really meant. However, I found that in my prayer of dedication that was part of my daily practice, I made a conscious surrender to awakening, and I opened to a bubbling sense of curiosity that was building.
In August 2012, I was emotionally and physically exhausted and late in the evening, as my partner and I were leaving a gathering of friends, I collapsed and fell to the ground. I heard the people around me questioning what was going on and if I was ok? As this commotion unfolded, I was watching from outside my body. After some time I was aware of sitting up and taking a glass of water in my hand. I was both in my body and out of my body at the same time. I found no words. My partner put me on his back and carried me down the driveway to our car. As he did so I looked around and it was as if I were a child in complete innocence seeing the world for the first time… “Wow,” I squealed, “this is amazing!” I was full of delight and intoxicated with absolute joy. Then I suddenly burst into tears and shared that I had gone through “the magic door,” and I could not come back because there was no way back. I was overtaken with joy of seeing everything so vibrantly. I was everywhere, not just contained within the confines of body. I remember saying something about being afraid, as Eckhart Tolle had ended up on a park bench for two years after an experience like this, and I did not want that to happen to me!
Within 24 or so hours I was pretty much back to my “normal” self. Something was different but I could not put words to it. I let it go and life continued.
About two weeks before the life changing “experience” I am about to share with you, I had another experience worth mentioning. I was meditating before bed. My practice was one of listening. As I sat, I became aware of expanding beyond and beyond until I was in what I called in that moment “the unknown.” I recognized that as soon as mind labeled this the unknown, there was contraction. I realized I had gone beyond the confines and edges of experience, but in a moment was right back in the known.
I share these “prior to” moments because they are markers that illustrate that awakening was “happening” way before the actual shift in perspective opened.
Shortly after this, in November 2012, I was in satsang with Lorne Hoff, a beautiful, bright, clear being who speaks from Self to Self. He shares from silence, and he simply invites listening to the silence from the perspective that “silence is who you are; you are pure, silent awareness…” I became immersed in what he was saying. I recognized I was going “beyond,” just as I had before in meditation. I noticed my mind notice, and then I let go… I let go… as if his words were the keys that were unlocking the boundless infinity of who I am… and I let go even deeper. I listened with all that I am to who I am, and I let go….
By then Lorne’s attention was fully on me, talking to me and holding a direct gaze. The room disappeared and I saw only Lorne in a bright frame of light. My body got hotter and my heart was beating out of my chest. He invited surrender and I remember him speaking of not being the wave of the ocean but it’s depths too… As he said this, it was realized to be my reality… I am the depths. I am infinite. I am boundless. I am silence. I am nowhere to be found…
I started laughing hysterically, and the room became infected with my joy and release. I cried and laughed and cried and laughed some more. Lorne asked me, “What is your experience?” but there were no words. I looked at him and saw clearly that I am him and he is me and there is only one, no separation. There was joy and deep, rapturous bliss.
On the way home I remember looking out of the window of the car. I was still speechless, and everything I saw was so bright and vibrant. My eyes were wide open and I saw that “I” am everywhere.
Slowly my speech came back and I continually voiced, “This… This… This is it…”. I didn’t really know what ‘this’ was, but I knew ‘This is it’!
Over the next days I was blissful and bright. I went for walks and played the game of looking for “Clare,” but I could not find her. I regularly collapsed in rapturous laughter at the mystery. I knew my body was here walking, but when I looked for Clare, there was only awareness everywhere, no reference to the person I had believed myself to be. I experienced myself as silence, as stillness and unbounded freedom.
I communicated with Lorne and Lucia during this time, and about a week later I had a meeting with them and shared my experience. As they asked me questions, I suddenly heard myself say, “I am That,” and I laughed. I had heard this expression before, but not until that moment had I known what it truly meant. The sense of a separate Clare was gone, and what remained was pure consciousness as an infinite field of silence.
In the time that followed, thoughts were few and mind was quiet and disarmed. Things that had bothered me before seemed not to trigger me. There was a sense of deep peace. I was free.
On the night before that satsang, I had fallen asleep in a deep state of surrender. Maybe I had given up. I’d had a difficult conversation with my partner, which brought up some of my patterns around mistrust and the “stuff” that despite years of therapy, dedicated spiritual practice, and inquiry, I had still not been able to let go of.
After he had fallen asleep, I was in dialogue with myself. I was done, sick of myself and my self-involved story. I felt exasperated and at the end of understanding. I felt myself to be a conscious, evolving woman, and I could not fathom how, after so much attention and effort, I could still be plagued by these old stories that brought me to my knees in despair and disgust. I had a feeling of being so completely over it… I wanted to scream and swear, “What else do you want from me? Take it all.”
I realize now that the level of surrender that I experienced that night had opened something and allowed grace to take me. That night I had the feeling of a death, of dying, of allowing something to die. I remember saying, “Just take me. I am done. I know not what to do.”
I will add that this was not the first time I was brought to my knees. Various happenings in life had brought me to a place of absolute surrender, but it seems that this night, a layer never yet reached was removed.
Who Am I?
There was nothing that could have prepared me for this apparent awakening. In the time after the shift, I kept laughing as I reflected, Is this it? It’s so simple! It was always right here. How could I have missed this? Each time I would check to see if I was still the silence, I was. That day something was seen, a constant, silent unmoving presence that has never left, that has always been here. What was seen that day changed everything in the most profoundly joyous way. Everything was different, yet nothing was different.
I had no real reference point, as despite being a yogi, I had not studied non-duality or been following any teachers. I knew nothing of the words and language that describe stages in awakening consciousness. I found myself google searching “Advaita Vedanta” and “Awakening” and looking for a context for this arising. I listened to recordings of Lorne and Lucia speaking from Self, just in case this freedom could be lost. I read Adyashanti’s The End of your World, which was a huge relief and offered some wonderful insight into what was happening… From Adya I gleaned the importance to live awake and to not doubt. And so I did. There was no effort. I was awake to reality, no question. There was no longer a person looking out. I was the infinite, unbounded field of silent awareness watching this Clare. I looked up Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj and started reading… what a relief… here it was, my experience. I had tried to read these texts before, but only now did they make sense.
Two weeks later, late November, I was meditating with my partner outside on the dock by the lake where we lived. I was wrapped up in blankets and had borrowed some of his clothes to keep warm. During my sit I noticed something different. As we walked back to the cabin, I looked down and saw this body wearing his clothes, I said to him, “Look, I am you…” and then, “Oh, I AM YOU, I am everything….” It was as though I had exploded into everything. Everything was seeing itself through me, and I was seeing myself through everything. There was absolutely no separation, only one awareness. I laughed for a very long time, and then I collapsed in tears… “Oh god, where have I gone?”. There was only seeing, no seer or seen, everything was myself.
Life during this time appeared fairly normal. I moved in with my partner, so I did not have to work or do anything, and I could just be with whatever arose. I was tremendously expanded and transcended, and whilst I could function normally in some ways, my mind no longer thought in the same way. It thought functional things, but did not dwell anywhere. I was free from the story that had bound me, and whilst conditioned awareness still arose, it did not hook me.
During this time period, I needed a lot of quiet and alone time in nature and a lot of rest. Spontaneous laughter would arise for no reason, just pure flowing joy. It was an opportunity to inquire, and in this there was a sense of pulling old patterns up from the roots and purifying and shedding on a deep level. This awakening was just the beginning not an arrival. It felt like a seed that had just cracked open to the alchemical, elemental life force of pure potential.
Inquiry took the form of opening to whatever arose and simply being with it. There was no longer any processing. There seemed to be nothing that could shake the contentment and joy that is the ground of Being.
There were constant new seeings, realizations, and greater clarity revealing itself. There was flowing wakefulness… God knowing…. I would regularly drop to my knees and collapse in tears of joy and reverence of what I am. At this time I experienced Self as everything everywhere… unity. Each moment was new and surrendered to itself in luminous radiance.
By April 2013, I was a regular member of the Awakening World Society Community founded by Lorne and Lucia and attending retreats and satsangs and receiving regular guidance from them. Any hesitance about these beautiful beings had dissolved into infinite gratitude! After a Saturday satsang with them, we went on to a birthday gathering kirtan.
We arrived to a room full of people chanting. It felt sacred and beautiful. As I sat silently, I noticed a thought arise, and I remember hearing inside me, “This thought is just a thought and it is not true, it does not exist.” The words came, “There is no power outside of pure consciousness.” I took a deep breath and saw a visual of pulling the thought from one point in the Field, as if pulling power back to source. It felt as if the power went beyond and took the whole of “existence” with it.
I suddenly became aware that nothing existed, nothing in the room or beyond, not even this Self. In the room my voice spoke its surprise out loud, “Oh God,” with open mouth and wide eyes in absolute awe/reverence/stunned wonder. No words can possibly explain the realization of that moment. Suffice to say there was a jaw dropping, immobilizing, transfixed stillness and disappearance beyond into Nothing. This was Totality, before creation, before happening, the unmanifest before the impulse to become. Absolute perfect stillness.
The experience was of falling into Nothing, of emptiness, of wholeness, of being beyond consciousness itself. Here there was bliss, simple, silent, pure. Supreme peace. There are no words that can touch on this indescribable wordless wonder.
I sat there enraptured, watching the appearance of the room and the people, in radiant bliss. Nothing existed but there was still the appearance of the world. I was felt as a vibration of Nothing and Everything. Source. God. Love. Nothing.
There was a Knowing that I was prior to existence – pure, divine simplicity. I was beyond the illusion of Life as it had been. I was Life. There was no finding of a Self. It was as if nothing ever happened.
In that moment I fell off the stage set of life and realized what “I” ultimately is. “I” is the impulse that creates and contains all of what appears as Life. “I” was creating and animating the mind-body form of Clare in the world of appearance. In that moment I had no idea how that could happen, as there was no impulse here, no flow.
It was as if the plug that lit up and gave energy to the illusion was pulled out, and once seen, there was no way back to the Maya. Here there was a wholeness so full and yet perfectly empty. Luminous, radiant holiness.
The stabilizing and embodying of this Knowing continues. Absolute stillness in seamless union with human experience unfolding on the surface of life… what is.
I sense that a lot of the deep, dark work cleared through this nervous system before the awakening shift. In the story, there was a lifetime of not finding a sense of belonging and living in confusion of what life was all about. I never wanted a conventional life and went out of my way to find different things to explore which led me to a spiritual path. There were eight years of chronic illness, which brought me to Tibetan Bon Medicine and then to Classical Ashtanga Yoga and the threshold of five years of devoted apprenticeship. There was the pain and disappointment that arose from a lifetime longing for love, looking outside myself and constantly falling into the arms of handsome men who could never deliver the jewel of true love this heart desired. These key events and all of life’s other idiosyncrasies together had graciously offered many opportunities for growth to this serious seeker of life’s meaning.
When I look now at the map that has been this life I can see how every single happening has been significant as if there was a perfect plan! Whilst there was never anything to become, the Seeing could not be seen until it was seen! But love was always calling and created a longing for itself from a very early age.
The alchemy of the moment of awakening is up to grace. There is nothing special that I have done and no clues of my unfolding can be implemented into another’s path. I am just like you, but more than that, I am you.
We tend to see all that is good and powerful and loving outside of ourselves, we are not always able to allow ourselves to see the reflection of our own perfection. I guide people to recognize that what they see outside can only be oneself, that there is only love, one present-moment awareness. The coming home to Self is to realize deeply through heart, cosmic heart, that this love is you. You are and have only ever been love. The longing for love has been love calling itself home all along.
Daily life is simple. Everything that arises is unrelated and causeless, unless we give it meaning. There is walking, eating, drinking, laughing, reading, sleeping… as I move I am the same awareness in which all appears and disappears. What arises comes into being mysteriously and is always a surprise but somehow familiar in it’s perfection. Each moment is new; there is no continuum.
Now, I share what I see. The mechanics of creation are constantly revealing more and the cosmos fills me with divine intelligence. But this is not knowledge to hold onto. I know nothing. I am constantly surprised by what comes out of my mouth and pencil.
I don’t remember a moment but I looked out and realized that nothing is personal. This body merged into cosmic oneness and is experienced as one cosmic heart, mind, body. This realization of wholeness has been the most beautiful profound unfolding, to see that there is nothing that is not part of what is. Nothing is outside of wholeness. When we resist nothing and allow all to be as it is there is ease, beauty, and perfection effortlessly. Being is natural.
I could say that the Knowing was so radiantly still and clear but was also a little “dry” for a while. In falling into Nothing, the aliveness and blissful intimacy of Unity stopped. The bright, golden light of supreme peace outshone flow and experience, and all was quiet. Slowly the linear fields of experience started to open again with much finer detail and subtle refining vibrations and qualities, and with a rich all-loving, compassionate presence that felt like heart burst open to receive the dynamic flow of divine love. It could be described as awakening from the awakening, and walking right back into the perfectly beautiful dream of life as life. It was then clear that the purpose of this life is to share this joyful truth.
I waited until I was invited to share my experience in small meetings, and this opened up to satsang, private sessions, and awakening body restorative yoga classes. I really enjoy when satsang spontaneously arises in the grocery store, at the farmer’s market, on the beach, or while drinking tea with a friend. Where there is openness, the stillness of Being will not hesitate to speak and, poetry has become one of the avenues it chooses:
And if you found
awake to reality
beyond the edges
as life itself
flowing as time and space
Would you say yes
to life playing its
through your mind-body
all that you are
weaving the fabric
from the essence
into pure present
Would you dance
in the emptiness
spiraling as golden light
Would you bow
in tearful reverence
of the truth and
that is your
all of life to move
in its own
flow that is not
but is perfectly
of me here
you thought you
were and dissolves
it before your eyes
into an expanded field
Would you say yes
if the demand was
to give it all
into the brilliant light
Would you dive
with wild abandon
into the unknown
Into the well
that asks you
to let go
of everything known?
Would you say yes?
to the beloved one
you have sought
held your heart
in tender embrace
a divine invitation
to merge with grace
Would you say yes?
© Clare Blanchflower – June 2015