One day, I saw a big jellyfish lying on the beach and I was looking for the center, for the core of the animal and I could not find it.
Out of nowhere I realized that I also did not have a center, and that it was very important to find that.
At that time I also often mindlessly drew the Möbius sign in the sand (the sign of infinity, or an eight lying on its back).
Without knowing the sign, it evoked a feeling in me that everything was somehow eternally connected.
My energy and attention turned towards the inside.
Of course I had no idea that this was the irrevocable beginning of a life long journey of self discovery.
Throughout the years I had different teachers. Originally they were all of Zen tradition. Rarely did I have a female teacher. The spiritual world was full of male teachers, and I did not know any better. My thirst was deep, and I did not waste a lot of time. In a way, I can say that from that moment in 1976 rarely a day went by in which the search from my true nature did not come by, even though I was often looking in all the wrong places.
At first I found enough food in Holland because I was connected to a Center that invited all kind of inspiring people to Amsterdam.
But in the end I went on a journey and, after some detours, I landed in India at Osho’s feet, who became my spiritual teacher and master.
In 1994 I was walking through the Nullah Park in Pune, and there I saw an enormous statue of a female Buddha. I was so deeply touched that the tears rolled down my face – very silently. Only in that moment I realized how few female role models or teachers there were, and how important it was for me to have this mirror.
For some time I went to visit her often and look her in the face. Something moved deep in my uterus, and at that time I could not understand what it was.
The journey went on. My master had left his body, and maybe because of my hunger for truth, or my long years of meditation and participation in many self discovery therapies and awareness intensive retreats, or maybe “simply” through Grace, I experienced a big breakthrough in 1997.
From that moment on, I experienced everything as one. From that moment on, there was only the source. All my problems had vanished like snow under the sun. The endless chatter in my head became completely irrelevant. I could listen to it and give it life. But when I did not listen to it, it receded to the far, far periphery of my awareness. At that time I experienced all this as enlightenment, and in 1998 I began with the sharing of Satsang.
I was delighted to notice that there were several women amongst the Satsang teachers. I met some of them, but found all of them more or less on the same, rather known and male path of Advaita like myself. One of them I experienced as more feminine, more female, but she was too embedded in the old traditions, and for me that was no longer relevant by this time. I missed the link to a more evolutionary consciousness.
A dear girlfriend gave me a book: “Women of power and grace”. It described the lives of nine very special enlightened women. It brought more mirrors to look into. These women, however, were all such great beings that the mirror was almost too big to look into. It had a humbling effect on me.
However, I noticed one thing, and that was that for many of these women their act was primary. Most of them had been busy their entire life with the relieving of pain, the caring for the poor, with charity. There was also a teaching, but it often was not much interesting, and it had a much less important place than life itself, than translating this teaching into action and making it known to the world. While with most of the male gurus or teachers the teaching itself was in the foreground and meditation was the main practice, for many women devotion and care for other people was central.
In 2000 I met Ammachi in South India. This very simple small/big Indian woman made a deep impression on me. So deep that it created a lasting connection. Amma emanates divine love, and she hugs every single person that comes to see her. Sometimes she does this for twenty-two hours in a row, without any break or drink!
With Amma I experienced for the first time that female enlightenment not only expresses itself differently, but it also brings a different and more round EXPERIENCE. Her hug became a symbol for the way God embraces me as the archetypal mother. It was as if the universe held me in a loving and intimate embrace.
God obtained a second face for me that day. Not only God, but also the Goddess was here. Together they were ONE.
Her teaching was simple and direct: share love and compassion and do selfless service.
Since then I’ve visited Amma every year, and I’ve let myself be inspired and nourished by her feminine way of being and by the divine love that she emanates.
In 2004 my enlightened state came to an abrupt end (see the article on enlightenment). The fall from the big light into total darkness was intense.
It took about four years before this change, this turning point, was overcome.
During this time I learnt many lessons. First I discovered that I had achieved my state of oneness through a splitting from my human duality and from my body.
The journey back to earth was not simple. It took some years before I again felt a solid contact with it.
My nervous system had received an enormous blow. The shock of this abrupt landing (crash is actually a better word) and the opening of many unresolved traumas from my life, was really more than my nervous system could handle.
Some years of intensive trauma healing (Somatic Experience) followed, to bring the very needed balance back.
During that time I obviously could not teach or be a therapist. Internally I was completely ruined, and so I returned to one of my oldest professions: nursing.
For three years I took care, as a private nurse, of old, sick and dying people. And even though these were heavy years, I also enjoyed the simple care for others. I also got deeply involved in the so-called normal world, where no one was interested in the spiritual.
I watched TV for hours with my patients; I read to them stories out of women’s magazines for an infinite time, and I shared a lot of ups and downs with the patient and his or her family.
A world that I hardly knew anymore opened up to me. A world that also made me more and more human. Deeper layers of compassion were awakened. I saw and experienced so much grief, pain and misunderstanding. I revisited everything that I had left behind some thirty years before.
In this time it became more and more clear that just the source of being did not bring the enlightenment that I had tried to reach my whole life. The source, that feeling of having come home. But WHO had come home? What had happened to ME in this whole story?
Where was I?
Osho had given me a vision of a new man. Zorba the Buddha, he called it: a man with the vitality of Zorba the Greek and the wisdom and the silence of the Buddha.
I had been trying to figure it out for years already. How did this happen? I had been a Zorba. I had lived life to the very fullest. I had burnt the candle on both ends and I had deeply enjoyed it. I had been a detached Buddha in silence and peace, almost not anymore part of this world.
I was looking for totality, for integration. I wanted the totality of existence and I wanted to heal the fundamental split between the spiritual and the material world, between the inner and the outer.
But how in God’s name could I connect these two worlds? It became the only thing on my mind, the only thing that interested me. And like always I was praying for help, because I had not been able to manage it on my own.
Almaas’ books came back from under a layer of dust. He inspired me with his modern vision. But the fire did not really ignite.
Then Faisal Muqaddam appeared in my life. He had a similar vision. He spoke directly to my whole being when he spoke about the three domains: the three kingdoms we live in.
The absolute (the one that in Advaita is often called the Self, the emptiness), the essential, and the worldly domain. The Tibetans call these the three Kayas, the three aspects of an enlightened being.
In the absolute and in the worldly I was rather at home. But the domain in between, the essential domain, was unknown to me. This is the domain which unites the so-called personal and spiritual. The presence of the essence in the body seemed to make embodiment possible.
In general, we talk about enlightenment as the stage of discovering our true nature, our enlightened nature. This enlightened nature, this godlike nature, this Buddha nature is the basic quality of all existence.
This basic being differentiates itself in many, many states. Just like when you put white light in a prism there appears a rainbow, so the absolute differentiates itself into different qualities. Some of them are boundless, not limited. Other states are defined, very defined, palpable, you can feel their form, their structure.
And then all of those qualities get even more defined and more solidified – and eventually become the physical universe.
The differentiated states between the Absolute and the physical universe are what we usually label as the essential states of being. Those are essences.
Those essential states have characteristics. They have texture; you can feel them in your body. They are not just energy. Some of them are dense, some of them are light, some of them are liquid, some of them are solid, some of them are cold, some of them are hot, some of them are neutral. So they have all kind of palpable characteristics that you can really sense. And your body is the best thermometer you can gauge essence with. Essence has to flow in your body. It is not just a state you can go into like your emotions or your mind. It has to circulate in your body. And each quality of essence can only be integrated when it runs fully in your body. It has to circulate in your head, in your heart, in your belly, in your legs.
( taken from audio material )
Faisal taught me to differentiate between the three domains and to respect these. He showed me that every domain had its own laws and teachings. And that it is very important to know which domain you are speaking of when you teach.
All of a sudden I understood that in Satsang I had tried to approach the worldly domain from the laws of the absolute. I also understood why it had been so difficult for many people that came to me to bring and actualize these insights into their daily life.
Even though originally I had great resistance to once again open myself and learn a completely new teaching, I started.
Faisal spoke too much to my whole being. Moreover, the teaching was so intelligent – high-tech almost, like modern mysticism!!
Faisal used both the deep insights from the different spiritual traditions as well as from the modern discoveries and developments in psychology.
Ah – here was the piece of evolution that I had missed so much!!
Here the ego was no longer something that needed to vanish or die, it instead became a starting point – almost a guide, an instrument to find the way back. He compared the ego with a child that needed to be taken by the hand and shown the way home.
And so started again a new chapter on the long road of self-discovery.
There are so many aspects and facets of essence that we need to be able to be a complete human being and actualize our insights, our realizations. For example, to really land on this planet we need very earthly essential aspects. To be able to truly love, it is necessary for the different qualities of love to actually be present in our body, so that we become love. To really experience joy, we have to become joy.
Essence is not alive; it is aliveness. It is not aware; it is awareness. It does not have the quality of existence; it is existence. It does not love; it is love. It is not joyful; it is joy. It is not true; it is truth.
(Essence, pg 80)
I discovered that there were personal and impersonal essences. We reach the impersonal through transcendence, through negation, by seeing that I am neither this nor that. What is left then is only the source, the ocean.
The personal essence however comes to life only when we do the very opposite; when we recognize that we are everything. I am this, AND that too. It brings the vision of the fish in the ocean. It exists as a unique fish and it seeks participation, it wants to evolve.
The ocean does not seek evolution, it is eternally the ocean.
But the fish wants to move on. So once we realize that I AM EVERYTHING, the split between inner and outer disappears. And now we can also take total responsibility for our lives. Now we can no longer say that there is no personal self. If we make a mistake, we own it and clean it up.
The more I began to experience and recognize essence, the more I realized that the Sufi have had this wisdom for centuries. The poems of Rumi, that I so love, are full of hidden pointers to essential states. He refers to them a.o. as honey, or gold or ruby.
If we had had enlightened parents, we would have grown up without losing the contact with our true nature, and all the different qualities would have opened and developed naturally, and all our abilities would have been reinforced instead of being lost. Essence is our birthright. God or the existence created these qualities for the human being so that he or she can both function in reality and remain connected to the source.
In my groups now I let people often imagine that they were the baby Dalai Lama or another higher being. When he was born, he was surrounded by respect and love, by many beings who saw his soul, who provided a good holding environment and who were reliable.
Beings for whom enlightenment was a natural state of being.
And then I ask them to imagine what their life would look like now had they been raised like this. And then tears flow, and long closed doors open again and essence starts to flow again.
For me personally the Diamond Logos (the name of this teaching) is an enormous support in the process of integration. Little by little I retrieved my essence, slowly my bones and muscles and nerves opened again. Very slowly, but very surely, essence melts the old personality structure. Step by step, the unreal qualities learnt melt, and the essential natural qualities start to emerge.
With the opening of each new essence, old blocks show up, old issues that need to be seen come up so that they can dissolve. This is a complex and intricate but very interesting process.
This is not the place to go deeper into this now.
The first and strongest opponent on this path is our super ego, our inner judge. That voice in us that always plays god and that punishes, criticizes, manipulates or even praises us with every step we take.
In Satsang I used to say: simply don’t listen to that voice. But of course no one succeeded.
Now I can give clear tools and ways to learn how to recognize that voice and learn to deal with it. This is really crucial if we ever want to come to an embodiment and actualization of our realization. It is such a highly developed and complex automatic mechanism. Its goal, its job is to keep our conditioning in place, and if we don’t recognize this, it will always pull us back to the start. And it will hold us back from truly being an individual.
When the super ego reigns, it is very, very difficult for the essence to flow. And that is why the work with the super ego has a big place in the work of actualization which I now share.
Realizations are beautiful; by now, many of us have them aplenty - deep realizations of oneness and love and perfection. But what are they good for if they cannot be lived, if they cannot be embodied, if they cannot spontaneously manifest in our daily life?
The path of Advaita, of the non-duality, had been a marvelous path for me, an incredible tool for coming back to the source, for coming home.
It had awakened me and many others. But then what???
What happens after one is awake?
Unfortunately, I still meet people who, in their longing to transcend their pain, have split off their human duality. All they want is emptiness. And they have reached a beautiful state, but I experience them as only half.
I now know that, if we want to be a full and complete actualized human being, we have to embrace all of our human aspects. They all belong to our being. They are all part of the divine – the duality as much as the non-duality.
The more my integration took place, the more I was drawn back to my old passion to share with others everything I learnt and discovered, and to assist them in their process of transformation.
Groups and retreats began to form, and after a while I had so much work that I had to say goodbye to my nursing job.
I was asked to write about women on the path.
But what is the way of the woman?
It’s only been two years since I’ve asked myself this question.
Partly because Faisal, every time I meet him, brings to our attention that men and women function differently, and that it is about time we women discover for ourselves how essence opens itself in us.
But even more so because I started to listen to my uterus.
The echo from that first stirring in Pune with the female Buddha was still there.
It shocked me to hear what my uterus showed and told me.
I became aware that I (and many women with me) had lived my life from a very male active principle. This had hardened and contracted my uterus.
Our society demands action, performance, if we want to belong in it.
The painful suppression and abuse of women throughout the ages had brought us in the 70s to feminism. At that time, it looked like if you wanted to feel yourself equal to a man, you had to develop the male qualities of competitiveness. The soft, loving, caring and receptive woman became old-fashioned. We became powerful and strong, and we did not notice what we lost in the struggle.
Many, many years later my uterus cried silent tears over this loss while it slowly, slowly started to open again.
In my feminist years, I had been very proud to be an androgynous woman, someone who had both female and male qualities. My bisexuality also had a place in that way. It had never been very clear to me what male or female was. I felt both energies very clearly in my own body.
Now, however, I am feeling very clearly my feminine biology.
Now that I am well grounded in my body, it’s able to open up more and more. Through the growing presence of essential qualities, my uterus shows itself more and more as an important center of my system and also as the source of essence. I am still at the very beginning of this research, of this process of discovery. I asked some friends and colleagues how they see it.
This is an amazingly inspiring time! The woman, the mother, the Goddess, the queen gets her throne and crown back.
For a very long time, the female wisdom has lived underground in our culture. But now the sacred womb sees a new day of light. My passionate love for the sacred womb was shown back to me first through the book The Mists of Avalon. Now, thirty years later, I don’t remember much of the book. But at the time I felt like the frog that was kissed by the prince and had changed into a princess.
In my early childhood, I remember my search for the Holy Grail. And, just like my body, the mind and the spirit are able to know a process of development, so that also this female wisdom can show an ongoing awakening as essential quality.
The mystery opens itself, and is very deeply connected with my sacred womb and consciousness. This consciousness is inherent to being a woman, and it is built into the fabric of my soul. The pregnancies and different births I have experienced were not only of this world.
I did not know the essential language at the time. The love that is born together with the baby does not know its equal.
The changes that that brought in me were irreversible, and so every different phase of my life brought a very precious treasure to me.
Now, being a grandmother, I see how I protect and cherish life in all its beauty.
But it is not all “hunky dory”.
It has never been obvious that I, as woman and mother in the world, would be able to follow my own spiritual desires. The path is full of roses and thorns.
In enquiry (a practice of self discovery) I met, among others, my mother and the mother of my mother, and sometimes in a very painful way. My love was also unearthing deep hatred.
My heart and uterus are connected with the world and with life in all its dimensions. My life sings its own soft spirited heart sutra.
These examples are expressions of the sacred womb. But, like with all qualities of essence, it can also be experienced in all her glory in a more direct and substantial way.
Faisal instilled in me a strong desire to discover the female wisdom in the spiritual domain in a deeper way. Together with other fellow female travelers on the spiritual path, we are currently drawing from this natural source of wisdom.
Another colleague and friend:
I come from a family lineage of strong, successful businesswomen, very emancipated for that time. Being born in 1954 and having spent my teenage years in the 60s, I was admiring Angela Davis and the women’s liberation movement, going along with my girlfriends and the spirit of the time. Secretly I was dreaming of a “normal family”, where the mother was home, cooking and waiting for the family to gather for the meals. I was very confused about being a woman, and in that my path was leading me to in-depth inquiries, both psychological as well as spiritual.
From childhood on, I felt something was missing in my mother’s life and in the life of all the emancipated women around me. Even though there was power, strength and a certain kind of dignity, which was so much longed for by the Females of that time, I longed for something else, not knowing what it could be.
I could neither find it by living in a country home, being home for my little family, nor by proving to myself that raising a child and having a professional life is both doable. Not by being the femme fatale, the sweet loving mate, nor by living in a spiritual commune, trying to surrender to my master. No role model could do it.
I did not know it then, but what I was really looking and longing for was what I call now a new dimension of the Feminine, which cannot be found through role modeling or by any attempt of the conditioned personality. It is an essential quality, residing in depth in all of us Females, waiting patiently to be reconnected, containing the old archaic wisdom and connection of the female tribe.
I am very grateful to my teacher, who, even though he is a man, supports me in my search and helps me to reconnect with this quality that has no words for me yet.
Throughout the years, the idea of wanting to arrive somewhere has been left behind. Like Tao said it centuries ago: The journey itself is the goal.
I used to look for the light – the focus of my journey was to find enlightenment, and I wanted only the light. The darkness had to be left behind at any cost. Darkness meant pain, sadness, fear and being lost. Through my work, I still often come in contact with other people who have that same focus. They want to get rid of their pain and they want to feel good, they want the light.
I discovered, however, that when we have the courage to feel this pain, we notice that another door opens into a dimension of darkness that is peaceful, loving and pure goodness.
Many of my old friends asked why I am still searching and why I am still working on myself. My answer is not often well understood.
For years I’ve been neither searching nor working on myself anymore. It is rather a journey of discovery.
It is the following of an evolutionary pull that comes deep from within my belly. I could also say: I listen to the call of my heart. And at the same time there is also my inner guide that shines its light on ever new, awesomely beautiful new territories that beckon to me.
Retrieving the essential qualities that I need to be truly human seems a lot of work. And that’s true.
The difference is that it’s not me (read ego) doing the work, but it’s the essence or the presence.
Like I tell my students: Presence does the work; our only job is to be present.
Sometimes the journey is so exciting and brings treasures beyond belief. And then it goes again through dark valleys and swamps of sadness and pain, which cover up the fullness and peace that lays beneath it.
Sometimes I meet the valleys and the mountain tops with equanimity. Sometimes not.
Sometimes I fight the valleys because the old habits and deep defense mechanisms in our systems are very powerful.
Seen from within the ego, everything we do on our spiritual journey serves only one goal or purpose: to not ever feel again the old pain of the ego deficiency. Actually, everything we do is gymnastics to cover that.
A new resolution comes when we learn to endure these deep states and pains of the ego. Compassion deepens. Peace grows rounder and fuller. We are better well-established. Integration grows, only to disintegrate again and regroup as new again and again.
Darkness and light, they belong together. Light is the male aspect – darkness the female. Together they are ONE. I am still greedy, I want everything! Light and darkness, Zorba and Buddha, fullness and emptiness. The journey goes on – that is evolution. And where does it go? We can see that only when it happens a bit at a time during each moment.