Archives February 2019

Shaking Loose of the Nondual Mind

There is a rather common misunderstanding that tends to happen among those who are drawn to the study of nonduality.  There can be an opening or realization that happens at the level of mind. There is an emergence of real wisdom, but it has not yet penetrated down into the heart.  This form of intellectual awakening can be cold, dry, distant, and quite often carries a nihilistic tone with it. Such a one can also be quite judgmental, demanding, and rude – often telling others that they are getting it wrong or doing it wrong.

Of course all great teachers, masters, gurus, sages, saints, and mystics will have a strong element of deconstruction present in their work with others, but it comes from a place of deep patience, wisdom, and compassion – not a demand to be heard or a need to be right.  The difference is in the overall presentation. One who is truly awake knows that no one is actually asleep, and yet paradoxically one must be awake to see this clearly. If this is not understood then we could say that the awakening is ‘incomplete’ even though it’s not really ‘true’ in the deepest sense.  For the awakening to fully resolve itself, it must enter into and penetrate the heart. It must become the full embodiment of awakeness – of seeing only the Self in all that is and falling in love with the Self as all that is. This love is not intellectual – it is not conceptual. It is the effortless Love of Self that arises when the Self is remembered. 

People will often say to me that nothing matters, that it’s all a dream, and yet they are still experiencing great inner turmoil, and don’t understand why. This is why! To awaken at the level of mind is beautiful, but ultimately remains unfulfilling. There is a deeper awakening into the Heart that must occur – a deeper sense of Love that must be touched within us.  But of course I must also be careful here, because another common misunderstanding is that love is all that matters. If you have not yet seen beyond the conceptual notion of love, then it’s really just the same scenario as above but in reverse. Love is not the issue – Wisdom is; so we work to clear the mind instead of working to open the heart.

My main point here is that both Wisdom and Love must be wordlessly present in the immediacy and intimacy of our own direct experience, or we will be like a bird trying to fly with just one wing. Wisdom is emptiness, Love is fullness, and the two are inseparable in awakeness. If we have not yet seen this for ourselves then we may feel lopsided in some way or continue to struggle with some aspect of our experience.  It’s good to find a qualified teacher to work with if this is where you find yourself. It’s not that you are lacking anything or have gotten anything wrong, it’s just that a teacher can offer additional pointers to help dissolve or dislodge whatever apparent stuckness remains. It is just the Self appearing to the Self to fulfill the Self, so you really have nothing to lose – except of course your ‘self’.

—Bradley Bemis is an Orlando-based spiritual teacher of non-duality and Self-realization, an inner presence coach and guide, and is currently working toward his Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He offers a combination of public discourses and private sessions for those who are interested in exploring the enlightened insights of nondual wisdom. 

Love’s Three Qualities

Love’s Three Qualities

When I speak on the topic of Love, it is often imbued with three distinct qualities – Love’s cleansing fire, Love’s compassionate embrace, and Love’s playful dance. These distinctions are not ‘real’ or ‘unreal’ in any meaningful sense, but they illustrate the true nature of divine intimacy as it plays out in the immediacy of our own direct experience.

Loves Cleansing Fire

Of course, one of the most common questions asked by people of nearly all religious and spiritual persuasions is “if God is Love, then why do so many terrible things happen in the world?”  The response is usually a hollow-sounding “the Lord works in mysterious ways”, which is, of course true, but lacking in an explanation of ‘why’.  It is interesting to note here that the most commonly held definitions of God are inclusive of a being that is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.  Meaning that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present; or, put another way, there is nothing that God does not know, nothing that God cannot do, and nowhere that God is not.  There is also common agreement that God has a plan, and that everything that happens is happening as a part of the plan.  If this is true, which it is, in a way, then how can anything ever possibly be out of alignment with the perfection of God?

Here we must return to our understanding that love and happiness are often mischaracterized as being one and the same, and that happiness is the highest goal or ideal of God.  That all beings should be ‘happy’ is what we claim.  So naturally, when something happens that makes us unhappy, or robs us of our happiness, we immediately judge it as being a mistake or an error of some sort.  As something that ‘should not be happening to us’ or to the ones we love, or to other beings at large.  It is a terrible thing, a tragedy, a horror – something that God should not allow to happen, and so we then begin to judge God.  But if we believe that God, even if we define this term loosely, is the ever-present reality of being, in complete control of absolutely everything, knowing full well what is happening and why, is it more likely that God has it wrong, or that we do?

What we must begin to realize, as hard as it may be to come to terms with, is that everything that happens to us, that has the quality of pain and suffering, of difficulty and hardship, is also part of that very same plan.  A plan that is completely grounded in Love, as freedom.  Not the freedom to do what you want, when you want, the way that you want, but freedom from identification with words, concepts, ideas, models, notions, beliefs and preferences; from the egoic view that things should be some other way than the way that they are.  Indeed, our suffering can best be measured as the distance between the way things are and the way that we want them to be.  Closing this gap does not occur by wanting them more badly, or by thrusting ourselves more completely into changing our circumstances.  It can only be closed through the process of wise acceptance and compassionate surrender.

As we begin to slow down and take notice of what is happening in our lives, and we begin to witness for ourselves that all of our suffering can be tied to some sort of fixation or clinging to our own conditioned views and beliefs of the way things ‘should’ be, the more we begin to realize that we are the architects of our very own misery.  As this realization takes shape within us, and if we can make space for a deeper truth, we can begin to recognize that Love, in its truest form, is visiting us with the experiences that are required to free us from our condition, confused notion of a ‘self’ that is somehow separate or apart from the whole.  The more tightly we hold onto and protect this sense of a personal self, the more we suffer.  The more we let go of our conceptual notion of self, the more open, spacious, and loving we become.  Cast in this light, in the true light of Love, we start to see clearly that our suffering is actually a manifestation of a deep, profound, loving truth that seeks to burn away all that is untrue.  

Loves Compassionate Embrace

It is quite possible to misunderstand the quality of Love that we might call its cleansing fire, or its redemptive, transformative power.  This is where compassion, as another key quality of Love’s true essence must come forth to reclaim the conversation.  To say that our suffering is a sign of God’s love, and then to leave it so, would misrepresent the key focus of what is being presented here.  It is simply an effort to reframe our experience of suffering so that we can better understand it and allow it to do its work; which ultimately proves itself to be joyful participation in the unfolding of our own lives, from one beautiful unfolding moment, into the next, no matter what the moment may contain.  When you can learn to take joy in your suffering, are you really suffering anymore?  This is not to suggest that we should seek out suffering in some sadomasochistic effort to become more ‘free’, but rather that a different, more compassionate understanding of suffering can make all the difference in our experience of life. 

Love knows our pain, our suffering, our difficulty and our confusion.  Love understands the impact that its cleansing fire has on our experience of life – and the feelings of sadness, loneliness, and fear that so often accompany that experience.  Very little of what we see, out there, in the world, makes sense to us.  Why on earth would a loving God, by any name or description, force us to endure such heartbreak.  The answer has more to do with who and what we truly are than it does with how we perceive ourselves – and is found in the unitive experience of Being that a spiritual awakening ultimately reveals to us.  But until we are able to arrive at that answer for ourselves, Loves compassionate embrace is our refuge – it is the home of the Heart; the gift of forbearance that sees us through the dark times, the hard times, and all of the challenges that come.  It is our ability to hold our suffering in our hearts and shine the light of compassion upon it that is the greatest example of how Love is holding us, guiding us, and offering us the solace we need. 

What Loves compassionate embrace is offering us is an opportunity to sit with ourselves, in ourselves, and watch our hearts break.  And rather than question this, push it away, or seek a better explanation, Love invites us into a very different kind of relationship with our experience.  It is asking you to be an active participant in its own unfolding. Just know that, whatever is happening; right now; for you; is perfectly in harmony with itself. Just abide in it – from a position of non-judgmental loving awareness; and invite it in to break your heart. Then, notice just how infinite the capacity of your Heart really is. See through the eyes of wise, loving surrender, into everything as your Self; and give it whatever outpouring of love your heart calls you to endure.  This can be a movement in your own direction as you struggle to understand why life is the way it is; or it can be a movement in the direction of a loved one, a friend, or even a stranger.  So long as we are working to move in the direction of Love, for ourselves, for one another, and for the earth, we can never get it wrong. 

Breath love, kindness, generosity, gratitude, grace, patience, forgiveness, and compassion into every moment of your life – and do not judge yourself when you fall short of this goal. Just take another breath – and continue on. Eventually this process becomes effortless; as you step across the threshold of doing, into the presence of being. Which is what you have always been, are now, and will never cease to be.  The process of awakening to this realization requires you to encounter yourself over and over again, at deeper and deeper levels of Truth; revealing what needs attention, what needs healing, what needs love. It is a process that has no end. The wise do not avoid this fact, they embrace it fully; doing what must be done – whenever, wherever, and however they are called.  Just choose love, over and over and over again; until you disappear into it.  This is all that you can really do.  This is what it means to live in the heart of surrender; the Heart of compassion. 

Whenever you find yourself reacting to the endless vicissitudes of life, take a moment to slow down, steady yourself, breathe deeply, and drop down into the space of the Heart.  Let go of the mental structures and formations – the story that is appearing in the mind and presenting you with difficulty.  Drop it all down into the Heart.  Drop the mind into the Heart.  Just allow them to be there.  Fear, uncertainty and doubt; anxiety and restlessness, and all of our painful emotional responses are all qualities of our experience that are born from the unexplored regions of ourselves. It is by shining the light of loving awareness upon them that we begin to free ourselves from them. When we see them become present, and we consciously hold them in the Heart of compassion, we can feel their heat as they ignite and are burned away; again and again at ever more subtle levels of experience. This too is the work of Loves cleaning fire, and although it can be uncomfortable – even intensely painful at times, it is the only method by which one can begin to resolve the unresolved and arrive at true inner peace.

Loves Playful Dance

The more that we allow Love to do its work within us, the more free we become from the ties that bind us.  Love is the current that is guiding us home, and as we begin to flow as one with its calling, it shows us another side of itself.  It offers us an opportunity to revisit the childlike wonder and innocent curiosity that once governed our earliest days – that fueled our thirst for knowledge, understanding, and expression – that inspired our imaginations and kindled our dreams.  Not as anything even remotely resembling the state of lostness that we are in now, where these notions have a completely different meaning; but in the absence of our conditioned confusion, our misperceptions, and misunderstandings we return to a clarity that is luminous, empty, and infinite – an experience that is unhindered by our egoic fears, desires and efforts to control everything.  It is, in fact, Love teaching us how to dance once more – Love teaching us to taste the freedom of Being that we have forgotten – Love teaching us to be true to Love – to be the dance of Love fulfilling itself; something so beyond beautiful that we can barely touch it with words. 

Most will read this and agree without reservation; see joy jumping in their hearts; feel hopeful tears running down their cheeks; or sense a deep and unfathomable longing to experience this kind of return to Love.  This is what we want – what we desire most, and what we demand from the experience of awakening, and yet each of these represents a movement in the direction of denial and avoidance that says “why can’t I just have that?” “Why must I endure so much suffering – why is it all so hard?” But these questions are arising from within a fundamental misunderstanding of who and what you truly are.  They are the very voices of pain and suffering speaking.  It is for this reason and this reason alone that your pain and suffering remain in place and why Love’s cleansing fire and compassionate embrace remain so necessary to your journey.  Until you understand your own true nature, you will be plagued over and over again by forces that are beyond your control; forces that you must first yield to before Love offers you its greatest, most deeply held, most profound gift of all.  In other words, one must first crawl through the fires of hell to arrive at the gates of Heaven.  To discover that you are already in and as Heaven must be arrived at by leaving everything else behind.  This is the true nature of the spiritual journey – taken with absolute earnestness and sincerity. 

We should not fret over such things though, for Love is always with us.  To paint a picture of joyful suffering is to bring a brushstroke of Truth to the scene, but it need not be the final image that we commit to the canvass.  As we begin to pay attention to what is happening in our experience, and feel the tightness around us start to loosen, something in our experience begins to dance with us.  We start seeing through our fears and Love catches us on the other side, over and over again.  The more we relax, let go, and surrender to the current of our lives, the more free we become – and, the more free we become, the more present we are with ourselves and our circumstances.  Even amidst the most difficult and trying times, we can learn to take deep joy in the very movement of life itself, no matter what we find ourselves engaged in.  We learn how to smile through our tears and be authentic in our experience.  Loves playful dance is the result of living in this authenticity.  As Loves cleansing fire performs its work, and Loves compassionate embrace holds us close, Love begins to shine through more and more clearly; and this Love consumes us within itself – we become Love at play…  we have always been this Love at play.

Such a revelation is not arrived at through the various methods that are so often spoken of in spiritual circles though.  One does not simply change their thoughts to bring about the clarity that allows Love to fulfill itself in such a manner.  For Love to be free, we must step fully out of its way and relinquish ourselves into it.  For Love to be alive, we must become its perfect embodiment in the world.  For Love to spread, we must give voice to its true nature and weather the storms that will inevitably and invariably result.  Within Love’s playful dance, the continued cultivation of patience, wisdom, and compassion – the fruit of Love’s cleansing fire and compassionate embrace, give birth to this new way of Seeing, Knowing, and Being.  Here it is known, without doubt or question, that the play is not of our own making, but that of Divine Will, the impersonal impetus of Awakeness as it draws itself out.  Indeed, the promised playful dance of happiness, bliss, and joy emerges out of deep surrender; out of a willingness to give ourselves up; out of humble deference to the Whole. 

Notice here that none of these explanations are consistent with the worldly notion of happiness – which is little more than a passing fancy.  Nor does it align with the conceptual notions of bliss and joy that are clung to by the seeking mind, by the suffering separate self.  The playful dance is not ‘yours’ or for ‘you’.  The playful dance belongs to Love itself, and it will dance in whatever manner it sees fit – not in accord with your demands, desires, or wishes.  It is not until you have been cleansed of your misperceptions that you will be invited into the full experiential beauty of the dance.  Why?  Because it is invisible and imperceptible to one who’s mind is the arbiter of a relative reality which has no Reality to it.  And so we return once more to Love’s cleansing fire, where this revelation occurs; and to Love’s compassionate embrace, where this revelation is nurtured.  Those who are wise will not make happiness their first goal; will not focus on the acquisition of blissful states, or the joyful exuberance of transient pleasure.  Those who are truly wise will sacrifice themselves upon the alter of Love’s cleansing fire, allow for Love’s compassionate embrace to sooth their wounds, and surrender themselves to Love’s playful dance – all on its terms, and not on those of the person who is confused to begin with.  There is no other way home to the place that we never left – which is none other than your very own Self. 

—Bradley Bemis is an Orlando-based spiritual teacher of non-duality and Self-realization, an inner presence coach and guide, and is currently working toward his Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He offers a combination of public discourses and private sessions for those who are interested in exploring the enlightened insights of nondual wisdom.  Learn more at awakeningintolife.com.

A Continuum of Conscious Awareness


You can also listen to a podcast where this article is discussed:


Note: All models are just an effort to bring one to a place where models are no longer necessary.  They are like stepping stones and should never be picked up and carried along…

The Continuum of Conscious Awareness is a dynamic model that represents five distinct stages of the spiritual journey.  It does not keep us bound to any one particular stage though.  As a ‘continuum’, it honors the fluid nature of the awakening process and recognizes that we may move through several different stages over any measurable length of time, be it hours, days, weeks, months, or years.

The five stages that make up the continuum include:


Sleeping:  This is the normal resting state of most people in our society today.  We can all summon to mind the mental image of one or more people who fit the traditional definition of ‘one who is asleep’.  For these people there is little to no interest in spiritual exploration, or if there is, it’s at the surface level; lacking in real substance.  The unquestioned assumptions, firmly rooted in their minds, govern their day to day lives – lives that are spent pursuing the activities of the world with little consideration for the possibility that there may indeed be another way.  In many cases, those who are ‘asleep’ are also in deep psychological or emotional pain.  This pain may be conscious or unconscious, but either way it has a tendency to manifest itself in attitudes of negativity and self-defeat.  It is a fearful pain, a contracted pain, a pain born in the isolation and separation of misunderstanding.  For this reason, it is important for those of us on the spiritual path to acknowledge their pain and forgive them for their actions.  We can call this ‘the practice of compassion’.  This practice is an invitation to hold our hearts open for all those who are enduring their own inner suffering.  Not to judge or condemn them, but to love them despite themselves.  In many ways, these people are our greatest teachers.  They are offering us the gift of patience and understanding. For those on the spiritual path, this kind of practice may be difficult; and can be fraught with its own kind of issues and challenges, but it is an essential part of our flowering process.  In some cases, the manner in which we treat such people may actually inspire them to begin questioning their underlying assumptions about the nature of life.  In doing so, we become the catalyst for their evolution into spiritual seekers


Seeking:  The seeker is generally born, within our direct experience, as an acknowledgement that something may be missing from our lives.  The seeker can also ‘explode onto the scene’ as the result of a traumatic experience, or a particularly difficult set of circumstances.  For some, the seeker is just a natural unfolding that comes without any coaxing at all.  What produces the seeker is generally of less importance than the simple fact that the seeking quality has emerged within our experience.  As this seeking quality arises, we somehow find ourselves compelled to question the inner workings of our own minds, and to find answers that resolve the incongruities of our apparent existence.  We may develop an insatiable appetite for knowledge about religion, spirituality, psychology, science, and more.  We may dedicate a large part of our lives to the activities of seeking, such as prayer and meditation, participation in spiritual communities, listening to teachers, going through various forms of psychotherapy, and engaging in a myriad of other such explorative methods.  Some of us may even go so far as to travel to distant lands, or disappear into cloistered spiritual communities where everything is a reflection of our spiritual intent.  There is really no wrong way to engage in the activity of seeking – the seeking itself draws us in whatever direction we need to go.  It is enough that we are seeking.  What really matters is the degree of sincerity and earnestness with which we approach our seeking activities; the degree of self-honesty that we are willing to apply to our seeking process.  If our desire is pure, and we are willing to do the work required of us, then we greatly increase the chances that we will experience that which is sought – the experience of ‘awakening’


Awakening:  When we begin to talk about the true nature of an authentic ‘spiritual awakening’, we may be tempted to believe that this terms has a particular meaning associated with it.  Because we already have a preconceived notion, we may prefer to seek out descriptions that are consistent with these notions rather than opening ourselves up to the possibility that it may not ‘mean’ what we think it does.  In fact, one of the most challenging aspects of talking about spiritual awakening is the mind’s tendency to insert itself into the dialogue and begin describing what it wants the awakening to be.  For many of us, we are fixated on the end result of the awakening process – not on what it actually takes to arrive at it.  We want the peace that is promised, the freedom from suffering, the bliss of being; but we want it in pill form so that it’s easy to swallow and offers immediate benefits.  None of these preconceptions actually have anything at all to do with awakening though.  Awakening is something else entirely.  This gentle warning is offered to the seeking mind so that it is prepared to engage in an honest discussion about what an awakening really is.  The experience of awakening can be a gradual one, or it can come on all at once, but its quintessential hallmarks are largely consistent across the stories of all those who have been invited into it.  They are common enough, at least, to warrant mention.  These include the direct comprehension of emptiness and wholeness; not as mind-made conceptualizations, but as an intimate and immediate realization of ourselves as unconditioned awareness.  This realization is not the end of the journey however, it is the beginning of a new one – a deepening into the understanding of who and what we truly are.


Deepening:  Once we have crested the shores of awakening, and glimpsed the fundamental truth of our essential nature, we are properly positioned to engage our seeking activities from an entirely different vantage point.  It is the awakening process itself that demands deepening.  As we awaken, we begin to recognize that, although we are none other than awareness, our conditioned minds still have a tremendous hold over our experience of life.  This conditioned mind is very much akin to an old-style record, with many deep groves in it.  If we are to arrive at a culminating point in our experience of awakening, then we must take the time to polish the record until all of the grooves have disappeared.  For many, the deepening process is actually the most difficult and challenging stage of awakening.  It can even include a more pronounced sense of suffering than before our experience of awakening.  During this stage, we are forced to feel everything, investigate everything, and allow everything.  The weight of watching our inner and outer worlds crumble can be devastating to the egoic mind, and is absolutely inescapable.  We are often drawn into a dance of fear and surrender that requires us to abandon every aspect of our old conceptual world and learn how to become comfortable with a new life of complete uncertainty.  Meanwhile we are also called to experience ourselves with such love and compassion that we fall inward towards its invisible center of gravity.  As we empty ourselves of ourselves, this love pours in from every direction, completely consuming our old identity and restoring our inherent innocence, wonder, and joy.  Eventually something begins to dawn within our direct experience – a sense of wholeness, fullness, and completeness that gives way to the quality of ceasing.


Ceasing:  For those who have not experienced it for themselves, ceasing is just as difficult to speak on as ‘awakening’.  Primarily because within the dawning of ‘ceasing’, there is a recognition that reveals to us we never needed to seek anything in the first place.  Even ‘awakening’ itself is a myth.  Anything and everything that we have ever read or heard said about the awakening process is seen in a completely new light.  We are invited in to the cosmic joke of spirituality, of which we are love’s punchline.  There is so much openness, spaciousness, and joy within our direct experience of life that all seeking activities fall gently away into a direct knowingness that all there is to do, has been done; and all that there is to know, is now known. Everything is clear, crystalized, effortless, and simple. There’s no resistance left, only love.  We are ‘in the world, but not of the world’.  Life goes on, just as it did before, but nothing will ever be the same again because we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we cannot know, and that all is always well.  Life is just taking care of itself, as it always has.  What we are, just *IS*, and we are all *IT*.  It is all *JUST THIS* and our role is to *JUST BE*.  Nothing more can be said on the matter.  It is a state that would appear as a complete paradox to the mind, but because of the deepening process, the mind has attenuated to a new reality where it no longer needs to know or do anything in particular.  It sees itself as a contextual remnant of a dream world, but also sees beyond itself into the sphere of absolute reality.  It can hold all paradoxes because it is no longer the point from which life is lived.  It can weather all ambiguities because it no longer expects life to comply with its demands.  It is from this place that we enter into the infinite last mile.

~Bradley