Welcome to the student-runField Experience Preparation Group” for the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Walden University. 

Please note that this site and this group have no affiliation with Walden and represents an independent effort run by students, for students.


Purpose and Goal:

The CMHC program at Walden University is a CACREP accredited on-line graduate program that provides excellent clinical opportunities; with an interactive techniques course, two required on-site pre-practicum experiences and a dynamic group lab.  The school also has an independent, faculty-run practice group through the ‘Ducks’ program that is held on Thursday nights by Dr. Nina Spadaro.  However, as graduate students working toward counseling degrees, we should have every opportunity to practice and improve upon our clinical skills, especially as we prepare to enter into the formal field experience portion of our program (Practicum, Internship 1 and Internship 2). 

Walden also requires its students to pursue field experience on their own and to take full personal responsibility for locating and procuring an appropriate work-site.  Because there may be questions and anxiety surrounding the field experience portion of the program, students are likely to benefit from working together to share insights, suggestions, tips, tricks, and approaches that have been useful in the preparatory process, locating suitable field experience sites, and being hired into clinical internship roles.   By coming together in a shared collective context, we can remind ourselves that we are not alone and learn from one another.  

This student-run preparation group is focused on addressing both of these issues in a weekly, two-hour, on-line format.   The general idea is that student participants will get together and spend time talking through portions of the Field Experience Handbook, offer ideas and feedback to one another as it relates to field experience topics, and then divide up into triads to practice counseling skills.  Not only does this offer an opportunity to gain insight from other students and to practice clinical skills, but it also gives participants another way to demonstrate to potential employers that they are committed to learning, practice, and growth as student-counselors. 

Prerequisites

Sessions are open to all Walden students in the CMHC program who have successfully completed pre-practicum 1.  This means that you have already completed the “Techniques of Counseling” course and successfully demonstrated a basic command of these techniques in a supervised setting. 

Timing and Format

This group gathers together via the Zoom telecommunications platform every Monday night, from 8pm to 10pm (EST).   The format includes four key components: the opening, field experience discussion, triad breakout, and conclusion:

Opening

We will usually spend 5 to 10 minutes opening up the Zoom session, reviewing the purpose and goals of the group, and checking in with group members to see how things are going. 

Field Experience Discussion

  • 10 to 15 minutes – reading a section of the Field Experience Manual
  • 10 to 15 minutes – specific discussions around the section read
  • 10 to 15 minutes – group questions and dynamic sharing

Note: We are not advisors and these sessions are not an alternative to contacting your Walden advisor.  Suggestions or advice taken is to be used ‘at your own risk’ and should be formally confirmed with your Walden advisor!

Triad Breakout

  • 5 minutes – Triad introductions and member assignments
  • 10 Minutes – Triad member A as counselor, member B as client, and member C as observer.
  • 10 Minutes – Triad member B as counselor, member C as client, and member A as observer.
  • 10 Minutes – Triad member C as counselor, member A as client, and member B as observer. 
  • 15 Minutes – Triad members share observations with each other and discuss outcomes.

Note: In some situations, it may be necessary to have two or four members participating in the breakout sessions.  Please be sure to adjust the time accordingly.  Also keep in mind that these are practice sessions ONLY – and should not be viewed as an alternative to professional counseling!  

Conclusion

We will spend the remainder of our time coming back together in a group format to discuss how the triads went and address any issues or concerns that the group would like to explore.

Additional Caveats

We will add to this section as the group progresses and it becomes evident that additional caveats are necessary.

To Sign Up

We are using a Facebook group to share details and coordinate information sharing.  You can sign up to be a part of this private Facebook group by visiting:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/2447809592099801/


FAQ

Can we do it on a different night or at a different time?  No, we cannot focus on accommodating schedules.  If you are interested in participating, you will need to work around the date and time planned. 

Can we use a different platform other than Zoom?  No.  Zoom is ideal for the purpose of this group.  It is free to all participants and can be run from any type of computing device. 

Why do I need to have finished Pre-prac 1?  Participants are here because they want to practice, learn, and grow.  In order to do so we must all be working from the same minimum baseline. 

Is there any instruction provided?  No.  We are not professors, we are students.  We are here to share, learn, and grow together as a like-minded community of student-practitioners. 

Do I need to use any specific techniques?  You are advised to draw from techniques covered in the Walden curriculum and encouraged to experiment with evidence-based theories and practices. 

Playing the role of a client, should I be ‘real’ or act a part?  Please be real, but try to stay focused on manageable issues that are appropriate in a learning format.  This is not an alternative to therapy. 

Will these sessions be recorded?  No.  Only member participants will be allowed to participate and there will be no recordings made. 

Is there a release form I need to fill out?  No.  If you choose to participate, it is assumed that you are a mature adult making an informed decision.  This is a student-led effort and we don’t want to get bogged down in paperwork. 

If you are participating in one of my free, open, group sessions, chances are that it’s being recorded…   Here’s why, and the options available to you if this makes you uncomfortable:


On the Topic of Privacy

If you missed our opening group session last night, that’s perfectly okay.  I’ll be posting a recording of the session on my YouTube channel and sharing a link on Facebook and in our private Facebook group. 

This brings up an important point though – these sessions are free, open, online group sessions that are meant to reach as many people as possible.  They are recorded and shared – and for good reason.  Our world is in a state of chaos and disarray, and the message of Self-realization is more important now than ever before – it is, in fact, essential to our very survival.  I offer these types of free events because I have seen these teachings radically alter my own life and the lives of many, many people.  Sometimes, however, participants will express a concern or a preference to be private, to not be broadcast or recorded.  I always want to honor the requests of everyone who has taken the time to entertain and investigate the material that’s being shared, but at the same time it’s very important to me that the larger necessity of openness, transparency, accessibility, and availability be kept in mind.  Therefore, I’d like to make the following suggestions. 

If you prefer to remain private, to not be seen, heard, broadcasted, or recorded during the live group sessions, you can:

1) Leave your camera and microphone off, using the chat to ask questions or make comments, and/or schedule a private session afterwards where we can discuss your own questions, concerns, interpretations, or experiences.  During this series I’ll make free weekly sessions available to anyone who would prefer to just listen in the live group sessions, and then ask their questions or go deeper into the content in a private setting instead. 

2) Or, follow the live session through FacebookLive instead of Zoom.  The FacebookLive stream doesn’t have visual or audio recording functions available within it.  You can use the comments area to ask questions or make comments without really exposing yourself in an uncomfortable way.  You may find this preferable to the use of Zoom if you want to exercise a greater degree of privacy.

Please note however that I tend to wait until later in sessions to read comments and questions from the chat windows in both Zoom and on Facebook; usually as part of the Q&A period.  I will however get to your questions – and make sure that anything asked receives a response. 

I hope this clarifies my position on broadcasting and recording these sessions, and offers you a few alternative options to help you feel safe and protected if you have a preference for a greater degree of privacy. 


I’m still not sure I understand why you record these sessions…

I record and share these sessions because many people do not or can not participate.  Or may not be aware that the sessions are available.  Or may stumble across the website a year from now and say ‘wow I wish I would have seen this sooner’.  Some people may also be fearful of attending in person and want to encounter the material on their own terms instead.   

It is also very very common for nondual teachers to record and make public group sessions freely and openly available – not private sessions of course, and not paid group workshops – but when we do these things freely, from our hearts, it’s because we are extending an invitation and doing our best to make these teachings and this way of seeing broadly available to all.  

We are also not likely to concern ourselves so much with matters of privacy, as we do not see privacy as a reality of realized awareness.  We try to respect where others are in their own understanding and apply appropriate levels of confidentiality to private sessions, but when someone attends a free, open, public session and is uncomfortable with being recorded, I and others like me, will suggest that they use their discomfort to examine what it is they are trying to protect or defend, what aspect of the ‘self’ exactly is uncomfortable?  

This is the way nondual teachings work.  Our suffering, discontent, and discomfort are the raw material of awakening – and reveal what needs attention, what we are holding onto, and what we need to let go of.  

Again, these sessions are free – and I ask nothing in return for this work.  I do this because of how deeply I value the transformative potential of nondual realization – and because I want everyone, everywhere to have the opportunity to encounter and experience these teachings.  Because this is why I offer these free, open, public group sessions, I must make the materials available in the manner of their intention – which is broad dissemination.  

The goal of these sessions is not so much community-building as this is essentially a brief psychoeducational group with a focused curriculum and clear endpoint.  Our focus is on elucidation, investigation, and examination.  Also keep in mind that whatever issues you might be contending with or hesitant to reveal, pretty much everyone is in the same boat with the same challenges and questions.  Your own willingness to be vulnerable has the potential to serve as a gift to others.  But I leave it to you to decide what you are comfortable with.  

I would also encourage you to watch and listen to other nondual teachers, like Adyashanti and Rupert Spira. You will see that they are doing exactly what I’m doing and they encourage openness and vulnerability in public because it is such an important part of letting down our guard, opening up, and being vulnerable – and when we do so together, we all learn from each other.  This is just the way it is with nondual teachers – and how it has been done for thousands of years.

I’ve offered some alternatives for attendance if privacy is important to you, but the material itself and the availability of it cannot be limited by the discomfort of one participant.  We can always meet separately and privately if there are things that you would prefer to address behind closed doors, but as we continue, these free, open, public sessions will be shared on FacebookLive and recorded to make them available to others in the future.  

If you feel that this is not in alignment or accord with your preferences and choose not to participate in the future, I totally understand, but I hope that you will consider one of the alternative attendance options or use this as an opportunity to examine your own discomfort.


I will continue to add additional comments to this topics as an FAQ to address any additional related concerns.   Thank you for your time and attention regarding this important matter. 

~Bradley

Sunday, the 13th of October, marks the 5-year anniversary of the day that everything fell away for me, the day that awareness became aware of itself within the context of ‘me’.  In conjunction, I’ll be launching a new Campaign of Consciousness; a special 9-week series of on-line group and private sessions – all offered freely from the heart…

~Bradley

A Campaign of Consciousness

14 October – 8 December 2019


This online event series includes seven free group sessions and three free private one-on-one sessions, all hosted via Zoom, FacebookLive, and then posted to YouTube afterwards.  If you have concerns about being recorded, please see my recent blog post addressing this issue. 

If you are interested in participating, please just send me a quick e-mail at bradley@awakeningintolife.com.   You’ll receive a detailed e-mail response with all of the information needed to schedule your private sessions and attend the group sessions.  Everything is optional though.  You can come and go as you please, participating only in those sessions which resonate with you.

Did you miss a session?  That’s okay!  You can join at any time…  just send me an e-mail as described above and we’ll get you squared away. 

Note: While primarily presented in a nondual spiritual context, the themes and methods that we’ll be discussing are also represented within psychological theories and therapeutic models such as Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Internal Family Systems Theory, Dialectic Behavior Theory, Jungian Theory, Existential Theory, Transpersonal Theory, and more…  The entire series is FREE – with no hidden catches, will be hosted on-line, and includes both private and group sessions that are ultimately designed to instill a greater sense of peace, joy, and connection within ourselves and the world of our experience.  We hope to see you there.


***First Private Session***

  • Your Journey So Far (Should be scheduled to take place between 14 and 20 October):  In this session we’ll discuss what your life and spiritual journey have looked like so far, where you feel confused or challenged, and what you hope to get out of this series as we work together in the spirit of mutual curiosity. 

First Group Session (audio recording available below)

  • Tilting in the Direction of Awakening (Sunday, 20 October, 8 pm – 9:30 pm EST):  In this session, we’ll talk about the nature of an authentic spiritual awakening as a ‘seeing through’ of conceptual reality, into the infinite space of our Being which ultimately leads to a completely embodied expression of wisdom, compassion, joy, and virtue. 

Second Group Session (video recording available below)

  • Loving, Trusting, and Honoring Yourself (Sunday, 27 October, 8 pm – 9:30 pm EST):  In this session, we’ll explore the sense of unworthiness that so many of us experience in our daily lives, and how to begin loving ourselves, trusting ourselves, and honoring the journey that is unfolding before us until we arrive at a state of greater peace and harmony within ourselves. 

Third Group Session

  • Practicing Mindfulness and Meditation (Sunday, 3 November, 8 pm – 9:30 pm EST):  In this session, we’ll discuss the purpose and foundations of mindfulness, and explore a variety of meditation and self-inquiry techniques that can serve as practical tools throughout the awakening process and help us move through whatever is arising in the present moment. 

Fourth Group Session

  • Facing and Letting Go of Your Pain (Sunday, 10 November, 8 pm – 9:30 pm EST):  In this session, we’ll discuss the challenging topic of psychological suffering and what it’s inviting us to investigate, address, or let go of; revealing deep insights about how our attachments are exposed in the light of awareness and present us with an opportunity for true healing.

***Second Private Session***

  • How Are You Doing? (Should be scheduled to take place between 11 and 17 November):  In this session, which takes place after the group session on “Facing and Letting Go of Your Pain”, we’ll discuss any difficult issues or challenges that may have come up for you while working within yourself to process the content.

Fifth Group Session

  • Paying Attention to Synchronicity (Sunday, 17 November, 8 pm – 9:30 pm EST):  In this session, we’ll discuss the phenomena of synchronicity as the language of the universe that is teaching us, guiding us, and revealing our true essential nature, the timeless perfection of being, and the intelligent aliveness of life that is ever-present and unerring in its wisdom.

Sixth Group Session

  • Being Wary of Your Traps (Sunday, 24 November, 8 pm – 9:30 pm EST):  In this session, we’ll talk about the appearance of ‘traps’; what they are, how they ensnare us and what they have to teach us as we fall down, get up, and fall down again, over and over until we’ve learned how to walk the infinite last mile in complete acceptance of life’s great mystery.  

Seventh Group Session

  • The Dance of Fear and Surrender (Sunday, 1 December, 8 pm – 9:30 pm EST):  In our final group session, we’ll revisit the major themes that have been addressed during this series and discuss the appearance of fear, uncertainty, and doubt that will present itself at each stage of the awakening journey – how to be with it, move beyond it, and learn from it.

***Third Private Session***

  • Your Journey Forward (Should be scheduled to take place between 2 and 8 December):  In this session, which takes place the week following the end of the series, we’ll discuss your experiences with the course, any comments or feedback that you may have, and how you plan to integrate the materials into your life. 

Getting Signed Up:  If you are interested in participating, please just send me a quick e-mail at bradley@awakeningintolife.com.   You’ll receive a detailed e-mail response with all of the information needed to schedule your private sessions and attend the group sessions. 

This series is free, but donations are accepted and appreciated.

Donate NOW

—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: https://awakeningintolife.com/aboutbradley


Session Recording Archive

 Session 1: Tilting in the Direction of Awakening

Session 2: Loving Trusting and Honoring Yourself

Session 3: Practicing Mindfulness and Meditation

Session 4: Facing and Letting Go of Your Pain

Session 5: Paying Attention to Synchronicity

Session 6: Being Wary of Our Traps

In my effort to review and edit all of the talks I’ve given over the years, I’m starting with the very first public talk that I ever gave called “The Promise, Process, and Pitfalls of Obtaining Spiritual Enlightenment” (1 hour).  

 

[Please feel free to ask questions or share your thoughts in the comments section below]


If you liked this talk, please donate to support our continued efforts to share these important insights. 

Donate Now 

  

In spiritual circles, the issue of money is often a tender subject.  There are those who believe that money corrupts spirituality – and everything should be free.  There are those who believe that money is just another form of energy – and focus on the intention behind its acquisition and use.  There are those who see money as no big deal at all – and consider spirituality to be a general commodity just like anything else.  And then there are those who seek to capitalize on ‘the spiritual marketplace’ – and will sell anything to anyone in order to fatten their wallets.

Within my own teachings regarding money, I often tell people that “Some is better than none.  Enough is best of all.  And if you have more than enough, then you have enough to share”.  The question then becomes a deeply personal one of asking what “enough” really means.  As someone who is devoted to offering spiritual guidance and support; I feel that it is very important to share my own perspectives on money, spirituality, and what “enough” means to me.  I do this in the hope that those who would find fault with my own approach to asking for monetary support find something within this explanation that helps alleviate whatever concerns they may have.

First and foremost, one must be perfectly okay with having absolutely nothing.  When you know yourself to be everything, then there is nothing that is needed.  Nothing can be added to or taken away from the totality of what you are.  All things are always as they should be, and if your reality is inclusive of having nothing, then the nature of your situation is an opportunity to abide in acceptance and gratitude, to be humble and at peace with what is.  This is an essential lesson that Jesus, the Buddha, and many other enlightened beings carried forth within their ministries, and something that I learned first-hand during my time as a homeless ascetic, living on the streets of Seattle.

I still reside in this spacious place of deep acceptance – and am, quite honestly, perfectly okay with having nothing.  If my journey requires that I sleep on sidewalks and eat from garbage cans, then so be it.  For myself, I care not.  There is nothing within the material world; nothing that money can buy, that holds my interest.  I’ve proven this to myself to the point where there is nothing left to prove, and no one left to prove it to.  It is simply the truth.  J. Krishnamurti once said that that his secret to life was that he did not care what happened to him.  Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj says something similar in his book “I am That”, indicating that his only interest in the material world was in relation to supporting his family – those who were dependent upon him for their wellbeing.  So, I am in good company…

This is where I find myself now.  The life I live is a very simple and humble one.  But it is a life that I share with another, and her young son. It is my preference that sharing a life with them includes the opportunity to support them in whatever way I can – including the ability to contribute to the household, assist in their hobbies and interests, engage in family activities and entertainments, etc.  I still have some money, from previous employment in my former line of work that I use for this today, but it will eventually run out if not replenished.  Toward this end, I am working to engage in other money-making activities related to that line of work; but the truth of the matter is that my heart calls me in a very different direction – and it isn’t about money.

There is but one goal that I hold most dear. It is to elucidate the confusion of the conditioned mind so that each and every one of us may pierce the veil of ignorance, see ourselves as we truly are, and free ourselves from the bondage of suffering.  I have devoted myself, wholly and completely, to this task.  If it were up to me, I would completely eliminate money from this equation – I’d do absolutely everything for free, asking nothing in return.  If I were alone, this is exactly what I would be doing – it’s what I was doing – and to some extent it’s what I’m still planning to do, to the best of my ability.  It has nothing to do with wanting to be, or appearing to be, more ‘spiritual’; it’s just that I consider money to be an unfortunate consequence of our collective ignorance and want to limit its importance in my life.

A recent journal entry I made summed it up this way “I dislike money, but my dislike for the fact that money so dominates our lives will not become a governing limitation, nor will fear of its presence or lack thereof, prevent me from collecting and using this resource to address basic needs.  I do not want to do anything other than teach, talk, and guide; yet in order to meet personal and family financial obligations, and to build a life that enables and enobles the others present in it, I must address my distaste for money without developing a taste for it.  In other words, money must become a net neutral in my life that is neither resisted when made available, nor pursued as anything other than a secondary effect, held lightly and with tremendous gratitude”.

As for the original question of what “enough” means to me – I can tell you that I believe all human beings are entitled to a safe place to sleep at night, protection from the elements, potable water to drink and healthy food to eat.  This is about all that I really feel is needed – and my life reflects this truth.  I do not spend money on ‘things’; as can be attested to by those I share my life with.  I keep all expenditures to an absolute minimum – not out of a sense of lack, but out of a sense of wise appreciation; which brings up another good point.  So many ‘new age’ and ‘new thought’ spiritual movements emphasize ‘financial abundance’ – I do not hold to this.  To me abundance is about the heart and spirit, not about the material world.  I advise contentment with what you have over the pursuit of worldly ‘abundance’, but this is a subject for another article.

Here, let me simply say that I am not out to “get rich”, nor am I trying to “sell” my spiritual ‘teachings’.  In truth, nothing being said is actually “mine”, because there isn’t really anyone here ‘doing’ anything…  There is no one here writing, there is just writing occurring.  There is no one here speaking – there is just speaking occurring.  That which is writing and speaking is you – it’s just using these hands and this mouth as a means of reminding you about who you are and why you are here.  If this act of reminding is useful to you – if you find some sense or meaning, or peace, or freedom in what is being expressed and experienced, then I ask you to support my ability to continue offering this type of guidance and support to those who are in search of it.  Your generosity is appreciated more than you will ever know.  If not, that is fine too – either way, what is, is what is; all is well; and my love remains yours.

—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.

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

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.

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 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.

This essay was written as a discussion post for my graduate course in Multicultural Counseling (Jan 2019). 

As might be expected, spirituality and religion, within counseling, is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. This week, we are reviewing a case study involving ‘Katie’ and her experience of life through the lens of religious identity (Thomas & Schwarzbaum, 2006). This essay will examine her spiritual and religious influences and then pivot into a discussion about how to facilitate a counseling session that is inclusive of these influences. Interestingly enough, identity and context, which are essential aspects of the human experience (Hays, 2016), are at the very core of nonduality and Self-realization. They were also important to several transpersonal forerunners like Jung (Vienne, Corbett, & Whitney, 2017). This intersection of psychology, spirituality, and nonduality offers an integrative approach that can help resolve issues of identity in cases just like Katie’s.

Spiritual and Religious Influences

Like everyone who inherits their parent’s spiritual or religious preferences, Katie’s religious identity began as a set of conditioned beliefs (Sue & Sue, 2016). Informed by a strong cultural connection with Catholicism within the dynamics of the family unit, Katie had no real choice in the early stages of her spiritual journey. Eventually though, rote memorization of religious facts became unfulfilling and left her with deeper and more meaningful questions (Thomas & Schwarzbaum, 2006). After marrying her best friend, a gentlemen of Jewish faith, and having children within their interfaith relationship, her entire world was flipped upside down and brought her more deeply into the folds of her own religious persuasion. It also expanded her openness, acceptance, and capacity for spiritual diversification. Indeed, her exposure to another religious viewpoint enriched and enlivened her experience of life in new and unique ways. Altogether, these factors have strongly influenced Katie’s views of life, family, and self; giving them a context that is inclusive of both Christianity and Judaism while honoring, in her own way, that which is most meaningful to her. From the perspective of nonduality, exposure to alternative spiritual and religious views is highly encouraged as it increases openness and receptivity to the undercurrents that are present in every tradition. In fact I am giving a talk, this Sunday, on this very topic (Bemis, 2019).

Facilitating the Counseling Session

As a counselor, it is wise to be well read across a variety of faith traditions. My own work as a nondual spiritual teacher and inner presence coach is in direct alignment with the core foundations of all esoteric mystical transmissions; including Christian Gnosticism and Monasticism, Several sects of Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta in the Hindu tradition, Sufism within Islam, Kabbalah within Judaism, Taoism, Sikhism, many forms of Yoga, and several other lesser known contemplative wisdom traditions. This broad spectrum of knowledge is incredibly valuable when engaging with students and clients who are struggling with matters of identity and faith. Even more important, however, is true religious experience, or the direct apprehension of nonordinary states of consciousness (Lynn, 2017). It is my experience, and that of all nondual teachers and practitioners of nondual counseling, that direct experience is the most powerful agent of transformation imaginable (Lumiere, 2012). Therefore, if I were to facilitate a session with someone like Katie, I would work with her to examine the core aspects of both Christianity, the actual teachings of Christ, and Judaism, or the Kabbalah’s teachings that are in direct agreement with Christ (and vice versa). As I explained to a friend recently, there are only two ways that we can examine these similarities. Either every contemplative spiritual tradition is working from the same manuscript, or these commonalities spring from those who have come to their own direct, immediate, and intimate experience of themselves as that which is beyond all manner of identification. So in working with Katie, we would gently explore what brings Christianity and Judaism together so that she can transcend their apparent differences and arrive at their unitive core. This may not be a ‘traditional’ approach to counseling, but it is exactly how the nondual-orientation approaches all aspects of the human experience – leaving behind what separates and divides to arrive at that which is inseparable and indivisible. I offer this explanation of my own work as an example of how a counselor’s spiritual or religious philosophy might affect the process of counseling. Because of this, it’s always important to ensure that the client is setting the pace and direction of things, exploring spiritual and religious themes within a comfortable context, and being honored within their selected mode of identification.

Conclusion

Spirituality and religion, for many people, are where the very core of their identity springs from (Sue & Sue, 2016). Because of how personal the topic is, it is a delicate subject matter to broach with some clients. Yet, as counselors, this area is rich and fertile soil for inner exploration and the flowering of consciousness. Katie’s story is a common tale that demonstrates the perils and pitfalls of an expanded religious view, but also a story of opportunity and inspiration that come out of this very same expansion of views. In this essay, we have discussed Katie’s spiritual and religious background, described their overall influences, and examined one way that the counselors own views might influence the process of counseling. In the end, everything really is a mystery (Thomas & Schwarzbaum, 2006), but to say “because I said so” falls quite short of the mark. To explain that the conceptual view of reality belongs to the mind, that all concepts are completely made up, and that the deepest truth is impossible to express as a concept, is a much more direct way of engaging in the dialogue. It helps diffuse the mind and begin the radical shift toward the heart that is so common across all such teachings.

References

Bemis, B. (2019). An Introduction to Nonduality: The Sacred Heart of All Traditions. Retrieved from https://awakeningintolife.com/satsang-in-the-park-3/

Hays, P. A. (2016). Addressing cultural complexities in practice: Assessment, diagnosis, and therapy (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Lumiere, L (2012). The Ultimate Secure Base: Healing Insecure Attachment in the Nondual Field. Undivided: The Online Journal of Nonduality and Psychology, 1(3).

Lynn, S. J. (2017). Anomalous, exceptional, and non-ordinary experiences: Expanding the boundaries of psychological science. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 4(1), 1–3.

Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2016). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice (7th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Thomas, A. J., & Schwarzbaum, S. (2006). Culture and identity: Life stories for counselors and therapists. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Vienne, B. (2017). Corbett, L. & Whitney, L. (2016). Jung and non-duality: some clinical and theoretical implications of the self as totality of the psyche. International Journal of Jungian Studies, 8, 1, 15-27. The Journal Of Analytical Psychology, 62(4), 622–624.

In nondual spiritual circles, we could say that there is a certain range, continuum, or bandwidth of teachings that bring the spiritual aspirant or seeker to full and final fruition.  These types of teachings live at the heart of all contemplative wisdom traditions. 

There is a great commonality across them – which points to an absence, a presence, and living in the presence of absence.  Another way that we can imagine this is by looking at it as a journey.  This journey takes us up a mountain, exposes us to the view from the top, and then carries us back down the mountain.  In Zen it is said that there is a mountain.  Then there is no mountain.  Then there is a mountain again. 

In each case we are seeing a very simple arc revealing the full and mature expression of inner understanding.   One cannot get caught in the net of the mind, including the net of non-duality that the mind may cling to.  If we truly understand this term, and what it is pointing toward, it must, by its very definition, be a completely inclusive explanation of reality.  This inclusiveness is what I point to when I use the term Love. 

It has other dimensions to it as well – but they may express Love in a manner that we are unfamiliar with.  I describe these dimensions as Love’s cleansing fire, Love’s compassionate embrace, and Love’s playful dance.  All three are dynamic movements within the grand harmony of our Being.  When we are ready to pay attention, to really pay attention, we can see these forces at work in every moment of our unfoldment. 

I would advise those who are of a true heart to become aware of your suffering and study it well.  Also study the suffering that you may be creating in the lives of others.  Become a student of suffering.  As you encounter this suffering, embrace it with an open heart and ask yourself, ‘what am I holding onto here?’.  If you look closely, you will see that you are identified with a thought about a person, place, thing, idea, or experience.   There is an attachment, or a clinging to views that is present somewhere within the uncharted territories of your unquestioned assumptions. 

Be gentle in your examination and inquiry though.  Don’t stand under the shade of any one tree for too long, or you’ll never feel the sun on your face.  Recognize, right now, that this whole journey inward is taking your toward a transparency that reveals the true unitive nature of Life as completely indivisible, always and forever whole; but in a way that is beyond all manner of conceptual understanding.  Here, the earnest are destined to come to rest in the fullness of emptiness.  This is the place I refer to when I use the word Heart.  A Heart that is open, spacious, silent, and still. 

Traditionally, and empirically, those who find this place often tilt themselves in the direction of service – humble service to Love and Wisdom.  It is not always so, therefore do not let this become a trap either, but it is a common occurrence.  This means that non-duality isn’t ‘disengaged’ in the manner that the mind may attempt to assert.  What we are disengaged from is the mechanics of the mind as the governing force in our lives, surrendering completely into the Heart of Wisdom instead. 

When I say that this site, Awakening Into Life is about ‘Nonduality from the Heart’, this is what I’m talking about.  I tend to keep the focus of our conversations on gently and tenderly letting go of our fear, doubt, and uncertainty – and to test the waters of our own self limitation to see if they are real, or if they have been imposed by a conditioned perception.  Is this conditioned perception the truth?  Or are we still in the mind?  So I’m drawing us down into a deeper dialogue that prepares us to enter a wordless reality that the mind is simply never going to be able to understand. 

When this becomes clear for us in our own direct, immediate, and intimate experience, and we find ourselves opening up to what’s really here, our hearts become free to honor their full expression.  But we cannot bypass the shift that delivers true transcendence.  Going up the mountain is indeed challenging and rewarding – and so is seeing the view from the top.  But never forget that the last part of the journey takes us back down the mountain again, into the compassionate embodiment of our humanity.   This is the fruition of the pathless path, where one crosses the threshold of the gateless gate, and takes their first steps on the infinite last mile.

—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.