where i observe some things coming in and out of awareness

the world is ever fresh and new. there are no labels. there is only This. there is thinking and there is writing and there is moving of fingers across the keyboard and scanning of the eyes across the screen. writing arises and also great pleasure, no matter what the words are trying to say. they appear as they want to appear.

people who live close to the earth with little formal education know that there is a constant sphere of awareness surrounding them and that consciousness expands to fit this sphere. often it is from horizon to horizon as far as the eye can see, the ear can hear the nose can smell. anything beyond this does not exist. advaita vedanta shows that in a world that has no opposites, no concepts, no labels, nothing exists apart from a field of energy and from that, there may be a continued ‘sensation’ of objects coming into this field of energy. this is what ‘awakened’ people often refer to the ‘freshness of the world being reborn again and again in the ever-present moment’. oh words are so hard sometimes.

if you want to put it another way, you could say, “nothing exists in the world except what is right here right now”. this is quite an interesting concept to get one’s head around. i like to think of this kind of stuff all the time. there is of course, a time when thinking merges automatically into sensing and experiencing – the classic awakening moment, but for all lesser mortals, thinking seems to be the way to go for the time being (language is such a funny thing). my children are not in the room, i know that they have taken the dog out for a walk but of course, that is just a thought that continues in my head in order that i may recognise them again when they come back into the house. at this moment they do not actually exist. they are not in my sphere of awareness, they are only kept alive by a thought, an electrical impulse, which quite frankly is a rather dodgy thing anyway.

oh well there you go, i hear footsteps on the path outside, the door is opening and i know without doubt that my children are coming back into the house with the dog. my thought process has created the continuum. i recognise them.

in a non-dual world there is no i, no recognising, no children, no dog, no path, no footsteps, no door, no thought continuum, just energy flowing; what bob sailor adamson calls ‘intellegence energy’. the world gets on with what it does without any prompting, without anyone directing it, without the person receiving impressions about it, it just does (or to be more precise, it just IS)

but if we feel more comfortable with having a few concepts thrown into the mix (otherwise there is not really a lot that can be said about any of it) we might call it a collection of neurons adjusting to apparent changes in the energy field and seeing/hearing/sensing takes place to induce recognition; footsteps, children, dog, door – it is pure sensory perception before the brain computes anything of individual merit, before the brain is able to put a label on those individual ‘happenings’. it is all just swimming in a sea of sensation, waves rippling all around.

along with this swimming, comes a huge sense of peace. there is no director, no directed, there are no concepts to label this scenario good, bad or indifferent. there is no sense of a finite world that is constantly changing, finally to end sometime in an unknown future. there is no future. there is no sense of a self that ever lived or that will some day die. there is also no past to base any expectations on. there is no sense that objects, people, animals are separate things – all is one and with this oneness comes peace.

then there can be no doubt that everything is just as it is, fresh, renewed, alive all in this one moment.

the Truth can only be examined within the sphere of your own experience

it can only be done by YOU, yourself. it can only been done in the moment that is now.

you may already have read piles of books, watched countless youtube videos, gone to many satsangs or meetings, set up a routine of meditation or chanting yo still the mind. that is wonderful. that has set you on the path to realisation. you are almost there but you are not quite there and you know that you are not quite there, so you continue to search.

the thing that is very strange about all of this, indeed very paradoxical, is that the more you search, the more you verify the separateness of the world you are living in. the more information you take on board, the more concepts you are loading yourself up with. there is nothing inherently wrong with this. everything is just As It Is; perfect, complete, whole – the fact that you identify yourself to be a separate seeker in a world of manifestations is part of It All and does not matter one single iota.

but then the idea comes into your head about ‘suffering’ and you wish you could end it. you have got yourself to the place where you believe that if you annihilate the self, you will simultaneously annihilate your suffering. that is all well and good. that is a path that could be taken by a person perceived to be suffering, who is trying to remove the suffering by removing the sufferer. you continue to go to satsangs or read another book to learn ‘how’ to do it but, if you are always trying to remove something then it stands to reason that the YOU doing the removing will always remain; you remain in a state of suffering.

what is needed, if indeed there is any need at all, is for an honest exploration of the Truth.

the Truth is ‘that which cannot be seen as false when subjected to close scrutiny’ and the Truth only manifests here in this present moment and only you can conduct a close inspection of what you perceive the Truth to be. there is no path to follow, only a slow (or sudden) stripping away of the ‘reality’ you think you are in – towards an ever greater exposure of the Truth.

yes, these words can point you towards the Truth but these words are after all, only words; they have no inherent Truth in themselves. you must look for yourself.

so here’s a pointer: can you drink this word >>>> WATER ? can you dip your fingers into it? can you get yourself wet with it? what about this word >>>> BREAD ? can you actually eat it? can you smell its fresh aroma? will it stop you from being hungry? now have a think about the word >>>> SUFFERING does that word actually make you feel miserable? does it inflict pain on you?

if you explore this for yourself, you will start to strip away the layers.

how about the things that you see around you right now? let’s say instead of reading this, you are watching footage of DONALD TRUMP on your screen, waving his hands and smiling, with crowds of people around him. is that actually him? is what you are seeing not just an arrangement of coloured pixels lit up by a backlight and projected onto a field of flat glass? when you look closely, you cannot carry on believing that this really is donald trunp can you? now you may notice some EMOTIONS arising. you may label them NEGATIVE you may label them POSITIVE or a mixture of both. what are these emotions? are they actually just impulses moving through the mind and body? electrical connections that pass from the screen to your retina to your brain’s synapses through your nervous system; heart, skin, breath? and surely all this happens before you put a label on them?

let’s turn to look at these body parts a little closer and before you slap the label ME on them all, look at what they really really are: a collection of bones and organs held together by muscles and cartilage? cells and spaces-between-cells arranged to function in a certain way? an assimilation and redistribution of food molecules that are taken in through the hole at the top and pass out of the hole at the bottom? where is the YOU in all of this? in the cells in your brain, skin or heart? in your breath? in the water or bread you digested earlier today?

maybe we are taking the word ME too literally. after all, if we believe wholeheartedly we are seeing footage of donald trump on our screen, when the Truth is that it is only an arrangement of pixels against glass and we believe we feel rage/pleasure coming up when we see him, when in Truth it is only an electrical impulse coursing through synapses and cells, would it not be too much of a stretch to believe that when we take the word ME to be me, it is in Truth only an arrangement of vibrating atoms forming combinations of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus (and a few other trace elements)? no different from the chair, the screen, the trees outside, the sky?

and when we suddenly see the belief that has created this ME; the belief that has created suffering, the belief that has created a path this ME is walking on, the belief that has created the belief the ME can annihilate itself – can we also see that in Truth, these beliefs are actually nothingness being dropped by no one?

and the layers continue to be stripped away; that is All that’s needed.

a correspondence with robert wolff

I wanted to publish two emails from my correspondence with robert wolff (author of Original Wisdom, Rain of Ashes, A Book of Dreams etc.) who died in 2015 at the age of 90+. Although towards the end of his life he had trouble with his eyesight, he still managed to send out newsletters and reply to personal emails in his wonderfully attentive way. The amazing Original Wisdom (and his emails) became my primary source of inspiration for all things ‘nature’ during that time and helped me to set the path along a homeschooling life for my two daughters, which in turn set the tone for the life I now lead. robert’s writings (wildwolff.com) went offline after he died, so I wanted to make some of his words available online here after being inspired by seeing his writing archived by Clinton Callahan here.

26th Feb 2008

Dear robert,
first may I thank you for spending the time to read this email, I am really honoured. I have been very inspired by your writing, especially Original Wisdom, which I first read about a year ago and ever since have referred back to it constantly. I am afraid that I have scribbled and underlined practically every page and it has, over time, become a collection of my thoughts layered upon yours.

Although I find this hard to put into words and I have put-off writing to you for a very long time now, as I have thought to myself – “how can I possibly communicate what is really burning in my heart?” therefore, I will try to be brief and not take up too much of your time.

Do you think it is possible for anyone to experience what you experienced in the jungle without the security and strength of a tribe/extended family around them? I deeply and passionately want to make the connection to All-That-Is and understand that I need to make a shift in my thinking; to put aside the ceaseless thoughts of the modern mind, return to the wonderment of a pre-literate, unconditioned child, but I feel that perhaps I am so entrenched in my western style life, that this transformation maybe too hard to achieve. Despite this, I have attempted to make my thoughts and actions ‘quiet’ and love unconditionally the people around me, as a ‘tribe’ would do. This has given me such strength and protection, but I am not sure that this can replace the real love and support of a ‘family’ such as you experienced.

I live a very rural life – in the French Alps (I am English) without television or radio, in a small wooden chalet with my husband and two daughters. I have, for a long time now strived to live a more ‘primitive’ and isolated life and I feel that to return to ‘original wisdom’ is the key to reaching All-That-Is.

I have read many books on ‘spiritual quests’, quantum physics and ESP etc., but since reading yours, I have turned away from the written word and spent many hours outside sitting in nature (as I always did as a child). I have stripped away the ‘learning’ that I thought I needed to do and have been conditioned to do and tried to experience without feeling the need to learn. I have read about enlightenment in books, but have never had the feeling that anyone (of the western thinkers) has had the experience you have had. I don’t want to read their words anymore. I need to feel this thing without using words.

Recently I have been sitting out above my chalet, overlooking the whole snow-peaked valley, amongst trees, around dusk. I am not sure what to do, so I have just been sitting for hours, waiting. The darkness makes you see and feel things in a different way, encloses you somehow; makes you part of the whole. Sometimes the feeling takes me by surprise, as I realise I have been sitting almost like a tree; motionless, feeling a slight wind on my skin and viewing everything remotely from above. I could never achieve this stillness or depth indoors.

Do you think that it was your exhaustion, or lack of water that shifted your mind into this profound state of seeing? In your book, you make the transformation seem well – easy; the hardest thing seemed to be stripping away that western mind-set after days of walking and observing. But do you feel it was that monotony that eventually quietened and ‘tricked’ your rational mind, or the physical hardship, which caused you to open up your senses? Shamans (well, the western people who say they practise shamanism) say that the mind needs drumming, dancing, or drugs to achieve this state of knowing – they make it sound far from easy, and even then it seems al to be a fleeting experience, to say the least.

Anyway, please don’t feel that you need to answer these questions at all. I am just so happy that I have been able to contact you and let you know how my life has been enriched profoundly through your book. I will continue to sit outside and wait quietly for this way of being, which I now know is possible and absolutely is the way we should ALL experience life – connected to All-That-Is: with no exceptions.

I wish you all the best,
and thank you,

27th Feb 2008

Dear Louisa, thank you for appreciating Original Wisdom. I am fortunate that the publisher continues to keep it on its list — “big” publishers would have dropped it long ago, I have never been able to do what a writer is supposed to do: market, promote the book which of course means promoting myself. The book continues to find its own path, from one reader to another.

I don’t know whether my experience with the Sng’oi was unique. I do know that most other books I have read about aborigines describe these “little people” in somewhat the same words as I do. Most westerners who have visited other ancient tribes did so with enormous preparations, expeditions, bearers, interpreters, etc. Circumstances allowed me to go without much preparation, by myself, or, now and then, with one other person. Once I brought my family — the children of course immediately played with the aborigine children and had no language problems. But I saw something my wife did not see. To her these people were pitiful, desperately poor, dirty little people. They were not dirty, I know, they bathed at least once a day in the river, but the rags they wore (for company) were so ancient that they looked dirt-colored.

No, I don’t think I was exhausted when I finally “got it.” When I suddenly really saw that leaf, felt myself part of all the wildness around me, what happened was — and even then I was quite aware — that I gave up trying. I gave up thinking I should do this or that.

In your email you write “I deeply and passionately want to make the connection to All-That-Is.” In my experience, it is the deeply wanting that stands in the way.

You mention “I want to see, I want to know, I want to reach deep inside the hearts of others; connect with them and connect to my deepest self in the process.”

No, I could not “want” to get deep in the heart of someone else. That is an invasion of privacy. I can only be open myself. I cannot want someone else to be open. I find it very difficult to be open in our western culture. By being open and cannot stop hearing, or perceiving (not exactly “hearing”) people’s thoughts, which is mostly chatter, noise, random and often chaotic. Very painful to be in a crowd. That is why I live alone, Not practical, nor very human, but it is my way of trying to live as the aborigines lived, but in a very inhuman civilization. I get exhausted in town, in large stores. It is all “too much.” Here I can be open, animals and plants are often clear and not at all chaotic, as civilized people are. In our man-made world people do not realize (we are brainwashed to suppress) that their inner life, their thoughts, feelings, judgments, are helter skelter, running together, and not focused. Or focused on an idée fixe.

Hawai’i, away from the tourist spots, is a good place to be. There are still people who, when they are fishing they are fishing. When they are eating, they eat.

I now think that being open also lets us “know.” From what I have experienced of indigenous people, not primitive, but also not locked in our frantic civilization, have this knowing also. I think of it as a human ability, or perhaps even a life form ability, that we suppress in our civilization. From birth we told to distinguish “things,” concentrate on differences. And so we forget, or not allowed, to feel and think in “wholes.” Westerners and westernized indigenous people have great difficult grasping wholes.

Probably, what I am saying is that what you so desperately want is not allowed in our western, man-made culture. It is part of our nature that we are not allowed to develop. That is also why I believe very strongly that being open, knowing, and the talents we used to have, are still in us, and can be remembered, as it were, if we step aside — move out of that civilized conditioning, Not easy, but possible. I have a hunch that it will take a collapse of this civilization to get at least some of the survivors to rediscover these ancient talents. That is what my book Rain of Ashes is about.

Of course it is impossible to describe in words something that has no words. Being-One-With is from before we had words, before our compulsice need to name. We think being aware means being aware of this leaf and that flower and the weather and colors. Not so. Awareness, to me, is being-one-with. Being. The moment I describe in the book was a sudden awareness of not just the drop on the leaf, but the whole everything. Using words to describe that is, by definition, impossible, because we have this convention that a word means one thing (and very often more than one).

Many people have asked me whether “knowing” can be taught. I don’t know. I know it can be learned. We in the west put the emphasis on teaching — as my guide stressed, the emphasis must be on learning.

(Note:  anthropologists have told me that Ameed was not a “shaman,” which has a very specific meaning in anthropology: someone who goes to the spirit world to recover a stolen soul.–he was not that, of course. That chapter is misnamed!).

The second half of my life has been learning, actually mostly unlearning. I call it “stepping aside.” I still know how to live in this modern world; I have to. But I have learned to step aside, and be in what I think of as an older kind of being. Without naming, without words, without judging. Without seeing separate things, but seeing a vibrant, living whole.

Yes, how we approach animals, particularly wild ones, requires gentleness, and also an emptiness of thinking, most of all not “wanting.” Animals (and of course people) sense intention. Our intention should be acceptance: you are you and I am I. Apparently that is very difficult for many westerners to feel because we feel superior. There is a great difference between knowing we are different, and thinking we are better. The same is probably true for wanting to show loving kindness.

Running away tells any animal that we are afraid; Animals see tension in our stance, in our eyes perhaps, in what our hands and feet are doing (we might not even be aware of that). Somehow we, all of us, have to learn again what any young child knows, to just be. No expectation. Aware yes, very much aware. But no feeling, naming, judging, wanting…

From your writing it is obvious that you do feel the being-one-with. There is no need to put it into words. Your children know what you feel, I am certain. That will help them knowing that being-one-with is a perfectly acceptable, even good, way of being. And you will find it easier to step aside and be in that space again.

I was lucky growing up where and when I did. My parents were good people, good European intellectuals. My father Jewish, my mother Mennonite, both almost entirely away from any kind of religion. They loved me conditionally. My mother would say, “if you do this or that I won’t love you,” or, “if you do that I will love you.” I never quite knew where I stood  The people I saw the most of were the servants (I still can hardly stand to write or think that word). They loved me unconditionally.  Westerners don’t know what that means. It does not mean “love” but accepting me as a fellow being. They knew me, as I knew them, I knew their hearts, their temperament, their character even. Some were nice, some were mean. But we knew each other and knew we lived together. I never had any uncertainty about that they would accept me, or be with me. They had no particular expectations for me. They knew that I had healing hands. From the time I was eight or nine they would bring animals to me who were sick or damaged, and I could sometimes touch them and make them better. I learned early on that you don’t say to someone with a pet monkey that the poor thing is dying! So, they told me not to say that. But they did not make a big drama our of that, they just told me that death was not a nice thing to say, and I learned not to say that any more., My mother would have said she was disappointed in me, or I did something wrong with a look of disapproval. Very different.
All of that helped me when I met the aborigines to just see them as they were. I probably saw they were “poor” but I also saw that that was a meaningless concept. They did not use money, they did not need money. Of course I saw that they did not wear much in the way of clothing (and usually only for my sake) but I knew (I smelled) that they were not dirty, they were clean. I was able to see something deeper than the outside, or judging them by my standards.

In the book i write that “I fell in love with them.” I regret that expression. It was the best I could think of at the time, now almost 20 years ago. Since then I have read many books of other people who met aboriginal people. And, amazingly, they describe people in Africa, South America, the Arctic, the same way — people who were free, totally aware of being-one-with their environment, and joyful.
This is my favorite, because it expressed what I felt also:

Peter Matthiessen, The Tree Where Man Was Born, © 1972

…”Shy, they await in a half-circle, much less tall than their bows. “Tsifiaqua!” they murmur, and our people say, “Tsifiaqua mtana,” and then the hunters say, “Mt-aa-na!” for warm emphasis, smiling wholeheartedly. (Tsifiaqua is “afternoon” as in “good afternoon,” and mtana is “nice” as in “nice day.” and tsifiaqua m-taa-na, as the hunters say it, may mean, “Oh beautiful day!” I am smiling wholeheartedly too, and so is Enderlein; my smile seems to travel right around my head. The encounter in the sunny wood is much too simple, too beautiful to be real, yet it is more real than anything i have known in a long time. I feel a warm flood of relief, as if I had been away all my life and had come home again —I want to embrace them all.”

(Matthiessen traveled with a friend, Enderlein, and bearers of course: an expedition)

That feeling of coming home, is what I felt. A deep inside feeling of recognition, a resonance, to use a modern word, with something basically human. That is how we were 10,000 years ago, before we learned to think of ourselves as not only different but better than all other creation. Before we were so sure of our own top of the heap superiority. Before we thought we owned the planet to do with as we wish. Today it is obvious how that has worked — we are well on the way to destroy the planet, eradicate all life we have no use for, and very possibly extinguish ourselves. Not very smart.

That recognition of a basic humanity is also why I think that “knowing” and feeling-one-with are inside us. It is not a new skill we need to learn. It is still inside us, all we have to do is step aside and have that ancient self come up. It is like remembering  how to ride a bike after 30 years not riding one. Or remembering how to swim after half a life time not swimming.

The original title of the book was


The new publishers did not like that long and cumbersome title, and a committee came up with Original Wisdom, etc. The book is not only about aborigines. When people ask me what the most “important” chapter of the book is, I always say the chapter of the deaf mute who invented a rice mill, which worked. The villagers were proud of him as a genius, but they did not use his invention. To westerners that is strange. Whatever we invent “therefore we must make” and since we live in a capitalist world, we then have to sell, and in order to do that we must create a need for our invention. To me that seems utterly upside down thinking. But, that is our so-called civilization, getting daily less civil.

Most of these thoughts are on my web site, in books and essays published on the internet, and two other books published in paper. I am sure you have discovered that.

Again, thank you for your wonderful email. So far I have been able to answer everyone who wrote…

Let go, step aside, you may be surprised what is in you


(I do get carried away, even after cutting our half of what I wrote at first!)

You can read the archive of robert’s newsletters online here
and a podcast ‘What it is to be Human’ from future primitives here.
and another interview from the Rob Call Show here.