Omega: Can you give a simple definition of nondual spirituality?
Sharon: The simplest way to describe it is the direct way of turning the attention back onto itself, of coming back to who you are. The classic definition is “you are what you’re looking for.”
While that sounds abstract, when you sit quietly, you find that 98 percent of the time, if not more, your attention is mostly going out. I use the body as the anchor because it’s our most intimate, moment-by-moment companion. When you bring the attention behind your eyes, you immediately sense a quieting, an emptiness, a lack of identity and separation. Then you drop quietly into the interior of your body, and there you are—the essential life force that’s illuminating the body. This is your ground of being—nothing would exist without this. It’s the most direct experience of the nondual, of what is there before our thoughts divide things out into good or bad, etc.
Omega: We have an uncomfortable relationship with the body in this culture. How can we access our true nature that way if we’re not comfortable in our own skin?
Sharon: You have to drop below the conditioning about the body, focus your attention, and come back to the pure essence of the foundation. When you do, there’s automatically a sense of home, of ease, of being able to let go.
Because we’re so conditioned around the body, it can take a while. It’s like going into unknown territory—which is kind of silly if you think about it, since it’s our body. But when you go into this unknown territory, you find it’s the most direct and accessible way to find stillness.
Looking for awareness in the cosmos, which is vast and mysterious, may not be as accessible to people. But the body is immediate and accessible. Once you’ve experienced it in your body, you can return there anytime.
Omega: You mentioned attention and awareness, two words that sometimes get used interchangeably. Can you define what you mean by them?
Sharon: You could define pure awareness as the source of everything. Attention is the portal that pure awareness pours forth from. As human beings, attention is our hook up to awareness, so to speak. When we see our attention is in the future, on images on the screen of the mind, or in memory, fantasy, or projection, we can bring our attention back in, and it begins to fuse with awareness. When the attention is with awareness, there is no longer an artificial split or division.
You may need to bring your attention back 100 or 500 times a day or more. Retreats really help you learn to do this by giving you undivided, nonfractured time where that is all you do—you come back, come back, and come back again.
Omega: Why is silence so fundamental to your teaching?
Sharon: Silence is the awake presence, the ground of being. At first I didn’t experience it that way. It was more like a place of no light, no feeling, no states, no insight, no lifting up, no nothing. That didn’t sound very interesting to me!
But as it kept unfolding, it was more silent and still and deep and revealing, and eventually, I saw it as the fundamental ground of everything. At that point silence became a focus of my meditations. Rather than being a sterile, nothing, emptiness, it contains the potentiality of everything. It’s there even before light. It’s the marrow of the marrow of the marrow of the bone. And there is nothing better. It’s a refuge and a constant and the only thing that remains.
Sometimes people will want to grab onto stillness once they discover it and not open up because it feels safe. They’ll resist relationships, interconnection, engagement, and intimacy. But if you just relax, because these things can’t be separated out, the silence will lead you to things like unconditional love.
Omega: What’s the most common question you get from students?
Sharon: I often hear, “I had it, but I lost it.” People have glimpses of the silence, true glimpses, over and over again, and the natural result of those glimpses is that repressed conditioning is freed. When the mind is no longer holding down the energy through conditioning, wounds, memories, or karmic patterns, it’s liberated. As these patterns come to the surface, it obscures the glimpses and it can look like you’ve lost it. In reality, it’s working perfectly. Glimpses chip away at the habit of “I” in the mind and the contents of the mind and body.
Connected to that are questions about the tendency to push down and cover up deep conditioning as you start to have true shifts in identity. It’s the spiritual bypass. As we see our true nature, these deep conditionings come up—and these things don’t fit together. So a person will set up all sorts of spiritual concepts and idealisms, hiding things in shame. People will look at them and think, “Hmmm…I thought she had awakened.” But the brighter the awakening is, the deeper the conditioning is that will be exposed. One of the biggest surprises about awakening is it’s not the end. It’s actually the beginning.
This is why it’s important to work with a teacher or guide that knows that and can just keep guiding and pointing you to the light as awareness penetrates the patterns and frees up the human being. I think it’s one of the deeper definitions of resurrection, bringing all those bound, repressed, and denied things into the light to disappear and dissolve. We’re not integrating the ego or the mind or the identities with awakened nature; it’s like all that is liberated, dissolved, and replaced. As humans we’ll never be perfect, but you’ll see different quirks as just part of the stew of being more real and authentic, and you’ll just giggle at them rather than getting stuck on them. That’s the freedom.
© 2018 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies