Excerpt From “The Open Path: Recognizing Nondual Awareness” by Elias Amidon

open_path_100Interest in nondual awareness as the essence of spiritual awakening, free from the obligations and cultural references of a particular religion, is rapidly expanding throughout the Western world. Those who have sought out and followed spiritual paths, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Kabbalism, etc., have often found themselves coming up against a kind of ceiling in their longing for spiritual awakening. This can be a result of the religion’s cultural context or a belief system that may not see awakening as something within the reach of adherents. So, many serious spiritual students have turned to nonsectarian teachers to further their practice. These readers will find The Open Path to be an excellent guide to the realization of the silent ground of all being and to the expression of that realization in the diverse conditions of their lives. The book includes very helpful exercises and practices that foster a sense of equanimity and natural insight, as well as methods and teachings from many sources: Sufism, psychology, meditation traditions, and both Eastern and Western nondual teachers.


Release at Inception

In a future chapter we will explore the dynamic described by the fourteenth-century Tibetan Dzogchen master Longchenpa, called release at inception. I would like to introduce it here briefly, however, as a way to conclude this chapter. My hope is it will serve to ease any possible sense you may have, after reading all of this, that mental constructions and fixations represent problems requiring a lot of skill and effort to get rid of. They don’t. Yes, fixations have a stubborn tendency to show up again and again in our mind stream — that’s why they’re called fixations — but in themselves they are like all other mental phenomena that arise in our awareness: they originate out of nothing (that is, they aren’t there before they are), seem to abide for a moment or two (although they don’t exactly “abide” in a fixed way), and then they vanish back into nothing without any effort on our part. They are released naturally.

You can test this for yourself right now. Try to generate the feeling-tone of one of your common fixations — for example, a typical situation in which you feel you need to justify yourself. If you are successful at generating this feeling-tone, even to a small degree, you may notice that the pattern of the fixation, with its accompanying emotional state, arises in your awareness for a moment or two, and then begins to dissipate, and will vanish altogether unless you repeat the thought or image that stimulated it.

Over the next twenty-four hours you might try this again with a few real-life “fixation situations.” For example, there may be a situation in which you feel unsure of yourself and don’t know what to do. Notice that the thought-feeling of uncertainty appears, seems to abide for a while, and then naturally dissolves into the next thing that happens. And if you look carefully you may notice that even in the moments when it seems to “abide,” it is changing and moving, becoming stronger, diminishing, adding new elements, etc. It doesn’t even “abide” as the same thing for more than an instant.

Let’s try another example: say you suddenly feel a flash of anger at your partner because once again she didn’t put the top back on the toothpaste tube, even though you’ve asked her to do so many times. You shout, “I hate it when you do that!” As soon as you shout, you remember this suggestion, and do your best to notice what’s happening. You notice the typical sensations of anger: heat rising in your chest and face, the distance between your righteous point of view and your partner’s behavior, a near-immediate flood of mental justifications for raising your voice, etc. Now watch what happens. Either your point of view gets reinforced by more justifications (e.g., recounting all the previous wrong-doings of your partner), or it immediately starts to dissipate, naturally, on its own, if you don’t add fuel to its fire.

This natural dissipating is sometimes called the “self-liberating” quality of phenomena.

The Dzogchen recognition of “release at inception” points to the same quality. In the words of Dzogchen teacher/translator Keith Dowman, release at inception entails “confidence in the simultaneity of the inception and release of thought that induces a constant opening up that turns into seamless thought-free openness.” And as Longchenpa describes it:

Whatever occurs externally as the manifold appearance of the five types of external objects (forms, sounds, smells, tastes and tangibles) or internally as some mental activity, at the very moment of its inception as a field it is seen just as it is, and by the force of its advent it is fully potentiated and then vanishes by itself — how could it possibly remain? — released without a trace, and in that moment the three crucial functions — carefree detachment in whatever arises, access to wide-open spaciousness, and easy relaxation into the appearance upon its inception — are assimilated.[1]

It is not necessary to understand everything referred to by Longchenpa in this passage right now. The important thing is simply to begin to explore and appreciate, through your own experience, that every perception that arises in your awareness, whether thought, emotion, or sensation, “vanishes by itself.” When we no longer put energy into repeating mental phenomena, they vanish! This is the natural release of fixations.

Through the constant practice of relaxing the grip of our attractions, aversions, and the reactive fixations that express themselves from our preferences, we open to a serenity in our lives that allows us to accept each experience as it arises — simply because that’s what’s happening — without turbulent reactivity.

Rather than losing anything through releasing attachment to our likes and dislikes, our experience opens us to the possibility of the most profound intimacy.

A final example: imagine you are on your death bed. You know you have only an hour or two left in this life. Your closest friend is beside you. What would be most helpful to you in that moment? Would it be your friend responding to your imminent death with emotional reactivity from layers of fixations about loss, fear of death, attachment to you, etc.? Or would it be more helpful if your friend were serene, free of fixations, and completely present to you in those moments, accepting what is?

[1] Longchenpa, Natural Perfection, Ó Keith Dowman, 2010. Reprinted from Natural Perfection: Longchenpa’s Radical Dzogchen with permission from Wisdom Publications, 199 Elm Street, Somerville, MA 02144 USA, p. 107. http://www.wisdompubs.org.


e_amidonElias Amidon is the spiritual director (Pir) of the Sufi Way International. He has been an initiate of the Sufi Way for the past forty-two years. Pir Elias has also studied with Qadiri Sufis in Morocco, Theravaden Buddhist teachers in Thailand, Native American teachers of the Assemblies of the Morning Star, Christian monks in Syria, Zen teachers of the White Plum Sangha, and contemporary teachers in the Dzogchen tradition. From child to elder, Pir Elias has lived a multifaceted, engaged life. The son of an artist and a social activist, he has worked as a schoolteacher, carpenter, architect, professor, writer, anthologist, environmental educator, peace activist, wilderness quest guide, and spiritual teacher. He helped develop several schools, including the Boulder Institute for Nature and the Human Spirit, the graduate program in Environmental Leadership at Naropa University, and the Open Path. He has a Bachelors degree in literature from Antioch College and has written six books. Pir Elias has been leading programs in Sufism for over three decades, and Open Path programs for the past six years. He resides in Boulder, Colorado but continues to travel widely, both teaching Open Path programs and engaging in citizen diplomacy. His website is http://www.sufiway.org.



Excerpt From “The Tao of Walt Whitman: Daily Insights and Actions to Achieve a Balanced Life” by Connie Shaw and Ike Allen

tao_100Walt Whitman, whose Leaves of Grass was called “the secular Scripture of the United States” by Harold Bloom, is a source of contemporary inspiration. His ecumenical wisdom, which includes both transcendentalism and realism, is encapsulated here in short verses for each day of the year. These, along with a daily action step, become a springboard for readers to transform themselves. The sublime poetry combined with exercises for self-reflection will make this unique pocket-sized daybook a constant companion for those seeking greater balance in their lives. In a world in which poetry has few readers, the authors have created a format to make it accessible and inspire a new audience to find value and use in this genre. By giving readers a context of action or contempation in which to find their own meaning in the text, they reinvigorate the appreciation of the poetic word. Whether the reader is new to Whitman, or poetry altogether, or is already steeped in the words of the masters, they will find in this volume new ways to approach poetic language and their own lives, regardless of their generation. This is a book to share with grandmothers, best friends, young adults, and book groups, and anyone who wants to plumb the depths of poetic wisdom while learning more about themselves.


Week 1 – Truth


All truths wait in all things,

They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,

They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon,

The insignificant is as big to me as any,

What is less or more than a touch?

If you’re open to the pedestrian moments along with the larger revelations as you go about your activities, perhaps you will discover some heretofore hidden truth. And you might try answering Whitman’s question as well.


Only what proves itself to every man and woman is so

What are the bedrock principles, truths, or realities you live by? Can they be denied by anyone? Do you think Whitman is right?


O truth of the earth! O truth of things! I am determined to press the whole way toward you,

Sound your voice! I scale mountains or dive in the sea after you.

How committed are you to the truth? To paraphrase Tracy Chapman, “If everything you think you know is wrong, would you change?” Write about 3 things that you’re lying to yourself about and what steps you can take to change things.


The earth does not withhold, it is generous enough,

The truths of the earth continually wait, they are not so conceal’d either,

They are calm, subtle, untransmissible by print,

They are imbued through all things conveying themselves willingly

Give a try at expressing one of “the truths of the earth” in some way other than through words. Perhaps paint a picture, dance a dance, create a melody…


All must have reference to the ensemble of the world, and the compact truth of the world,

There shall be no subject too pronounced

Take one of your most firmly held beliefs and go through your day imagining that the opposite is true. For example, if you sincerely feel that someone in your daily sphere presents a challenge to your wellbeing, take every opportunity to notice ways in which this may not be so.


What do you suppose creation is?

What do you suppose will satisfy the soul, except to walk free and own no superior?

What do you suppose I would intimate to you in a hundred ways, but that man or woman is as good as God?

And that there is no God any more divine than Yourself?

Spend time contemplating the meaning of this. Is this true?


I spent this week continuously asking myself what I could actually say was true. What was true for me? I noticed that my truth was not necessarily true for others. By the end of the week, I noticed that the only thing it seemed everyone could agree on was that we were all having a common experience. Beyond that, it seemed we each translated truth in our way to support us in this experience. What is true for me is that I create my own truths and I choose to create ideas that make my experience here filled with joy by whatever name. I invite you to enjoy your truths and embrace the truth others share with you. –iKE


Connie Shaw is a publisher and poetry lover who lives in Boulder, Colorado. Ike Allen is co-creator of the film Leap! and other movies about consciousness. He leads transformational seminars internationally, and also lives in Boulder.

More Info And Photos: http://sentientpublications.com/authors/c_shaw.php, http://sentientpublications.com/authors/i_allen.php