We have been on a wondrous journey of soul searching and self-discovery for as long as we can remember.
At first, we travelled the path alone, and then by divine grace, we came together as husband and wife to continue our journey in the presence of Divine Love. The inexplicable joy of just being with each other opened the way for a deeper and more intimate connection with the divine and every moment shared was relished and savoured like fine wine. There was hardly ever a time that we were apart; we lived, prayed and worked together and shared every thought, feeling and emotion. With each expression of honesty and vulnerability, we drew ever closer. Sometimes we became so absorbed into each other that our reality seemed to bypass any attachment to individual identity.
Even though we were happy, it was becoming increasingly apparent that we had reached a plateau in our spiritual growth that we seemed unable to move beyond. It felt as though we were continually going round in circles looking for some important piece of knowledge or understanding that would make everything fit together, but were never able to find it. After meditating on this quandary for some time, the answer arrived with blinding clarity. It was not some missing understanding or hidden knowledge that was preventing us from progressing but our concepts and perceptions about ourselves and the world. After pondering and discussing this new revelation at great length, we concluded that if we were to transcend the barrier, the gap between the way we perceive reality and the way it is we would have to close; how to do this was not clear.
We had not long returned from an overseas trip, which culminated in conducting a couple of workshops in Singapore when we decided to take another month off and travel around New Zealand in a camper van. While going through the majestic snow-capped mountains of the South Island, we received the clarity we were seeking. Soon after, we reached a decision to withdraw from the life as we knew it and retreated into solitude for as long as it would take to correct our perception and raise our level of consciousness. Therefore, despite limited finances and the possibility of no further income, we followed through with our inner guidance and placed our trust on our higher calling and committed to retreat from the world indefinitely.
It was not long before we found, a couple of hours north of Brisbane, a charming little country cottage on a small acreage surrounded by a nature reserve. It was just perfect; trees on all sides, a small dam for watering the garden and a large work shed. What more could we want? It was comfortable, quiet, isolated and affordable. After doing a little cosmetic surgery to the house and revitalising it with a coat of fresh paint, we happily settled in, absorbing the peaceful vibrations of the beautiful environment. There was plenty of timber on the property to keep our combustion heater glowing during the chilly winter evenings. We would sit in front of the fire for hours, gazing at the dancing flames as ideas and concepts unfolded right before our very eyes. Sometimes there was no need for words; just a smile and a tender touch would suffice to communicate the state of being. In winter, most of the days were bright and warm, allowing us to sit on the back lawn and bask in the glorious winter sunshine as we would continue to contemplate, share, laugh and just enjoying being in the presence of life.
During late spring and early summer, we would frequently sit on the back veranda watching afternoon thunderstorms dump a load of rain on our garden and fill the water tanks to overflowing. In contrast, the summers were quite hot and seemed to last for a long time. Each season brought its magic, insights, opportunities and new revelations. We removed most of the outside distractions including television, radio, all forms of media and newspapers, as well as contact with other people, except a few close friends and family, whom we saw occasionally. To avoid or limit our exposure to busy places, we would drive into town for our groceries late in the evening when everything was quiet.
Often on a Sunday, we would visit the local markets for our fruit and veggies, and then go for a leisurely drive exploring the surrounding countryside. It seemed that the energy of the country was conducive with our vibration, and we delighted in its beauty. Even the cows we would pass appeared to convey the message that everything was alive with life, and it was not uncommon for us to shed tears of joy. During the weekdays, we would keep ourselves active by taking daily walks and maintaining the property and doing the basics of living. Apart from all that, most of our time was absorbed in prayer, meditation, self-inquiry and reading spiritual literature. In effect, we had created our personal ashram, a place without the intrusions of normal life where we could go deep within. In this rarefied atmosphere, we began a journey of surrender and healing that eventually changed our lives forever.
What unfolded during the following years cannot be adequately described in words, as the experiences were mainly subjective and revelatory in nature. We knew the undertaking was a process of correcting misperceptions and removing conflicts of mind but had no idea what was involved or what each of us would subsequently confront. However, we were confident that the intensity of our love for one another, together with our unwavering determination, would somehow see us through. One of our intentions was to align our relationship with God’s love completely, and thereby open the door of Divine Union. To do this meant making adjustments in many areas of life and giving up old beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. As we discovered this was not always easy and required constant vigilance, but the unwavering determination eventually paid off.
As the months and years passed, the unfoldment became more intense, compelling us to deal with one thing after another, which at times stretched us to the limit. Our emotions fluctuated from bliss to despair. As many of our distorted belief patterns around relationships, love, sexuality and spirituality erupted to the surface with full force, we had no choice but to acknowledge and feel their full emotional effects. This relentless processing at times severely challenged our sense of identity, which stressed us even further. It often resulted in physical and emotional discomfort, followed by periods of despair or anxiety. The symptoms would usually persist until the particular mental or emotional conflict was released. Sometimes this could vary from a few hours to days, months, or in some cases even years, depending on how deeply rooted the conflict was. While doing our best to remain unattached and without judgment, we examined and experienced many emotional wounds and did whatever possible to heal them, although occasionally there was severe resistance due to the habitual tendencies of the ego. On other occasions, when we were willing to identify the cause of the error, we would move through the emotions and clear the conflict within a short period. The shadow side of our ego was now being exposed like never before and at times appeared repulsive and intolerable.
This period of the relentless processing represented the most difficult part of the journey and proved to be very confrontational, especially when elements of shame, guilt and judgments were still strongly attached to our sense of self-identity. As the process unfolded further, we began to recognise subtle patterns of unconscious guilt that were still very deeply embedded in our psyche. Some of these patterns were hard to understand because they did not appear to have any causal relationship to our current life. However, it was evident that regardless of their origin the unconscious guilt had to be healed. For we knew that unless all emotional wounds are completely healed, the narcissistic ego will continue to derive pleasure from them, thus blocking the flow of divine love. With this in mind, we allowed the processes to proceed without opposition. Although at times there was still some resistance, the willingness to take full ownership and responsibility was firmly established for both us.
Through all of this, we came to realise that some of our past actions that were done in the name of love were nothing more than the ego’s subtle manipulative tools driven by its neediness, expectations, and demands, which were in disharmony with the actual essence of love. Hence, in addition to everything else, we accepted the importance of challenging and examining our past behaviours in view of uncovering the real motives behind them. In doing so, we discovered deep-rooted self-deception, much of which dated back to our teenage and childhood years. These motives too had to be released and brought back into alignment and harmony with truth.
Bit by bit, our concepts about spirituality, relationships, love and sexuality became re-contextualised, as did our whole idea about life in general. Throughout it all, we came to understand that dissatisfaction and suffering are no more than characteristics of resistance. When the ego is threatened or does not get what it expects, it either resists what ‘is’ and tries to change the situation by force, or it attempts to project the problem outside of self; but as we discovered this always results in more suffering. Hence, it did not take long to realise that relinquishing those treasured characteristics of ego through humility and compassion was a lot easier and by far quicker than doing it by default through pain and suffering.
Even though we had come a long way and cleared away a lot of debris the job was not done yet, for the ego still had a firm grip in some areas of our perception. Intensifying our efforts even further and look for more efficient ways to release the ego’s grip seemed like the only way to move forward. What followed appeared to be our only viable cause of action capable of disarming the ego once and for all.
We had to start withdrawing our attention from all objectionable content of mind and focus only on what was true in the present moment. This change marked the beginning of an entirely new phase of our journey that focused on deep self-enquiry. Progressively the enquiry probed every corner of our mind for all traces of truth and falsehood, desires, passions, beliefs and attachments. Consequently, we discovered more erroneous beliefs and concepts, many of which were inherited from our respective cultures and families. Throughout this process, there were many instances when we brought the light of truth to old concepts, and they melted away easily. Others were not so easy to shift and required a lot of vigilance and discipline to keep the ego from contaminating the process. Additionally, some needed a great deal more time and effort to change, and often the full change was not achieved straight away, even if the immediate symptoms were gone. In fact, we noticed that it was entirely possible for the old patterns to re-emerge when least expected, until such time that the energies have been fully cleared and the conflicts resolved. By this, we understood the immense importance of never becoming complacent.
As the layers peeled off, one by one new quality emerged which were more in alignment with the actual essence of love. Deeper states of joy, peace and love were being experienced which eventually brought about a profound realisation of our eternal nature. The love and devotion for God engulfed our every thought, for divinity was now more real than the physical life. Our relationship with each other also took on a transcendent quality that defies explanation.
Countless hours were spent in meditation and prayer contemplating the omnipresence of God, which often left us in states of bliss. At times, the recognition of God’s love would become so overwhelming that there was nothing to do but remain silent and let tears of joy stream forth. In such moments, we could gaze into each other’s eyes and feel the duality dissolve completely. Thoughts and feelings flowed freely without resistance. With the distinctions between us evaporating like the morning mist, the two became one, and the one knew itself as the many; no words can ever do justice to such an experience. We had finally tasted the nectar of Divine Union as God’s love flowed freely between us for the first time.
A transcendent state had arrived, but we could not maintain it for long, especially when a fearful thought arose such as, “What if we lose one another, or if one of us dies?” With these thoughts, the fear of loss emerged to tarnish the experience and end the blissful state, for fear and love cannot co-exist. Even knowing that loss is not possible, our emotional response demonstrated that traces of fear still existed within. Therefore, we prayed for grace and allowed ourselves to feel the full intensity of the fear each time it came to the surface. As more and more love was allowed to flow, the miraculous happened beyond comprehension. The fear would completely melt away, leaving us in states of illumination and clarity which was accompanied by the inner knowledge that far transcended the intellect. Teachings that were previously obscured became understandable; scriptures and spiritual truths shone out of the pages with blinding clarity. Many of the paradoxes and conundrums became unified into one expression of infinite life. Concepts that previously appeared irreconcilable were united. The missing links all seemed to fall into place as though they had always been there but were hidden from our sight. The mysteries were dissolving, and the light of truth shone like never before. The consciousness was rapidly expanding in all directions like an exploding universe illuminating everything in its path.
During the peak of such experiences, the ego would often become stunned into silence; the after effect of which seemed to create a permanent and lasting increase of conscious awareness. It was now evident that a more robust quality of consciousness had arisen that was not previously apparent. Our transition into this more awakened state altered our experience of reality entirely, which finally led to a simplicity of truth that is as perennial as life itself. No longer did we need to rely on scriptures and spiritual teachings to show us the way to truth, for we discovered that the truth is ever-present everywhere. The refined belief patterns and spiritual energies gained through our incredible journey have provided an ambience of awareness where revelations of divine wisdom can occur spontaneously at any time; all it requires is a desire to know the truth and a willingness to accept it. This expansion of consciousness did not come through the intellect or believing in anything; rather it came through direct revelation. It is not until the ego, and all its illusions are fully confronted and seen for what they are that the consciousness awakens to truth.
When we finally felt called to end our retreat and emerge after more than three years of solitude, there were few remnants of the former personalities. The old ego-self had been dissolved, and in place was a greater self, a Higher-Self, which had always been there but was previously hidden. It also became apparent that the intense soul attraction we felt for each other from the beginning, as well as the subsequent awakening, were due to perfectly matched soul patterns. In conjunction with our intense desire for spiritual awakening seemed to bring about a critical mass that tipped the balance, finally cracking the shell of the ego.
Our shift in consciousness did not occur due to some miraculous or spontaneous awakening as some people have reported; rather it was a gradual progression in response to a longing in our soul to awaken to truth. It required a strong personal intention and commitment to healing what was in disharmony with love. By accepting complete responsibility and recognising that as individuals we alone are the author of each and every experience, we were able to reach beyond our dreams into the loving arms of God.
Reintegrating back into society took some adjustment, as we had to assimilate our broader perspective with that of the consensus world. At times, this was challenging for we had forgotten the ways of the world along with the common problems associated with living a conventional life. However, in time, we learnt ways to communicate as well as translate our wisdom into metaphors and contexts that could be valuable to others and easily understood. Our journey continues and will always be a work in progress. There is much in front of us yet to be experienced and many things that cannot yet be anticipated. The body still performs its functions just like always and to an onlooker all appears the same. However, now we are not so bound by the consensus world, for we know it is only the Soul that lives, and it is the Soul that opens to the Spirit of God.
Ultimately, the choice rests with each one of us to take full responsibility for healing our emotional wounds and conflicts. In so doing we will no longer hold ourselves as victims or in contempt but instead, begin to feel real compassion for ourselves and every sentient being. Circumstances can unfold that seem confounding, but we can learn to surrender to them and entrust the outcome to God. It is through this that we can rise above our ignorance and suffering and enter into a state of true self-knowledge. However, before we awaken, we must relinquish the role of the ego and be willing to heal the wounded emotions. With deep surrender and allowance, along with a willingness to give up attachments and judgments, the ego can be tamed. The ego must become our servant, not our master.
For us to recognise our true connection with the omnipresence of God, we must cultivate and bring into personal awareness the essence and reality of that truth. To be devoted to truth requires commitment and discipline; otherwise, the spiritual energy becomes dissipated, and without the flow of high spiritual energy one is unable to transcend the obstacles and blockages.
Simply speaking, the state of Self-realisation is nothing more than having an un-conflicted mind that has entered a higher level of understanding and discernment. If we are willing to take responsibility for clearing our misperceptions and distortions, and at the same time align ourselves with the principles of divine love, we will be able to relieve much suffering and live a holy life of peace and harmony. The ultimate state of human consciousness does not result in inertia, aversion or avoidance of this world; rather it becomes a full abundant and joyful embracing of all life. It changes a loss to gain, fear to love, and death to life. Herein lays the eternal freedom of everlasting life to which all humanity is destined.
With love and gratitude
Angelica & Terence Atman