Dissolving into Awareness. ~ Kathryn Ashworth

Via on Sep 11, 2013

Smash the Wall.

When I was 17, a boy my age sat down next to me just outside the lunch hall at school, looked into my eyes, and I dissolved, becoming as Ram Dass famously called a single point of awareness.

I have tried to explain this out of body experience to a few close friends and they’ve equated this moment with falling in love. Although love is often equally indescribable, from what I know, the event outside the lunch hall was not like the final scene in Sixteen Candles.

I did not fall in love with anyone that day. I simply turned into nothing but love. My body faded and something else held me. The hallway, the room, nothing existed really. There was just some falling, a fading into a vortex that pulsated the rhythm of what already is.

Timeless, I could not remember how long I’d been gone, or what it meant to be gone when something of me had still been present.

And when I came back to earth my eyes adjusted to new light; like a camera focusing once more on an object from what was the objective reality—from wherevever it was, where everything faded that identified people and things and context—there was nothing but the being, with and without. It felt just like being love.

“…a love that incorporates the chair and the room and permeates everything around. The thinking mind is extinguished in love.” ~ Ram Dass

While I am now able to somewhat articulate the event, the reference I have been using, passed down from Ram Dass, Sri Ramana, and spiritual seekers alike was not on my radar at the time. The moment was somehow pushed aside, stored with a sense of distance somewhere within the mind.

In years to come, that moment outside the lunch hall would still elude me, and yet although what I met in him was otherworldly, my friend was not some epiphenomenon, nor was he a conscious agent of God. He was just… someone.

Chip moved to my hometown from sunny Florida. He had wooly blonde hair and deep-set, blue eyes. His initials were C.A.R.E. Our first conversation was about the veganism/vegetarian movement. I remember shielding my art projects from him while we would walk between classes. I never told  him my grades in case he would  realize how little I cared or tried.  He always assumed the best, saying things like; I seemed like the “intellectual type.”

There was always something new to learn about Chip. He was a surprise. The day of our talent show tryouts he dressed as a mime and just screamed. “Do you think I made it?” he later asked. It still makes me laugh (and did then) because I didn’t know what to feel or say. It was like the time he came to school with his grandmother’s cane because he’d slept on his leg wrong, which was also the same day he wore his sister’s turtleneck to school.

There was this quiet intuition, the day he slept in class, when I remember looking back at him, thinking, “I am so glad he is here right now.” Something inside of me missed him very much, even then, as though he were already gone.

Shortly after Prom, Chip went to the public library to return a movie. He offered a classmate of ours a ride home. The classmate took Chip’s life because he wanted to steal his car. In my memory it was raining, but isn’t it always raining when a loved one dies? Chip’s body was found in the trunk. He had been shot and later his body had been burned. It was the single most horrifying news I had ever received in my life.

Six months after his murder I went to college and stumbled into an anthropology degree. I wanted to study what it meant to be human. By senior year I was preparing to go to the Amazon for fieldwork. My professors believed in my abilities and, academically speaking, I was on my way. But an Anthropology of Religion course, taken just before my trip, asked me to examine things within myself that had been lying dormant for years, changing everything.

Our curriculum asked not only that we question the reality of culture, but the reality of reality. The class was structured through Vedic philosophy, though not outright. If I am honest, I hardly know what happened, or what we were being taught at all. I became lost in a haze just after my professor looked towards us one afternoon in class and asked a simple question, “Who are you?”

“We’re fascinated by the words—but where we meet is in the silence behind them.”

~ Ram Dass

It may have been a simple question, but it shook me inside out because my response was not, “Kathryn Ashworth, a 24 year old college student who is taking your class right now, who likes to read, who hangs out with friends, and drinks too much coffee- (Duh!).” Rather my mind traveled inwards, and deeply, to that so-long-ago-day buried deep inside my chest, completely distilled and frozen in my subconscious; unopened.

For the first time in five long years, I sat with timelessless. I wove the memory of that so-long-ago-day through my course literature. Somehow the text merged with the moment, and concepts began to surface. Soon, there was only one word: Silence. And as I meditated on the moment, slowly but surely, I began to dissolve once more. But experiencing that love, again, was more than I could bear.

Life can be traumatic. My recourse has always been to build a sturdy fortress between anyone else’s world and my own. In large, not getting too close to life has been my survival mechanism, and in truth, I’ve never let anyone in. Some months into our friendship, long after that moment outside the lunch hall, Chip and I were talking on the phone. He began to notice my ebb and flow, the way I moved like the wind just outside the reach of deeper friendship, and this is what he said to me:

“Kathryn, you’ve got to smash the wall with a hammer.”

“What wall?” I laughed.

“I’m going to go eat some cereal.”

click. dial tone…

“What wall?”

He left me there.

The day I learned Chip had died, I went outside because it was the only place I felt I could feel him. I remember sitting there, staring at the trees, breathing new breath when a strange thought crept into my head, You’d feel better about everything if you got some Chinese food. I wasn’t particularly hungry, but followed the sign. When my food arrived I picked at it with my chopsticks, feeling no different. But by the time I opened my fortune I began to understand the message. It read:

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.”

On the back, it said: “Read Chinese: I miss you. 我想念你.”

Finding myself deeper inside that shell was a shock to me. In my own way, I had been trying all these years since his passing to smash the wall. School was a part of this. I saw smashing the wall as defying limitations. I also saw it as walking around with a smile plastered on my face (that wasn’t real).

What I found was I had never wanted to come out from behind it, because in order to do that, I would have to face a trauma-centered ego. The very same ego that was confronted and terrorized each time I became love.

I wanted to dig deeper so I sought a living master.

“What you seek is seeking you.” ~ Rumi

I was living in England so it was strange that the Master would be so close, in Portugal, to be exact. By chance I found Monte Sahaja (the home of Guru Mooji) online and I saw they were seeking volunteers, so I applied. Within 24 hours I heard back. Within a week I was accepted into the program. Within a month I was there, feet on the dusty ground. It was all entirely out of character, and it certainly wasn’t the Amazon, but some soft whisper through all those months and years must have led me there.

The first night I heard Mooji speak I wept uncontrollably because he was speaking through the same spirit that had been there, with me, in that moment of single pointed awareness.

Silence. He spoke of silence. He spoke of the ineffable kiss from within when we dissolve from external reality into what he called the ‘true self.’ It was through this silence that we were to greet each other at the ashram. No one could understand what it meant until now, not even I, but everyone here did—and I was finally starting to. It was the space between two sets of eye, and there we were—living inside the gaze—evaporating.

We planted trees and flowers during the day, or built mud houses and worked construction. Many of the women I met had shaven heads. Many of the volunteers had changed their names.

There was a lot of joy. Nighttime celebrations began and ended in the same way, around a fire, singing Bahjans, drinking chai as our eyes collectively moved inward.

There was a black and white stray cat that would often curl in our lap as we huddled close to the flames. She liked the company, and the warmth, on such cool nights.

I remember feeling as though I was becoming empty.

Some nights I would walk back to my room and my body was nothing but the stars above me. Other days I returned in full force and just cried some more. There was something shy about this letting go. It was a process of dying, and like an animal, I just wanted to bury myself in the woods for a while before I passed on to another side.

Each Sunday, Satsang pulled me deeper and deeper into the stars. I was always surprised to hear that in some way or another, we all share in the same stories, the same joys, and the same trauma. I knew that we were all here for that same sweet freedom, just beyond whatever kept us buried beyond love. Here we came from all over the world just to be one.

“Satsang is the invitation to step into the fire of self-discovery. This fire will not burn you, it will burn only what you are not.” ~ Mooji

The girl from Japan…

I will never forget the girl from Japan, but I do not remember her name. When she arrived there was a silence in her that was beyond the vow we volunteers had made. It was not a silence that had anything to do with God. It was the kind which provides the wheelbarrow to the brick and the brick to the mortar… the kind that builds the wall. I could see it in her body and the way she just sat there, crumbling tissue in hand and writhing in her stillness.

One evening the silence surfaced. She fell over entirely and her body convulsed on the floor like a wounded animal as tears poured from her violently, saying what could not be said in words through watery waves of terror. Mooji rushed to her side and bowed to her pain and I watched as he spent time with her over the passing weeks, allowing her to flower or close as she would, in a state of non-judgment.

It seemed she stayed like this most days—Breaking.

Finally on the evening before she left, something changed.

There is little to say of it. It was simple. She approached Mooji as he was eating dinner. She sat there by his feet, hands in prayer—and soon she looked up. It was sweet, the gaze. It was open. It was whatever was behind the wall. It was being love. And in that moment, through some quiet knowing, they both gave a good belly laugh. And it was all clear somehow that the animal, which had terrorized and ripped her from life, had finally left the skin.

 “I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart.

I am. I am. I am.” ~ Sylvia Plath


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Assistant Ed:  Leace Hughes / Ed: Cat Beekmans

About Kathryn Ashworth

Kathryn Ashworth lives in Richmond, Virginia with her cat Johfrit (the littlest knight).  When she’s not writing and daydreaming, she’s grounding herself on the yoga mat. She believes in the transformative power of art and spirituality. Currently she’s studying to become a certified yoga instructor. She welcomes new friends. You can find her on Facebook.


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6 Responses to “Dissolving into Awareness. ~ Kathryn Ashworth”

  1. Piers says:

    What an amazing, touching and almost perfect article. And so nice to see a major piece here on Elephant about Mooji. May there be many more!

  2. herworldinanalmondshell says:

    This is such a beautiful piece. It was so poetic and real. Thank you for sharing this story with such honesty and compassion.

  3. Jenna says:

    This was incredibly emotional for me to read. Thank you for writing your story and finding beautiful words to explain the waves within ourselves.

  4. Leann says:

    Words molding beauty – thank you so much for this!!

  5. Kathryn Ashworth says:

    Thank you to everyone who has connected with me here. Wishing you all well on your journeys. <3

  6. laurakutney says:

    You are so gifted! Thank you for sharing your experience and I am so sorry for your loss. xo, Laura

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