A Sailor’s Voyage to Here

My first year of studying the Pratyabhijñāhṛdayam put language to my lifelong felt sense of “That which is beyond words.” Now, at the end of my second year, I view my life’s journey through the lens of the text.

Using a favorite sailing metaphor, I was a boat happily going nowhere on the open sea when I looked up and saw that I had these white pieces of cloth fluttering overhead. Slowly I am learning how to “trim” them. Without destination, I yield to where the wind takes me.

My earliest memories are of feeling out of place in the life in which I found myself, experiencing the feeling of contraction, which I somehow knew was just a covering of something deeper. My first true understanding came late one night when I was about 8 years old as I lay staring into the heavens, deep in meditation before I even knew what it was. I sensed the explosion of my body into particles that expanded into the universe.

I felt then the awareness of who I am. As Ksemaraja states in his introduction to the text, “… the Divinity that is one’s own Self.” *

I used that first experience as a compass with which to navigate my life.

As a youth, I found it fairly easy to be an actor playing various roles in the theater of my life without being attached to any of them. My Catholic school upbringing and work as an altar boy, instead of indoctrinating me, gave me time and space for meditation. Likewise, contemplative summers spent solo at my grandparents’ home deep in the Redwoods protectively engulfed by nature, installed in me remembrance of where home truly was.

But with adolescence came the contractions of learning to “adult.” Practices fell by the wayside and solo time diminished. My mind took over. Instead of relying on the innate felt sense of home, it tried to find its way by studying many diverse texts and adding in a few hallucinogens.
As verse 6 states: “She confines herself by the limits of space, time, perfection, knowledge and action.”

For the most part, my mind continued to try to grasp the ungraspable. There were times, however, when I was forced to dig deep, such as when I was drafted during the Vietnam War and only meditation practice allowed my ship to remain on course.

But then, once again, as it says in verse 9: “Due to the contraction of those Powers belonging to Awareness, it becomes a samsarin veiled by Impurity,” I slipped right back into forgetting, using substances to block the painful feeling of not being alright.

Verse 10: “Even then she performs the Five Acts in the same way,” became clear during the birth and short life of my daughter, when I went deeper into Awareness than ever before, letting it dictate each next right move. I had to.

It became my mode of operation for the remaining five years of her life. But the transition out of perpetual crisis mode was difficult, and instead of staying anchored in a good practice, I once again resorted to an outside support – alcohol.

Forgetting, I didn’t understand why the strength and clear-sightedness disappeared. Verse 12 explains why: “She fools herself in the play of ignorance… .”

It wasn’t until I finally found sobriety that I regained a practice that brought me into the steady remembering described in verse 13: “By expanding inwardly in contemplation, She knows fully Her own play of contraction, and realizes Herself as This.”

Then life led me to Kashmir Shaivism, iRest Yoga Nidra and meditation retreats which support me in diving deeper into the non-dual perspective, reinvigorating the felt sense of home and strengthening my understanding of Verse 15: “On acquiring strength of vision, She recognizes the universe as Her very own Self.”

The practices of this last year have, without doubt, helped me to fully embody the final verse: “The play of the One and the many continues in full knowingness in Her timeless cycle of emanation and re-absorption. Just This.”

By Tim Derry. He lived happily ever after.

*All quotes are from The Recognition of Our Own Heart by Ruvinsky, et al., 2019 except for those from the introduction and verses 9 and 10 which cite The Recognition Sutras, by Chris Wallis, 2017.

4 Responses

  1. Tim

    This is exquisite
    Your words point to the ephemeral

    As a fellow person who loves the seas and sailing
    I resonate deeply with your metaphor

    Thank you

  2. Tim’s words and sharing 0f his journey resonated so strongly with me. Many common threads touched me deeply. As tears ran down my cheeks, I remembered I’m not alone. Thank you, Tim.

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