One of Joan’s great gifts as a guide and mentor was her ability to demystify the teachings by grounding them in the practical, making them relevant to our everyday struggles and by challenging our assumptions of how “it” should be or how “it” should look.
She presented a heart-centered approach to non-duality, an embracing of the juicy messiness of life. She emphasized over and over that everything—everything—is consciousness, offering her genuine accompaniment in this human predicament we find ourselves in—and often with a good dose of humor. She “de-pedestalized” herself, avoiding abstract terminology and other conceptual claptrap, in favor of allowing the Mystery to reveal itself.
One left her retreats feeling complete, whole and with the deep knowing that everything is OK.
We now carry on the tradition, gathering together, exploring a variety of practices, enjoying laughter, sharing tears and whatever else might seek to emerge in the sacred space of retreat. If you should feel drawn to join us, your presence is most welcome.
Below is a transcript of a few words of encouragement that Joan offered on the topic of practice.
Not every practice is for everybody. It is why there are 112 ways described in the Vijñana Bhairava.* If you feel like you didn’t get anything out of a particular practice, it is not because you didn’t do it right or you somehow failed. There just may be other practices that are more appealing to you.
I know it is very easy to think that each practice is supposed to mean something to us… but there are some practices that we’ll do for a long time and then we simply have to stop doing them and there are other practices that we never pick up at all because they are just not our way. And that is fine. There are many great wise people who have never done an asana, a posture, in their lives, never chanted Sanskrit or anything of the sort. So, not to worry.
In the Vijñana Bhairava, there is a practice of taking absolute delight in a delicious meal. That is one of the ways to open to our True Nature, because rather than getting involved in the food, we get absorbed in the delight that the food has produced. So we are freed and enlivened and opened beyond any limitation — just by appreciating a really great meal!
The same is true for making love. Of course in many of the monastic traditions they don’t get to do that, but that is why we are in the Tantric tradition. (laughter). So if you really get off on making love, then that may be your way. I know someone who completely loses herself, and that is her way… A dear friend of mine – his great joy was dancing…
Perhaps you remember the story of the Baal Shem Tov, a great Jewish mystic who totally transformed a whole section of Judaism. Rather than advocating for austere practices, rules and regulations, he introduced the notion that the path to God was through joy. It is an extraordinary and legitimate path.
Joy, laughter… these are legitimate ways to experience the Divine and to create this unification with who we already are once the obstacles are removed. The obstacles are created by our thinking that we haven’t gotten it, or that there must be another way, or it must be harder than this.
I don’t think it is harder than this… This is it. This is It.
*The Vijñana Bhairava is a 7th c. Kashmir Shaivist manual for Self-Realization (112 ways for realizing one’s true nature)