634. Anne Sweet

Anne SweetI came across the writings of a well-known Indian guru in my early twenties and thus began a twenty-five-year odyssey that would uproot me from my normal life and see me living in ashrams and committed spiritual communities around the world. The answers I sought were not easy to find, however, and the promises made by the teachers in whom I placed my trust were rarely kept.

Exhausted and disillusioned I left my last teacher and abandoned spiritual life in 2004, and during the intense and all-consuming crisis that followed I finally realized the truth of my own unchanging nature beyond the personal identity. The questions that had haunted me for so long dissolved and I was astonished to find that all seeking had ceased. Over time the shift of identity stabilized and became normalized and permanent. Grateful and content with what I saw as a private internal matter I rarely spoke or thought about spirituality and for the next fifteen or so years focused instead on my long-neglected art career. I began to establish myself as a visual artist exhibiting firstly in the UK and later internationally. I now collaborate with my partner, scientist Dr. Jesse Shore, producing artworks as Sweet+Shore, as well as my individual work as Anne Penman Sweet.

About eighteen months ago I confided in my friend, author, and researcher Amir Freimann about what had happened and he immediately invited me to participate in his research project Living Transcendence: a Phenomenological Study of Spiritual Exemplars. I was very surprised as I had no sense of knowing anything or of having arrived anywhere in particular. However, over the course of a dozen or more formal interviews skillfully conducted by him, I experienced an outpouring of spiritual insights and understandings that I had no idea I contained. It was revelatory and transformative and since then I have spoken freely and publicly about these matters.

Not long after, I started to feel a deep inner prompting to begin sharing what I had learned and understood, not as a teacher but as a friend and advisor. I created the End of Seeking website as a free resource to help simplify and demystify the spiritual search for others and to give seekers the tools and knowledge they may need to independently navigate the often confusing and at times hazardous terrain of the contemporary spiritual marketplace.

I am currently working on a book of spiritual insights illustrated with Sweet+Shore artworks which I hope to publish by the end of the year.

Key life points:

  • Born in the UK, raised in Perth, Western Australia
  • Studied Fine Art at Claremont Technical School of Art (Perth), Saint Martin’s School of Art (University of the Arts) London
  • 1978 disciple of Osho (Rajneesh) for next 15 years including 4 years living in India at the ashram and at the Ranch in Oregon for the final year as it was imploding
  • Spontaneous channeling began after the Ranch and became a full-time channeler for 2-3 years.
  • Studied with Barry Long in Australia for 3 years
  • 1996 became a committed student of Andrew Cohen, living in his London and US communities for 8 years.
  • 2000-present: exhibiting internationally as a visual artist (painter)
  • Left Andrew Cohen in 2004 and spent time with Lee Lozowick and his community.
  • 2004 Shift of perspective to Self-knowledge/Natural State
  • 2020 began speaking more publicly about my experience/understanding after participating in Amir Freimann’s study Living Transcendence: a Phenomenological Study of Spiritual Exemplars.
  • 2021 created The End of Seeking website and began compiling a book of artworks and spiritual insight and inspiration.

Website: theendofseeking.org

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Transcript of this interview.

Recorded February 12, 2022

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

630. Gail Brenner, 2nd Interview

Gail BrennerGail Brenner, Ph.D. is a psychologist, author, speaker, and lover of the nondual teaching with a fire that burns brightly. She is an expert in healing from early trauma and brings to this work years of experience with individuals and groups. Her work lovingly illuminates our everyday humanness with the deepest spiritual truths, and she is known for creating the safe space needed for inner exploration.

Gail has special expertise working with older adults and their families in the transitions of aging, death, and dying. She was an assistant clinical professor at the University of California San Francisco where she trained physicians and maintained a clinical practice. She has published numerous professional articles on coping with stress and chronic medical illness and is the author of the award-winning The End of Self-Help: Discovering Peace and Happiness Right at the Heart of Your Messy, Scary, Brilliant Life and Suffering Is Optional: A Spiritual Guide to Freedom from Self-Judgment and Feelings of Inadequacy. She loves exploring different cultures through international volunteering.

First BatGap interview with Gail

Website: gailbrenner.com

Transcript of this interview.

Interview recorded January 16, 2022.

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

625. Colin Drake

Colin DrakeColin was born in a staunch protestant family into the war-torn east end of London in the aftermath of WWII, where austerity and food-rationing were the norms. At the age of 11 he was sent to a Methodist boarding school and from there went to Sheffield University. So, by his early twenties finding himself in Earls Court, West London, in the late 60s when the ‘hippie revolution’ was in full swing he was fully ready to break out of the narrow confines that had dogged his life up until then. He discovered the power of high dose LSD to break the barrier between the subconscious and conscious allowing decades of religious (and social) conditioning to pour out, leaving him feeling totally cleansed as if his brain had been truly washed!  He also experimented with mescalin having read Aldous Huxley’s ‘The Doors of Perception’ and had many experiences which felt deeply spiritual in nature including ‘sitting’ above his body for hours and observing the world (and the body itself) from this vantage point. It was this that gave him glimpses as to what could be achieved by natural means which raised one’s consciousness to a ‘higher level’. He was reading Ouspensky at the time and could see that many of these experiences tallied with those that he described. He was fully convinced that Awakening was the purpose of life, but Ouspensky made the whole process sound so onerous that Colin decided to postpone the attempt and enjoy life while he was young and living in such a vibrant environment.

About ten years later his wife Janet persuaded him to accompany her to a yoga class given by an ex-Jesuit priest. who inspired us by quoting passages from the Upanishads, Dhammapada, and other scriptures during the class. He also emphasized the importance of relaxation and meditation.  There followed a few years of investigating various spiritual paths including a prolonged dalliance with the Brahma Kumaris (Raja Yoga) whose meditations were wonderful, but whose dogma he found very hard to take. They then moved into the country to start a pottery and immersed themselves in Satyananda Yoga, an organization that had no dogma but taught a wide range of yogic practices. They were both initiated into karma sannyas by Swami Satyananda and adopted a yogic lifestyle consisting of asanas, pranayama, yoga nidra, meditation, kirtan, and vegetarianism. During this time Colin was at a silent retreat when he happened to pick up a volume entitled The Gospel of Ramakrishna which introduced him to this amazing being who practiced many spiritual paths, within Hinduism and also Islam and Christianity, discovering that they all lead to the same result, and was then approached by many devotees from these various paths all of whom he was able to teach in their own path, whilst emphasizing the harmony of religions.

After ten years of meditating on Ramakrishna, having been initiated by a nun of that order, he encountered a disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi, Gangaji, who said ‘Stop! Be still, you are already That’.  The message being that the effort and search were masking that which is always present; all that was required was to ‘stop’ and see what is always here.  After many years of struggle and effort this news came like a breath of fresh air and he glimpsed the essence, that undeniable ever-present reality.  This was followed by a seven-day silent retreat, in 1996, which resulted in his first ‘Awakening’, and in an ecstasy that slowly faded over the following year. During this time, he began to be aware of the utter simplicity of the process, especially as it became more established through repeated self-inquiry. The realization that one is the Pure Awareness that underlies the whole of life, and in fact all things, became startlingly obvious; so much so that he became increasingly disillusioned by most spiritual writings which seemed to mystify this whole subject. This created the desire to put the matter in the simplest, most straightforward, way so that anyone could understand it … and through repeated inquiry (or investigation) ‘get it’. At the time he was writing the occasional article for his email group and it was the collection of these plus a few new ones that became his first book ‘Beyond the Separate Self’. He also completed an honours double-major degree in Comparative Religion and Philosophy and his honours thesis, which considered self-identity in the world’s major religions became the basis of his second book ‘Humanity – Our Place in The Universe’. Since then, answers to questions, interpretations of spiritual writings from all traditions, and new insights gained during meditation/contemplation have been compiled and published in another fourteen books. All of these are ‘stand-alone guides’ to Awakening as they all rely on the same ‘investigation into this moment of direct experience’ which is included in them all and is explained in full in each introduction. They have all also been converted into books of poems, one per chapter. For the full list visit Beyond Awakening Publications.

They can be purchased in paperback and .pdf formats from lulu.com and in kindle from amazon.com. You are all welcome to visit his Facebook page where he posts poems, new articles, and photos of nature taken in his natural environment of sub-tropical rainforest with ocean views. Finally, all are invited to join his email group by contacting him at colinj108@gmail.com.

  • A link to a 16 minute ‘Investigation Of Experience’ which reveals our essential identity as Pure Awareness, which is the foundation that underpins all of my investigations, insights, and books. Click here.
  • A link to a 30-minute meditation on the nature of Reality, starting from this moment of direct experience and extrapolating on what is discovered. Click here.

If you are trying to open the links with a phone and they won’t open, click on the three dots in the far right-hand corner of the failed opening screen and click on ‘open in Chrome’ (or any other browser).

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Transcript of this interview.

Interview recorded November 27, 2021.

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.