Sruti Transcript

Sruti Interview

Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people. There have been nearly 350 of them now, and if you’d like to check out previous ones, go to and look under the past interviews menu and you’ll see them all categorized and organized in various ways. This show is made possible by the support of generous viewers and listeners, and also thanks to those who’ve been supporting it. And if you feel like making a contribution, there’s a donate button on the right-hand side of every page, and there’s also a donate page that explains other ways to do it if you don’t like PayPal. My guest today is Sruti. Sruti writes about her experience with an uncommon and painful illness called interstitial cystitis. This ongoing and chronic condition challenged her to stay present with daily pain and to look further inward for answers. In the extreme moment of pain, in which consciousness began to fade, Sruti experienced the erasure of all that clouds over the earliest source of vision. She asks the question, “With whose vision are we seeing when the lights are going out? Has this early vision ever known anything at all?”. After these extreme episodes of pain, Sruti spent time on retreat with teachers such as Gangaji and Sri Mooji. She found no difference in these non-dual pointings and discoveries made directly in painful circumstances. Sruti finds that we can allow what is painful to become a tool to disrupt the ordinary layers of our experience. Underneath these layers, we find the unconditional peace that is our constant being in each moment. Can we investigate the source of ordinary vision? Can we find the place of true seeing that is earlier than who we think we are? So, thanks Sruti and welcome.

Sruti: Thank you.

Rick: We could start in a number of places, but I think people might be curious about what I just read. And we might as well get right into your story and then we’ll kind of take it from there. So, please go.

Sruti: Well, first it might be helpful to talk a short while about this illness. Because it’s very much the reason I’m sharing, and it was my total drive for any kind of spiritual awakening. And a lot of people don’t… they hear the term “interstitial cystitis”, but I’d like to speak for a moment as if you were a doctor, and also to those who are watching, just about the symptoms and what it means in my life.

Rick: Sure, yeah, because we’re going to be referring to it, you might as well explain to people what it is.

Sruti: So, basically it is a urinary tract infection that has no infection. There’s no sign of infection, and yet the pain of it, the need to go to the bathroom, the feeling of needing to urinate all the time, any kind of burning sensation is always there. And normally you would take an antibiotic to help this, except in my case, this actually came on within hours of taking an antibiotic, which also makes it a potentially loaded, emotionally disturbing scenario. And if I were to sit in front of a doctor now and explain the impact on my life to get help, I would say, “I have many symptoms. I’m tired, I’m in pain, but the most disturbing is that it literally feels like there are knives in my bladder, like there are knives in my vagina”. And I don’t often speak so honestly, but to understand the full impact of what this pain is doing, we need to be at the level of a doctor, and I’m quite used to saying these things to doctors.

Rick: Sure.

Sruti: And the consequence of this is I always need to be near a bathroom. Travel becomes sort of a nightmare, if you can imagine being on an airplane with that kind of pain, and if you need to use the bathroom four or five times in one hour. You hope you have an aisle seat and that the stewardesses are very accommodating. I say this because I was just recently traveling, I wish I had a car. At night, in the beginning especially, I couldn’t sleep for more than two hours – this pain would wake you up, you’d be in the bathroom, you’d fall asleep in that pain, wake up in that pain.

Rick: And by the way, you haven’t actually said it yet, but in your book you make it clear that this pain was not merely some sensation of needing to go to the bathroom or something, it was off the charts. It was like childbirth pain or something, pretty much all the time.

Sruti: Well, there were times of that, yes, which I will come to and is the deeper reason I’m sharing. But the day-to-day, it’s been eight years and counting of that symptom. There have been many ways I’ve healed, there have been many people who have helped, but for some reason this type of pain that I’m describing to you has been… almost anything I do is to manage that pain because for some reason and for unexplained reason, this most disturbing type of pain I still deal with nearly daily in some manner. In the beginning it was absolutely constant, there was no break. I didn’t even understand what it meant to have no break. And pain medications just don’t touch where this pain is located. You can take something for a migraine, you can’t necessarily take something for this kind of pain. Now I say this because the traveling, the being in bed, the not being able to work, also emotionally, socially… How can I have a romantic partner with this type of pain? How can I have a family? How can I even go out to a concert when there’s 300 people at a concert? I was young, I was 20. A lot of my friends, you know, want to go to concerts and it was a nightmare for me. I’m in pain anyway, there’s hundreds of people, what if I can’t use the bathroom? I can’t drink, I can’t take any substance that will irritate me. So your whole life in an instant for me it really was a matter of hours. And you know, Thursday it was fine, took the antibiotic Friday. It was a whole different world that looked pretty disturbing. It looked pretty disturbing. And that was where the existential angst really flared. Because also doctors, they call it incurable. They didn’t have adequate painkillers. And I did in many ways emotionally feel left in that pain. Even though I know that people didn’t intentionally leave.

Rick: Left as in abandoned, you mean?

Sruti: Yeah. So all of this was sort of this toxic mix where actually for a while I just became more and more bitter. And I would become obsessed with suffering. So there was a period where I would just read and watch everything. And just take it all in to try and understand why. And if I understood why, I would be relieved somehow.

Rick: So what kind of things? You mean reading medical things, spiritual things?

Sruti: Anything. It didn’t have to be spiritual, but it often did include spiritual texts. For a long time I didn’t know there were any contemporary teachers. I was not aware of them. And in my reading, I never came across them. I would just watch human interest. I would watch things about war and pain and illness and anything that was pulling me because of my own… In some ways, avoidance of the pain, I was always experiencing a fear of how bad it was, what it meant. And I was often in bed, just seeking, seeking, seeking, seeking. And then out in the world seeking a cure, seeking a pain relief, seeking, seeking, seeking. And you can imagine the level of suffering just became very, very extreme. But that’s not why I’m sharing, because many people are in different types of pain. Many people don’t like to hear about pain. And also, when I tell you that I haven’t had that full recovery, you wonder why it is that I’m speaking about it.

Rick: Well, I think it’s good that you’re laying it out. And one of the things I was thinking about with this whole interview is that there are people who experience all kinds of pain. Some people have severe back pain – some friends of mine do – and many other types of things. And I think you’re an expiring example of a success story in a way, even though you’re not over the whole thing. But you’ve kind of turned lemons into lemonade in a way, by having this pain become an impetus to spiritual realization.

Sruti: Actually, I was given lemonade, because if I even told you I did something, it would be too much.

Rick: Well, you were seeking pretty hard.

Sruti: Well, you could say the intention, the thing that was really mine, that was the intention, a real intention. I didn’t know what truth meant, I didn’t have a background with God, I didn’t know much about self-inquiry, I didn’t know terms. I knew I was suffering, and I didn’t care if that resolution was going to be in spirituality. I didn’t care if it aligned with a great master. I mean, it’s this type of pain. There are times with this type of pain, you sit and you wonder why you get up tomorrow. I mean, to be very very honest about where you come to, if you’re earnest and you stop running for a moment, there is this tremendous suffering that you ask these earnest questions, “What is the value of getting up tomorrow in this pain?”.

Rick: In other words, you were having suicidal thoughts?

Sruti: For sure, and suicide did not seem dark there, it seemed free. It seemed like love and rest and freedom, which I still feel, but I also have something deeper to offer. So I feel maybe we should talk then about how this occurred, because what I have come to is a much different understanding of pain since then. And all of that bitterness and pain actually became so much more intense that it cut through a lot of that suffering in an instant.

Rick: Yeah, please keep talking. I have all kinds of questions I’ll ask you in the course of the interview, but you’re on a roll, so let’s keep going.

Sruti: I think I might even just jump into reading in a moment.

Rick: Yeah, sure.

Sruti: Because this passage I want to read from my writing about this experience is sort of the fullness of what I offer.

Rick: That would be great.

Sruti: And I feel you could just read this one passage and know.

Rick: Yeah, why don’t you do that?

Sruti: So this passage I’m going to read is about an experience that happened when the pain became even more intense. Extreme, like you said, childbirth, extraordinary moment of pain that was so intense that actually I was writhing on the floor and losing consciousness. And instead of this being a huge trauma, which it could have been this huge trauma I remember for the rest of my life, this moment cut through my life. And this passage I’m going to read now about that moment is called “Pain is God’s Tool”.

Rick: Great.

Sruti: The most extreme experience I had in pain occurred one morning very early as I came downstairs for breakfast. In the time it took to cross from the stairs to the kitchen, I went from a zero to a ten on the pain scale. It felt like there were knives in my stomach and I couldn’t stand up straight. At the same time, my internal body temperature skyrocketed to what felt like a 500 degree oven and there were waves of nausea. After trying to quickly take what pain medication I could, I rushed to the small bathroom nearby and I barely had time to dial the window air conditioner down all the way with the fan on high before I was on the floor. The pain was so severe that I couldn’t lay down properly, couldn’t stay still, couldn’t stop rolling and writhing, trying to twist away from those knives. And the heat was so extreme that even after I had taken off all of my clothes with the AC as cool as it would go, I was sweating. I was burning internally, rolling on the cold tile floor and nauseated. Then the pain became even more intense and everything that was in my stomach and bowels came out several times. I could hardly move from the floor to the toilet and each time there was no relief. Beyond comprehension, the pain continued to intensify as if all of the knives were coming out and leaving a trail of agony behind them. It was like being paralyzed but in motion, totally trapped in a world of pain, unable to even speak out for help. And it was at this point, when there was nothing left to come out and the pain and the heat and the disorientation had reached a level I had never known was bearable, that I became hyper-aware of that undercurrent of calm. It was no longer an undercurrent. It was the focus and the only thing that had any reality. Trapped, but in continuous motion, I could only look out from behind these eyes. Breathing, seeing, and being were primary now. There was no room for anything else. All thoughts had stopped and in their place was a vast open silence. And this silence beyond the ordinary silence you can hear. Sadness and fear did not exist here. The silence, the space, the calm had an internal solidity and steadiness and fullness that took the place of any emotion. Then the pain began taking away my vision and I could see the black edges of unconscious darkness moving in from either side of my eyes like a cloud. I felt that I was seconds away from passing out and that when the darkness clouded everything over, that actually I am still here and I am whole. I am earlier than even the earliest knowing. I am here behind this waking life that I can see and feel, earlier than this body, these thoughts, these feelings, and even that subtle sense of aliveness. When they are all taken and when I am no longer able to know anything, I am still here. I no longer moved alone through a vast, random, chaotic world. The world moves through my view and this view is the same as me. There is a fabric of calmness within that does not leave and it does not change. Before this incident, the story of the illness and its progression were the primary focus and any insight was used to feed that story. But the extreme pain renovated the perspective. The pain revealed that it is only the tool for what is truly primary. And what is truly primary is this ground of calm, this not knowing perspective. There is no story about it because it does not grow and change. Free of progress, it does not move. But activities happen and change occurs within it. From this grounded view, I felt grateful for my experiences in pain and that they cultivated patience and strength in discomfort. There is both tolerance and a decisive clarity. There are definitive boundaries and it has carved out new daily routines and habits. It forced the breaking of addictions and challenged the emotional story around them. The silent view that this pain revealed shows me that harsh is not necessarily hurtful. It promotes humility and erodes pride. It shows that real power comes from depth of love and it creates potential for the deepest connections and relationships. It cuts away false responsibility and obligation and frees behavior from survival. It cultivates emotional maturity and asks for kindness. It demands honesty and integrity, and adjusts what is out of alignment. It cuts below appearances and even embraces the dark, the difficult, and the bad, but without bitterness or exaggeration. When great pain arrives, this unknowing silence is what I still love. It does not belong to this physical world, nor is it within the world of the mind and imagination. None of these are lasting. Pain sucks the joy and the pleasure from all that we know of. It stops the mind and leaves only a broad and utter silence. In its most intense form, it can take away the sense of consciousness, and beyond crossing that line into darkness, we do not know anything. The pain is a tool for the unthinkable to discover what this silent void is composed of. In these ephemeral days and years of our lifetime, we may use what is uncomfortable and negative to assist in our ability to see as the unknown, to know without thought what really lies within the unconscious darkness. Pain is God’s tool to help us let go of what is personal in favor of what is eternal. It is not necessarily a pleasant tool. It is a humble reminder of our loss of control. It may come and take what it wants without argument, and yet its gift is the clearest clarity, the most expansive freedom, and the embrace of the deepest love. The correct relationship with pain, I find, is not a relationship. It can be used as this intangible tool to bend our attention backward to where we meet our inner source. The true relationship with our source is understood within the silence it brings and even the darkness it reveals. This inner silence and vast darkness are the gateways to a direct relationship with God, and in intense pain, nothing but God will satisfy. Nothing from the external world that the pain belongs to will be adequate to end that suffering. In directly contacting God, we discover that we are that space of silent strength within us, and our suffering can end even if pain continues. Beyond even intuition or inner voice lies the true being, the ground of not knowing. Pain is extraordinarily helpful for discerning that even the deepest intuitive knowing cannot survive a pain that is so intense that we are losing consciousness. In pain of that intensity, we see that all things are taken away except the last, unknowing one. Can we see from behind our eyesight when pain arrives in our lives, and can we rest there? Can we use the pain to look inward and see if our earliest vision has ever known anything? With whose vision are we seeing when the lights are going out?

Rick: Beautiful, it’s beautifully written.

Sruti: Thank you.

Rick: Yeah, your whole book is beautifully written. I went through the whole thing cover to cover. So many things we could talk about here. I’m sure you’re aware that a great many indigenous cultures – Native Americans and so on – use very painful rituals as a means of shifting consciousness. Have you ever pondered that and looked into some of those traditions?

Sruti: I haven’t, I was not aware.

Rick: Oh yeah, like for instance there’s that thing the Native Americans do where they – it’s some kind of a sun ceremony or something – where they pierce the breasts. I think maybe just men do it, but they pierce the breast muscles with hooks, and then you’re kind of lifted up by leather straps. And it’s all part of this kind of really intense thing involving fasting and all. And it’s supposed to just catapult you into a higher state or an altered state or the ground of all being or some such thing. And then Bushmen and many other cultures, they’ve actually institutionalized this kind of thing. Not as a means of torture or punishment, but actually as a means of spiritual catalysis.

Sruti: I didn’t know that actually. It makes sense. I wouldn’t go looking for pain.

Rick: Neither would I. I would be a total wimp.

Sruti: No, and that’s the funny part of this thing is – you maybe read this and think, maybe somewhere I love experiencing pain. But like most people, if there were a pill that were offered that would cure this illness or if there were pain medications, and when there are, I will take them. But on the flip side of that, sometimes when we have that out, we fear pain like that. We fear the consequences of it. And I suppose if there is value in pain as a pathway, because it’s not necessarily the only pathway and it’s not necessary to what’s the deepest offering here. Value is that… often in spiritual awakening it’s the other way. We have a light, beautiful awakening experience, myself included, and it’s real. And then the dark and the painful moves in as it does in duality. And we question and we doubt that awakening. So for me, if there is a value in also sharing the pathway, it is that if you find this light, if you find truth in a dark, dark time, it is very unlikely it will be shaken. And I found the most stable awakening occurring in moments like these.

Rick: Yeah, I mean if awakening can be sustained under intense pain, then everything else is kind of a piece of cake in terms of sustaining it, right?

Sruti: Yes, it can be that way. I’ve seen other beings just come very gently, and then it doesn’t matter because your perception of pain changes anyway. But for many many beings, myself included, awakening is often a roller coaster of good-bad, good-bad, and sometimes just bad, bad, bad. Or at least it feels that way.

Rick: Even now?

Sruti: I speak more for this example, before you have a recognition, you just experience bad, bad, bad, perhaps.

Rick: Well, since that awakening that you just described in your reading, has that been sustained? Has it sort of become a buffer for the roller coaster ride, so that you don’t… even in your darkest moments, there’s that underlying foundation?

Sruti: Yes, everything I write is much more than words for me. Actually, I didn’t really expect to write because what was valuable to me after that experience… I stopped reading, stopped watching. All of the interest is in this constant… you could say a constant inquiry, you could say it’s final. You could also say the fascination with the constant fulfillment of each moment is more valuable than anything I was seeking. And I didn’t expect to write, but what happened was people were asking me to share. Some were not aware of this pain because it’s invisible, I don’t look particularly ill.

Rick: No, you look good.

Sruti: And when I sat down to write, almost immediately I developed a very intense infection.

Rick: When you sat down to write? Any kind of correlation there, are you saying?

Sruti: Well, for a moment it was, “Gosh, what poor timing, how can I write in this state?”. And then of course, you know, it didn’t take long for it to become clear. Like, even the awakening must be written from this place for some reason, because it’s here. This whole book is written in very intense pain. So even the writing is transcending the pain as it’s being written, and it was this wonderful opportunity even for myself. After all those years of misunderstanding and angst, to sit with it again in almost the same levels as when it first started. Because it was this infection over the course of a couple weeks that just made all the symptoms worse again. And I had the chance to see them for what they were and to find the deeper truth in them that I knew now. That I could sense that was transcending it even as it was happening, and it didn’t make it any more enjoyable. It made it very… it made it divine. And this change… you asked the initial question, this up and down, is after awakening, and I still have infections like that. In the physical world, it’s very extreme still. However, the experience of good and bad in awakening becomes something entirely… it’s not even the same definition, it’s not even the same world. So, intensity like that feels like intense reverence. And times when there’s no pain, it feels like this effervescent, continuous streak bliss, like sometimes people… I never used to understand or like that word very much. But it’s a kind of a bliss that doesn’t need anything. And then when the pain comes, there’s a reverence that is pointing to something deeper than this challenging experience. And so duality sort of becomes this flow between the challenge and the reverence, and the enjoyable, light-free effervescence. And somewhere in between, this play is going on, and yet because it is that way, because it’s blossoming first from this understanding that does not change.

Rick: I hope everyone’s understanding what you mean by that, and if they aren’t, then feel free to submit a question on the upcoming interviews page, and I’ll ask Sruti. But I understand what you mean, and I think you’re expressing it very clearly. But for instance, when you used the word “before” originally or “prior to”, when you were talking about that field of silence, and that kind of has a temporal connotation, like it happened prior to. You don’t mean it temporarily, you mean it in terms of more fundamental, more primordial, kind of like before the relative world has even manifested, that alone is, that kind of thing.

Sruti: It is… well this brings up for me even speaking about a shift – which is what I read to you, this moment of shift – which is a little bit silly and not quite accurate. Because, indeed there was a dramatic difference. There was a moment of very clear understanding, of watching, being lucky enough to watch each layer leave me. And this is a rare experience in pain like that, and it’s not necessary. But the value of such clarity, that each layer is leaving. How I never questioned this, is very strange. Like all the layers were always so loud, it never occurred that even in their loudness, they would leave. And if everything can leave me, why am I so interested? And what does that make me? And so this shift in perspective is a shift, and yet it was never not that way. It’s never not that way that I am this wholeness, and I am looking out from earliest being. And yet the suffering of it was so much caught in the layers that ended up just leaving.

Rick: When you say they left, do you mean that the pain actually dissipated, or do you mean that once you had shifted to the perspective of the – whatever we want to call it – the unboundedness or the silence, that then they were kind of peripheral? Or they just no longer… they weren’t the center of your orientation anymore, therefore they didn’t have the same power over you that they once had had?

Sruti: Yes, in this passage I read, there’s a little sentence that does this flip a little bit. It felt like before this that I was managing my illness, I was ill, I moved alone, I was abandoned, I was in pain, I was broken. I moved through this world and I was vulnerable. And sort of like me versus the world, just sort of accidentally because of this pain, it sort of was that way.

Rick: It was a little wave getting buffeted about by the winds.

Sruti: Exactly, and this caused enormous angst and pain felt like an insult. It felt like I was less than. And the question of death felt like annihilation. It felt like, “My God, I’m so vulnerable and weak in this illness that I might die. I’m certainly in enough pain where I’m considering it. And gosh, I’m just so alone in death and I’m going there as this weakened…”. So you can hear where that suffering is coming from even in describing this view. And what really shifted…

Rick: “I, I, I, I, I”.

Sruti: Yes, yes, yes, exactly. And what really shifted was that “I”. Because again, if we just literally come to this experience in pain, just literally what I’m experiencing, I began to watch things that I thought were me vanish. So first the body – I mentioned paralyzed but in continuous motion. When you lose control over your body and you’re lucky enough to still be aware in the body as you’ve lost control of it, I mean, this rolling on the floor was not a choice. This was automatic as if you were shocked by an electric plug.

Rick: Like convulsions or something.

Sruti: Yeah, and it’s just happening. And when you lose control that way, you… like this shock of, “My gosh, at every other moment I assumed this body was mine”. Even unconsciously I could say to you, “Oh, I’m not my body”, but I would know I had control and feel somewhere that this had something to do with me. And in an instant when that control is taken and when you are aware but the body is lost, you could say, then there’s just an enormous disinterest and also a relief because you are okay as the body is lost. And the next thing to go was thinking. And normally there’s an almost continuous stream of some kind of… whether it’s conscious or unconscious. And only when there is just absolute silence and you hear silence of thought that you are put in a circumstance to question, “How did my thinking leave me? What value did it have for me if in this moment of pain”, you could say, “at the door of unconsciousness and none of my beliefs, none of my thinking, none of my self-referencing, none of that comes and still I remain sentient to see that?” And with the thoughts, feelings are often so attached that we have these feelings in the body that seem to signal dismay, doubt, fear, sadness, happiness, but in pain these darker things. And none of that is felt. It’s just not there. And the silence is also a felt silence, a silence of a felt story. And the story is silenced, the body is silenced, the feelings are silenced. And how amazing that all of these ordinary layers of your experience can leave you in an instant and you remain. And for a moment in time remain is just breathing, is just, “I can still see. I can see the floor. I can still… I know that I am conscious”. And all of this before you’re even thinking those things, just the direct knowing of eyesight and that “I am still conscious” is the only thing that matters. And then even the pain becomes so much more intense. The gift of pain that can take absolutely anything, and literally this experience of unconsciousness moving in, the cloud of it across vision, the shutting down of eyesight, the edges of conscious awareness, that feeling of falling back away from being awake. Watching the ends of eyesight, you are watching the end of awareness. How else can you describe these things? But even before you care to describe these things, the direct knowing of these things, of “I am here to know these things. I am here to simply see even the edges of the bubble of my whole life. And I am here and nothing has happened to me”.

Rick: Yeah, when you say “silence”, I presume you’re referring to the silence of that “I am” which precedes all activity, to which nothing can happen. You’re not necessarily referring to relative silence.

Sruti: No, it was quite loud actually.

Rick: The silence is loud?

Sruti: No, what was loud was the experience.

Rick: Everything else is going on.

Sruti: It was this chaos of… I mean, maybe there wasn’t loudness of rolling, but there was loudness of pain certainly. And so, no, it was not a cessation of pain and it was not a silence of hearing. The silence is deeper than even the understanding of that word.

Rick: Yeah, I mean, even now, maybe not only pain, but other situations like driving through busy traffic or hurrying through an airport or something, do you find that that silence becomes even more stark or clear or evident when contrasted with something that is the opposite of silence?

Sruti: That’s a very good question. I feel I didn’t get up off the floor. Meaning, I feel that the recognition of silence, of this spontaneous inquiry into “what is I?”, what perhaps we might say in spirituality, is not a practice and it’s not a temporary thing. And the whole world is that silence. And yes, in the midst of even the loudest activity, perhaps because the recognition occurred in the midst of the loudest activity, yes, there is always… it’s coming from silence and is informed first by silence. Because you see, my interest also shifted. If this place that I see from is the only thing that cannot leave me and is actually also what I am, and these other things come up again, they’re not deeply interesting to me because they already left me.

Rick: Yeah.

Sruti: And where do they come from?

Rick: It sounds very much like Buddhism, which talks of life being suffering because it’s constantly changing. It can leave you, you know? Dukkha. And you’ve kind of discovered that which cannot leave. And by contrast then, the things which can leave or which can come and go, lose their significance. It’s almost like if a person were a pauper, then every little gain of $10 here or every little loss of $10 there would be a big shake-up. But if they’re a multi-millionaire, then they can gain and lose thousands, tens of thousands. And it’s like, you know, because there’s sort of that status of…

Sruti: It is, and it’s like everyone is a spiritual multi-millionaire.

Rick: Yeah, yeah.

Sruti: And myself, even in this pain where I mentioned, there’s such feelings of lack, of less than, of… I mean, there’s a reason that many people that I’ve known do not know the level of suffering from this illness. I have not spoken openly often. And there’s a reason for that, because up until it was also going to be shared with this deeper understanding, it’s quite disturbing for people. And I understand from trying to share why that is. I mean, I’ve had people walk away. I’ve sat at wedding parties and, you know, literally out of a movie people take a swig of… “I want you to hear my story”, and it doesn’t necessarily come with what I’ve shared with you, and it’s just too much. They take a swig of wine and I have to go, and I understand.

Rick: Well, for one thing, they probably can’t relate to it because they haven’t experienced that kind of pain. And they probably feel a little awkward because they don’t know what they can say or do to be of any use to you. And also, if you begin talking… you know, you said a minute ago, people are all spiritual multi-millionaires, but the vast majority don’t realize they are. They’ve lost the keys to their bank account and they’re running around thinking they’re paupers.

Sruti: It seems that way, and it has been a strange process of even sharing, because it doesn’t always feel like I particularly need to be sharing, or that I particularly need to tell you things with such honesty if they’re so uncomfortable. And there is this deeper… there’s this love, this huge desire to share. How could there not be? It is also tempered by a deeper love. There is also not knowing in my sharing. It feels more often like… some of this intensity just is used for honesty.

Rick: Yeah. Well, you know, the majority of people aren’t going to experience pain like you have, and yet what you can share with them is that whatever you’re going through, it’s not a deal-killer in terms of realizing who you are. And maybe one helpful thing will be that they’ll feel like, “Geez, if she can endure that, then this little tribulation that I’m experiencing is really not that big a deal, and I should just keep a stiff upper lip and kind of keep the eye on the goal of self-realization”.

Sruti: Well, I like what you say, that people might see that there’s no barrier.

Rick: Yeah.

Sruti: Because when you’re in that kind of suffering, any condition, anything you need to do, anything you need to be, anything you need to gain, anything you need to recover, is going to sound very cruel to say that there is anything between you and God, there is anything between you and deep relief, there is anything between you and yourself as what is already whole. It’s just going to sound cruel to say to someone in that level of suffering, “Oh, you know, just wait until you do a bit of yoga”, and of course I can’t. I think yoga is wonderful. I think you should. But what if I can’t? Just looking at any condition is going to seem huge. And so the value of this type of pointing is quite humble. Actually, I was completely debilitated to know what is actually quite simple. And if there is a danger, it’s that you also feel like these rituals that you need some sort of intense pain, like it’s a very intense recognition, and it’s actually not. But for some reason, for me, these layers so clearly disrupted in a way where I can be nothing but grateful for pain like that.

Rick: Yeah. At least in your own situation. I mean, it’s not a path that everybody is going to walk, but it’s laudable that you have arrived at a place where you can feel gratitude for it, you know?

Sruti: Yeah.

Rick: Do you ever ponder, you know, these people, probably usually young people, who cut themselves intentionally in order to… I don’t completely understand it, but I gather that it’s because there is a sort of a numbness to life, and by experiencing some pain, at least they feel alive, or they feel something. Have you ever kind of pondered that, or would you have any advice for somebody who has that inclination? I know there is somebody who watches BatGap – used to watch – that had that syndrome, and I once made a comment that was very politically incorrect about it, and he was quite upset. Do you have any kind of comments on that?

Sruti: Well, like I said, I don’t go looking for pain, so I don’t quite know the “why” behind that. Nothing in my teaching recommends pursuing pain. I’m afraid I can’t speak to that experience. It’s much lower than that, really. What I mean is, in any pain – and this desire to hurt oneself at the physical level is still out in those further layers. And if there is a true inquiry, it must come deeper than that. It must transcend each of those layers, and whatever is going on there will have to be confronted in that. It will have to be met from a deeper place. The way that when I’m in pain and I can’t help it, it is met from a deeper place. And any experience is valuable as these tools to cut lower than experience. And I do often use the metaphor “cutting lower”.

Rick: What does that mean? Here’s an example, I remember one time I had a really bad flu, and I was a relatively new meditator at that point, and I experienced that when I meditated, I’d kind of go beneath the flu. I’d kind of get to a level that was prior to the flu, and I felt good there. And then I’d come back up into the flu, but feeling a little better, having dipped into that level that was prior to the flu.

Sruti: It does feel that any experience happening out here – these layers of flu or layers of whatever, angst, of despair, physical pain, of emotional pain – they are layers only. And the entanglement – whatever the expression of the entanglement is – is from assuming they have something to do with you, of needing to fix them, of needing to heal them, of needing to say, “This is good, this is bad”. And not often is there the trust and the strength to let those layers be, especially when there is pain. And part of… there’s this instant I described, but there’s also eight years of ongoing daily practice with this pain, where there is a lot of, you could say, contrast that has to be met between painful circumstances that you don’t want, and resting is what doesn’t need and doesn’t want. And these things come together in ways that challenge the seeing. You know, if I’m about to roll on the floor, do I take that pain medication if I don’t need anything? I mean, these are mental things. And when you come deeper, these questions also dissolve because the resolution of them is actually bubbling up more naturally than knowing how to fix things, than knowing how to heal things. Because I don’t know how to heal this body, you could say. I don’t know because everything I try I look like some kind of health guru. The way I eat, the way I live, I mean, actually quite a few people might benefit if I decided to be some kind of health guru, but that’s not what I’m offering. And it’s not of value because even this healing and this health comes to an end. And sooner or later, even the healthiest body will go. We will come back to these questions. And if first we come to this question, then the whole goal in life shifts. And now the goal is not necessarily healing at the physical level. There’s actually not much interest in if I’m healed physically or not. There is a continuous interest in what I found was my deepest question on the floor, my deepest longing.

Rick: Really though, wouldn’t it be nice to just have that deepest value that you found on the floor and be physically healthy? If you had your druthers, wouldn’t that be preferable?

Sruti: It’s always preferable when there’s less pain. And actually, I always make decisions. You could say…

Rick: You do what you can to minimize it.

Sruti: You’re always wanting to relieve pain. So even my very baby organization called Sruti Sangha is designed that way. The intention is that way. What I mean is, part of the offering that I cannot fully offer now is a healing environment. Because the way I live, it’s not like I’m in pain and I’m asked to just always be in pain and it’s never-ending. Actually, I’m often making decisions for healing. They’re just not the deepest that I’m offering and they’re not where it’s coming from. So even without the healing environment, there is resolution. And this resolution is the most valuable thing to point to in another, in myself, even before healing. It’s not good or bad. It’s not you shouldn’t heal. It’s not you should outlast pain or you should always go into circumstances that are… It’s not any of that. It is much more simple, much more kind.

Rick: Yeah. And for many people, the path is not going to be a particularly painful one. It might be a relatively pleasant one. Although I think everybody has their dark night of the soul to some extent, in one way or another. There’s stuff that really has to be cleared out and it’s not always going to be pleasant.

Sruti: No.

Rick: Yeah.

Sruti: But I could see and I do see that, like I mentioned, this book was written from within pain because that’s how it happens. And so when I give an interview or when I speak to the book, I am still speaking to what is also still in my experience. This pain is a big part. It’s driving almost every decision still, just from necessity.

Rick: Well, I was wondering, I mean, if writing the book somehow stirred up pain so that you were able to write from the perspective of pain, does doing an interview like this or giving a satsang trigger pain also?

Sruti: No, but I do often experience pain in and around satsang. And if pain is present in satsang, it is used for the same purpose as this book, which is to bring it to the inquiry, to include it. And often there are other beings in the satsang that are experiencing some form of pain as well.

Rick: Do you feel like the energies that get stirred up or enlivened during satsang somehow have an effect on your nervous system that causes pain? I know Adyashanti has that experience sometimes when he teaches a lot. It exacerbates something in his nervous system, some condition or something, just because of the energies that are channeling through him.

Sruti: That’s very interesting. There are parts of sharing that cause me a lot of pain. And I always must go into them as open as the experience on the floor, knowing that I’m not asked necessarily to always be in pain. And knowing also that what is really being offered is automatically also healing. So, for example, Sruti Sangha is intended to be a healing environment. And I know, because I’ve experienced at the times when I’m in the least amount of pain, actually when pain almost disappears, or when I’ve set foot or been a part of these environments. So, even my offering is designed to be healing, not just for myself, but for others. And there’s this strange existence of both, where what I’m sharing has nothing to do with healing. It’s not interested at all in form. And if nothing else, I would hope that that is what someone comes to in our meeting. And at the same time, the way that that is offered, the structure of it in form, I know is also designed to be healing and to be something that is not bringing people pain.

Rick: And you could think of it as a side benefit or something. It’s not the main point, the main focus, but it’s a nice symptom or outcome of the focus on the main thing.

Sruti: Yes.

Rick: Here’s a question that came in. Mark from Santa Clara asks, “Short of the debilitating pain you experienced, can you suggest a practice for using chronic lower-level pain, such as sciatica, to sink deeper into self?”

Sruti: Well, often people will read the book and ask. They’ll say, “I love the writing. I hear what you’re saying, but you didn’t tell me how to do it”. And I’ve had publishers say this and people in satsang, and it’s a common…

Rick: They want a little formula.

Sruti: Yes. And my response is, first, that I feel the whole book is, you could say, how you do it. But I also feel that this is much simpler than doing. How can you do what you most naturally are? And even to tell you to do something, and I’ve failed myself. Because if anyone told me to do anything in those moments of pain, I wouldn’t even hear. But don’t mistake this for some kind of aloofness. It’s not aloof and it’s not that you can’t come to this. What I’m asking is much, much simpler and deeper than doing. In each moment, already, this is your most immediate seeing. And the pain, even low-level pain, can be used like an anchor. It is keeping your attention in this moment. And it is keeping your attention… there’s some body awareness. I find that… I don’t even say these things to people, but there’s always body awareness in ways that there wouldn’t be, perhaps at that level if I wasn’t in pain. So the attention is already naturally fixed in this moment, except for when we become frightened and try and distract ourselves. So if there’s something, it’s okay to sit with pain in this moment and have it be there. It’s okay to let attention rest, even if it’s not feeling comfortable. And then, from this jumping point, because where I’m saying is not even to keep attention in the moment of time, not to keep attention on the pain, not to keep attention in the body, but to use that to bounce back to inquire where it is your attention is coming from. You are looking and seeing naturally the space between what you are experiencing and where you are seeing experience from. And this is a natural inquiry, nothing to do with questioning, nothing to do with the mind. For me, inquiry isn’t a mental word. It is directly seeing the space between you and your experience, in each experience. You must see each time there is – especially if it’s negative – you have to see the space between you and that feeling. You have to see the space between you and the sensation of pain. You have to see the space between you and the thinking about the pain. You have to know that none of it… all of this is separate from you.

Rick: I wonder if that’s clear to people. I wonder if that is a description which people are going to have a hard time taking as a prescription. I mean, that’s kind of what happened to you as a result of the travails that you were put through, and that’s kind of the way you naturally function now. But I wonder if you can prescribe that and have people actually get it and be able to do it in a non-doing kind of way.

Sruti: Yes, I find that there has to be a very deep willingness that this is your whole intention before you meet me, before you know anything about me, before you know about this story and pain. Very deeply, there’s a desire to know this in each moment of your life. And then I’m not actually really giving anyone anything. The more I share I become less clear on my role, I really do. I couldn’t even call it, I mean I definitely can’t call it teaching. And I certainly have trouble calling it even guidance. What guidance do you need for yourself? And this willingness, it’s almost there must be a willingness to meet at the deepest offer. And you could say that you must have some intention. If I call it work, it won’t be the right word. You could say, “For me I’m always working”, or “For me I’m always inquiring”, or “For me I’m always meeting”. And if someone is also, even if they’re not totally aware of what that will mean for them yet, if there is that desire then there are certain ways to come to this gateway. And some of these ways are what I mentioned. Using pain as an anchor for awareness. Coming back to body awareness in each moment. You could come back and come through the layers. Sometimes this is a shell of a practice. That just to kind of, even if you’re not in the experience I had, take it as an example. To check in, in each moment, if you can, when you remember, each layer of your experience in that moment. And instead of analyzing those layers, when you notice them, you’re automatically clarifying how you’re able to see even all of those layers. And this seeing is also an automatic resting. And so often the only thing standing between a deep recognition and suffering is just a continuous distraction or pull of that attention.

Rick: What you just said kind of sounds like it would apply to people who are not in pain and who are pretty healthy and happy and things are going pretty smoothly. It sounds like that could be of value to them too.

Sruti: I find both come to my satsangs. I’ve seen people in pain, but I also see those who don’t experience very high pain at all. And again, as I share, I become less clear on my role and also who might be interested. And I become less clear. It’s not like therapy. I don’t sit around and keep notes of other people’s progress. I don’t feel I’m progressing anything. And I very deeply feel for myself that in losing control, the control shifts. It’s like it was never yours and all of life is handling it. God is handling it. God has me by you-know-where and God has my whole life and it’s okay because the trust of that, of this practice of returning and questioning very deeply what happens to you, who you are amidst these layers. You’re finding how God is carrying your life already. And so, I’m not deeply worried about the progress of others. I feel that God is handling everyone’s progress. And so, what role, personally, it’s almost too much to assume that I could know, just from this one experience that I have, what other people will go through.

Rick: I don’t think you need to have a conceptual certainty about exactly what your role is. I think if you just continue to do what you do, then it’ll just… and considering where you’re operating from, that it’ll just unfold as it’s meant to unfold. You don’t have to sweat the details too much.

Sruti: Often it seems a lot like a romance.

Rick: How so?

Sruti: In a romance, there’s not necessarily a road map. There’s not necessarily progress. If it’s real love, it’s not the same as self-help, for example. In a self-help program, there’s steps, there’s doing, there’s a formula, there’s clear signs of progress.

Rick: Like a 12-step program, for instance.

Sruti: Exactly, and that’s wonderful and helpful, but this is much more like love. And in love, like you say, things unfold quite spontaneously. And then the role… I don’t know, maybe sometimes there’s teaching in relationships, but the role of real love is not quite like teaching. It is like love. It is like humility. It is like some altruism. It is like not wanting to see someone you love suffer. And sometimes you just sit with someone and you have no idea what you… I’ve sat with people in grief and I don’t know what to say. And I’m sure, like you said, someone might sit with me and not know what the heck to say. So this is much deeper than that, much kinder.

Rick: I think the deeper thing is the thing that really has the impact, you know? Words can be trivial. Earlier on, hopefully… well, do you have any more to say on that before I do a little segue?

Sruti: You can segue.

Rick: Okay. Earlier on you said something about… I forget the word you used, it might have been gratitude for the pain. It’s almost like you felt like it was a gift in a way. And do you feel like even now, if you take some pain medication or something, because it just gets too intense, do you feel like you’re cheating yourself out of an opportunity?

Sruti: No. No, no, no. Actually, if anything, I’m much more quick to take the pain medication. Because there’s not the same interest in what happens… I mean, there was some sort of dark… like an angst. There was like an angst around, like I said, if pain doesn’t go, my goodness, this nightmare scenario where pain doesn’t go. And I know there’s no dark abyss there.

Rick: Maybe pain has served its purpose in shifting you into this deeper state and you really don’t need… it’s like what Alan Watts said with regard to drugs, “When you get the message, hang up the phone”. So, you don’t need to keep hearing the message anymore.

Sruti: Yeah, and actually in taking a codeine or something, you have kind of that high. Even the high is not anything all that special. What these experiences are of pain or drugs is disrupting experience. It’s still disrupting experience, and my interest has come to what is not an experience, always and naturally. And so, all the experiences, like I said, may be more challenging and then there’s reverence, may be less challenging and then there’s joy, celebration. But again, to come back to even… yes, the awakening and also this type of pain that continues. I mean, it’s naturally a disinterest in, you could say, most of life. And so, what I mean by that is, when this pain is your reality and you can’t find a way to make it go away. I struggle to think of what anyone could offer me that would be all that valuable. You could give me millions of dollars and to be very honest with you, it could not buy me the cure for this illness. And even with all that money, I would be operating under the same restrictions. And I would probably use it to go buy my lettuce and my supplements and do what I’ve been doing, that is managing. But the lure of something else… relationship. I mentioned, actually I was lucky to have a very loving long-term relationship at a young age before this illness, because I don’t know if I’ll ever be able, physically, to have another relationship. But even the offer of that is stale.

Rick: Is stale, did you say? What do you mean, in other words, it doesn’t interest you anymore?

Sruti: Well, first, like I said, physically, it likely will not be possible. But also, emotionally now, the offer that was there before, of love or caring or commitment or loyalty, all of these things I will be experiencing and this pain is naturally eroding them. What I’m trying to get at is the pain is eroding a lot of the promise of getting something out of life. But the greater gift, the spiritual multi-millionaire, is that my sole interest, because of this challenging circumstance, is God. Is only love that has no condition. And this same God, this same love, this same sense of being, this same wholeness, is encompassing somehow all of the world of experience for me. And so, instead of the interest being attached to one thing or the other, even the greatest things that life could offer to me, the pursuit is always wrapped in itself. The seeking for what was once in suffering cannot find the foothold in the world the way it could. And the interest is in the root of interest. The fulfillment is in the source of all of my being and what I experience in the world. And so, this always fulfilling the well, the springing forth of it, this is a gift of pain that is often overlooked. Because at first, if you just hear that pain has sucked away the joy of all of life, you don’t want that.

Rick: Sounds kind of bleak.

Sruti: It sounds sort of bad, but instead of bleak, the whole world is on fire in a way that it never was. The feeling of wind on your skin, the taste of a small cup of coffee, even the experience of pain that is cutting away layers… and the reverence. I mean, these experiences do not compare. The fulfillment does not compare to a permanent pain relief.

Rick: It’s interesting, it’s like God has made you a renunciate whether you like it or not.

Sruti: Exactly.

Rick: And if you talk to renunciates or read the stories of their lives, especially the saints – St Teresa, some of whom went through a lot of pain incidentally, St Francis, many others – it’s like they don’t have the world but they don’t miss the world, because the inner world that they’ve discovered is just so sublime that by comparison everything else is tawdry and everything else is insignificant.

Sruti: It’s sort of like, because it’s quite ordinary, it’s sort of even gritty, this story. But then, like you said, this renunciate without choice, I do often find that the most joy I experience and the deepest offering I have has become much more devotional, has become much more about living a life that is totally based around inquiry and God and these things. That actually is quite funny, because if you had met me before this illness, I could not have said the word “God” to you without extreme discomfort and misunderstanding. So there must be… there is such a deeper gift that, like you said, is sort of… even practically on a physical level I feel less pain in those environments. I feel less pain in those offerings.

Rick: Yeah, in those environments meaning in spiritual environments?

Sruti: Yes, for example I have been on retreat with Sri Mooji and… every aspect of that environment, the source of it being inquiry, but also the details, the air, the food, the people… there is no difference for me in God between the inquiry that is offered that is formless and the expression of it in form. And in this I have experienced pain levels drop dramatically.

Rick: Does it make you feel like living in his ashram?

Sruti: It does.

Rick: I think you might aspire to do that maybe or something?

Sruti: I am in touch with them.

Rick: Oh cool, that would be interesting.

Sruti: And like I mentioned, the deeper drive for sharing is… if not there, then the creation of that, because for me it almost is sort of… it is my life. I have seen people benefit, but still, like we said, it’s not quite a healing center. I have seen a wonderful therapist who survived cancer twice, and she offered… she helped found a healing center where her thing was, you know, “You’re not your illness”, but still very much based around physical healing. So what I find, again, in my own life is physical healing has not… even if it were to come true, would not satisfy me.

Rick: Yeah, there are plenty of people who are physically very healthy and are miserable, so it’s not the be all and end all. Incidentally, we got a nice little thank you from the Mark in Santa Clara who was asking about the sciatica. He said, “Wow, that was really helpful. Thank you so much”.

Sruti: Thank you, Mark.

Rick: Yeah. Okay, I have some notes here I took as I was reading your book. Some of them are a little bit like just little pithy fragments that I thought were meaningful. Like here’s one, “Behind the scenes, inner workings of grace”. What does that elicit from you?

Sruti: So much of my drive was so practical that if I didn’t see grace working in the world of form, working within the practical, I wasn’t interested. I wasn’t interested in God over there. I wasn’t interested in grace over there. I wasn’t interested in an understanding that didn’t also live my life. And the living of life is also revealing the behind the scenes, inner workings of grace. So actually each moment of the practical, of taking a pain medication, of eating certain foods, of going for a walk, of managing money… anything. If the intention is to reveal where these are coming from, then the real value of all of these practical details is revealing the behind the scenes, inner workings of grace. Of how all of the practical details are coming together in ways that you don’t understand and that are totally perfect, with the goal of always revealing how you are free of them as they are occurring. I also said somewhere else, like, “puzzle piece reality”, which was not my experience. I viewed a dark, chaotic, random world before the pain. That was my honest… if you would have asked me, I would say, “Well, I don’t know. I just see random”. And so the puzzle piece, the behind the scenes, inner working, the developing of trust. This is coming from direct recognition, but is also, you could say, bound by time. As you live in the world of time, the world of time is revealing the timeless.

Rick: Nice. You speak very poetically.

Sruti: Thank you.

Rick: Here’s another one. There are some others here. I wrote down what we’ve already kind of covered them, but here’s one. “God is waiting in the silence when our sense of all-knowing is dropped”.

Sruti: Yes, and like I said, you would not have caught me using that word even a couple years ago. So, my offering of that is quite direct. God is waiting in the silence.

Rick: Look at the title of your book here, “The Hidden Value of Not Knowing”, so it’s kind of a central theme, right?

Sruti: Yes, that God is waiting for you to find what is direct in your experience, very deeply. In these moments of pain when all I want is God, when speaking to a doctor is not enough anymore, when speaking to an expert is not enough anymore, then the questioning is all for God. And when it’s so visceral that way, you’re not speaking to God through a scripture anymore, you can’t. There’s no time. And this most intimate longing that exists in these moments of the pain of feeling separate is not… pain is not required to drop further, to drop below even questioning out, questioning to a God over there. And this questioning is part of the knowing tendency to understand God, to understand life. And sometimes in satsang I say we unconsciously are looking somehow accidentally for a continuous understanding. Like if we just find a continuous understanding…

Rick: Like we’re really going to figure it out.

Sruti: Like we’ll understand but this time it will be totally continuous across every moment. And that’s unconsciously what we might assume continuous means. But understanding can never be continuous. Even if just we look at this experience in pain where it’s gone. Even if your whole life your understanding is continuous, you will come to the edge of consciousness where it is gone. And what is deeper that remains that really is continuous? This is what I mean by God is waiting when you drop. God is waiting in the silence. God is waiting in the absence of understanding.

Rick: Well if it were about understanding then every night when we went to sleep we’d be cooked because you can’t…

Sruti: We’d be totally gone.

Rick: Yeah, you can’t understand while you’re asleep. So what we’re talking about here is something that actually is more fundamental than even the sleep state.

Sruti: And actually you can do this at night if you’d like to mimic the experience of this pain. Everyone mimics it at night. Everyone is crossing into unconsciousness at night. So where you see, where you are aware to even wake up the next morning and tell someone, “I fell asleep last night”. It’s so simple. The simplest awareness does not sleep. It does not fall asleep. Just consciousness falls, comes, falls. And so actually and sometimes also in pain, like I mentioned being woken up by the pain at night, even the concept of sleep shifts because if you are always intent on being, then you know you don’t sleep. You know you don’t experience that pain and also you don’t sleep. You are always resting, watching the fluctuation in and out of consciousness even.

Rick: There was an Indian saint named Tatwale Baba and somebody asked him one time, “Do you sleep?”. And he said, “What would happen to the universe if I slept?”.

Sruti: I remember Ramana, I believe he said something like, “I don’t sleep”. And his devotees said, “But we hear you snoring at night”. And that’s not what he meant because he’s not referencing the consciousness.

Rick: The Song of Solomon in the Bible is a verse that says, “I sleep though my heart waketh”.

Sruti: Yes.

Rick: I have a file on my computer of dozens of quotes like that all about that inner awareness during sleep. Here’s a question that somebody asked. Let’s see. Jeff from Louisville, Colorado asks, I don’t think we quite covered this – “Can the wisdom of your path be a guide for those not in physical pain but in mental or psychological pain?” Which everybody in the world is in to some extent or another.

Sruti: Well, there’s physical pain and then there is suffering. And suffering is usually about the physical pain. Like I said, the pain, the suffering can end even if the pain continues. So actually what I really feel I’m offering is much more about suffering than physical pain.

Rick: Yeah, I mean someone once said that, expressed the opinion that Christ never suffered. And you say a thing like that and people say, “What? What are you talking about? How could he not have suffered? Look at what he went through”. But, go ahead and elaborate on that a little bit more.

Sruti: My deeper interest is in this suffering actually. The physical pain is not so interesting to me, deeply. It is truly a tool, like I write. And the resolution of suffering is deeply interesting to me. And so it doesn’t quite… Certainly there will be similarities if I’m approached by those in physical pain. But physical pain does not guarantee that this offering is what you’re looking for at any given time.

Rick: Here’s a quote from your book actually, let me just read it here. You said, “Pain is God’s tool to help us let go of the personal in favor of the eternal. In intense pain, nothing but God will satisfy. Our suffering can end even if the pain continues”.

Sruti: Yes, and this is… You could say my whole being is oriented around these sentences. I’m not in a position to offer pain management. I’m not in a position to offer recovery. And I’m also not deeply interested because they did not bring me, and could not bring me what it is I have. And instead of looking elsewhere to heal or to fix, all of my orientation is in these sentences, in recognizing what is already okay. And to contact, not just to hear it from me and say, “Well, someone named Sruti said it was okay”. If it’s truly valuable to contact what is already okay in the midst of any type of suffering, this one contact, this one clarity is like its own healing. Because it rises up and pervades every aspect of what you thought was suffering. And you are already in a healing of being, you could say. You are healed at the point of contact. And then also your life is transforming in all of these spiritual ways. And my total interest is in bringing attention to the gateway, to the point of contact, to what is so valuable that I find always in my experience, in my darkest experiences and my lightest. And I don’t really mind what type of suffering it is, the same way I don’t know about progress. I mind if the suffering is more valuable to you still, or it’s a mistaken value, than what is always not suffering. The contact where you already sense you are not suffering. Can you rest there? Is there encouragement to rest there? And resting is the investigation. Resting is the doing of it.

Rick: Here’s a little quote from your book that somehow what you just said reminded me of, but has a different flavor, maybe you can elaborate on it. You said, “Real prayer is not an asking, but a being”.

Sruti: Coming from someone who rarely prayed. Yes, prayer is such a high and valuable orientation. In fact, I’m envious of those whose pathway is prayer and very different than what I experienced. But somehow in prayer that’s arising in these moments of extreme suffering, where I don’t even know what I’m praying to, almost immediately it’s going even deeper than prayer. Because prayer is still asking to something outside of your experience. It’s just the simplest shift of value, where even the highest… because prayer, I mean, such gratitude, such humility in prayer, such intimacy, such longing in prayer, in ways that, you know, if you’re seeking the self, sometimes maybe that’s a more intellectual path. So all I’m saying here is that even the highest expression of prayer, I feel prayer is so beautiful, if it remains still an asking between you and another, you will suffer that longing of that distance, especially in a moment of intense suffering. I don’t want any distance, I don’t want even anything outside of myself, it will leave, it will vanish, the one I am praying to, and I won’t know that one as I cross. And am I really crossing? So true prayer is not an asking, but a being. The prayer is rising up out of what cannot leave, out of being that naturally cannot leave, because being is what you are.

Rick: Yeah, and if we’re praying to God, in whatever we understand God to be, if there is a sort of an external orientation, then exactly where is he hiding out? I mean, is he on the dark side of the moon, or where does he live?

Sruti: Well yeah, it is… I know for me this was so urgent and earnest, because I didn’t have the background with God, and I felt so left, like hanging out to dry in this extreme intense experience. And I want God. I don’t know if I’m going to be annihilated, I don’t know what the pain will do to me. I mean, these are just some of the most humbling questions to have. And there is even a chapter in this book where I write about rolling on the floor, pleading with God, “Please God, make the pain stop”. And it’s just like, the words can’t even… like they get twisted and it’s “Praise, praise God”. It’s just… this is not within my upbringing or my conditioning or my personality. And yet still, the resolution of this pleading and this praise, in the most intense moments, even the pleading and the praise will go. And I must know more directly the source of these things, the source of myself. Will my source be annihilated? And this you don’t need pain to realize, this recognition of always now, always here, always home, always God, always love, always existence. In each moment there is no separation. And if your inquiry is not as dramatic as watching them leave, your inquiry can also be the noticing of them as separate from you, as a basic questioning of how the heck are these things separate from me?

Rick: It’s interesting, all the points you’re making kind of like segue nicely into little snippets that I’ve written down here. It’s because I think pretty much the whole time we’re actually talking about the same thing.

Sruti: We are.

Rick: We’re just getting at it from little different angles.

Sruti: That’s how I feel the whole book is, isn’t it?

Rick: It is, yeah, but it’s not redundant, you know. Each one is like a different flavor of this. Like it’s all ice cream, but different flavors of ice cream. But here’s a nice one, and perhaps you can juxtapose this with your experience, that many people going through the kind of pain you have gone through would not resonate with this little quote, but it would help them to be able to. And the quote is, “The fabric of our universe is more benevolent than we know”.

Sruti: Yes, this is a little bit what I spoke about when I said that I truly saw a heart of darkness. And every experience of pain seemed to confirm, because it was bad. A chaotic, random heart of darkness. And I don’t lie about the extraordinary bitterness, the rage, the very deep despair. But strangely it was coming up because of the same pain that would later free me from these things. And yes, to feel, to know directly a fabric that is benevolent beneath what is bad, and to say it is very powerful. And to say that the seeds of that sentence come actually from extraordinary bitterness. I mean, there’s some very dark artwork we could put up and you might believe me. But again, saying these things will not be as powerful as the inquiry that I offer in the very beginning of this book in my direct experience. And so in some ways, I’ve even said to people, “The book is written from within pain. I feel it is very direct. Sometimes I even feel it’s a bit long. It’s a short book and I feel it’s a bit long for someone in pain”. Like if I read it and I sometimes do in pain, I just want the heart. I want the heart of the matter, I don’t have time. And I want to know these things directly. I don’t necessarily even want to hear someone tell me these things. So there’s some value in saying it like that. There’s other passages that, you know, puzzle piece reality, benevolent universe, fabric of love. How do you come to that? What are the tools to come to that? What is the most powerful tool to break through extraordinary bitterness to really, truly words that are pointing to a very different lived reality? And my whole offering is in that one passage I read to you in some ways. If I was in extreme pain and needed to know that… I needed to be handed the tools, just end-of-the-line tools. This experience is that, it’s a framework almost. It’s a framework for your direct inquiry. Whether you’re in pain or not, you have the power to see these layers. Whether you’re in pain or not, you have the power of attention.

Rick: Speaking of layers, here’s a question that just came in from Frank in Norway. And he asks, “Sruti has talked about layers. Can she describe them in more detail? Is there a hierarchy of layers? Is it helpful to see them and work through them one by one from the simplest to the most subtle?”

Sruti: It can be. I don’t know if there’s a hierarchy, but I often do them in a certain order.

Rick: Can you enumerate them a little bit?

Sruti: It is actually the order that they disappeared in real life. So, the first layer would be the body. And there is actually a short… I call it a meditation on vision at the very end of this book that sort of does this, by the way. After someone asked me how to do it. And more than doing, this exercise is really an exercise in seeing, not an exercise in doing. And so, the first layer we often come up against is the body, the outer layer. And this body awareness, this checking into the body, is the first step. And for me, in pain, this is happening sort of automatically. So, to check in with each sensation in this moment – of what it feels like in this body. And to just stay at the level of body for a moment. And for me, for example, there is pain now. So, mostly I am checking in because of pain. And I am noticing pain in the part of the body it is located. And allowing it to also bounce to other parts of the body that there is no pain. And this is just a common body awareness practice that anyone can offer. And as you are aware of your body in this moment, you can also allow the attention to be on any thoughts that come up. And if you are in pain, the attention is anchored and the thoughts are appearing in the midst of your practice of this body awareness. And when first you are practicing body awareness, and your attention is rooted in this moment, you can let the thoughts just come up and not elaborate on them. Not let the attention go and analyze what they are saying. Not be interested in what the content of the thoughts are. Just the same as the body, where you feel a sensation in the body, you feel a mental sensation.

Rick: Treat the thoughts as if they were in Japanese.

Sruti: Yes. Yes, it is helpful to be in a foreign country, by the way.

Rick: Yeah.

Sruti: Feelings, as I’ve mentioned, they are the bridge often between body and thought. You feel feelings as sensations in your body, and yet they are often hooked into a “why” or a “how” or a “me”. And all of that is hooked into thought. And naturally in this practice of widening the scope of your attention to not fixate but remain present, you are able to encompass all of the layers as equal. Sensation – Thought is sensation. Feeling is sensation. Body is sensation. Pain is sensation. And as you do this, there is like this soup of sensation. And somehow your attention encompasses all of that soup. And whether you start one by one or you are able to just drop, these layers remain on the same plane. And as all of these layers are occurring, we come to other more common practices like breathing, like eyesight. And this was my experience in pain, that after each of these other layers that we’re used to vanish – or in this case are seen – we come to the basic parts of experience of breathing and eyesight and simple awareness. And if this is your whole practice of coming to basic awareness, this is enough for a while. But never is any of my offering stopping there. Even the breathing and the eyesight and the awareness of the soup, you could say the knowing of awareness is your most immediate possibility in this moment always. And you are seeing not just the soup of these layers, not just the soup of experience, you are seeing the bubble of experience. You are seeing the edges of consciousness from a place that isn’t even conscious, that doesn’t need consciousness to see, that doesn’t know anything, because its knowing is so much more direct as just recognition. And this one you will not know about. You will not know about yourself as earliest vision. It won’t matter. And none of the soup will be all that intelligible. The whole practice of touching into these layers is to touch in to come earlier, to stay earlier. And the true desire… the true desire to know what you cannot ever prove or describe to anyone. And for this there is no practice. And for this there is no doing. For this there is just meeting. And before you meet another your intention is to meet, to see if you can meet your earliest self. What will that meeting look like? Will there be two? Is it enough to recognize where you are aware from, instead of what you are aware of? In my experience, what you are aware of has transient and fleeting value. That word “of” means leaving. It means it leaves me.

Rick: I would say that even though for this there is no practice, as you just said, because what you are referring to precedes… it’s in a realm which practices can’t touch. But on the other hand, just as pain for you was a sort of practice, it wasn’t like a voluntary practice, but it chipped away at that which clung to the transitory and kind of forced you into that realm which precedes the transitory, there are actual practices which can help do that as well, that people have traditionally practiced throughout the ages. They are more voluntary than what you have undergone, gratefully, but they can nonetheless be effective in kind of thinning the clouds.

Sruti: There’s always the choice also of attention. And I’d hesitate to call that a practice even, although I suppose what we just did was a bit of a practice. The choice of attention is the strongest choice. And you could say that in this moment of intense pain for me, it was yes, deeper than choice, to somehow, you could say, remain present in this volatile circumstance. Really, the choice is attention. What is the attention fixing on that is of most value? The hidden value of not knowing is even in the title of this writing, it’s not so much about right and wrong or correct or not correct or doing the practice right. It’s more about a deep sense of value, of interest. And somehow that interest can explode into itself, you think you’re interested in something and instead you’re finding the source of interest itself.

Rick: It does seem that that’s one thing we do have a handle on, is our attention, where we choose to put it.

Sruti: Very much.

Rick: Here’s a question which came in from Wakas Khan from Pakistan, who asked, “Greetings Sruti, from your experience, what is your perspective or experience of the unified consciousness, what is usually referred to as the cosmic consciousness, not as a mental understanding of interconnectedness, but pure experiential waking state of objective reality?”

Sruti: I don’t know how to answer differently.

Rick: Than you already have, or differently than you’re about to? (Laughter)

Sruti: Both. I see where the question is coming from. I know for myself, you could say there’s not really an interest in cosmic reality.

Rick: I guess he’s kind of wondering whether what you’re experiencing is what has been referred to by various sages and scriptures and so on, you know? He’s wondering if that’s what you have somehow glommed on to.

Sruti: It feels like there is no me in the world. And this I feel intimately, indirectly. And what I mean by I’m not interested is, it’s so fulfilling that I don’t really mind if it’s not the great cosmic understanding. And I don’t mind… in pain I didn’t mind if the answers did not align with spirituality. This is much more urgent and humble, that if I could not attain something, I was not interested. And my direct experience is so profound, so fulfilling, so deeply, such deep relief and end-of-the-line interest. That even the idea of those things is of less value than what is my direct experience each moment. And so the reason I’m answering this way is that I don’t feel that the answer is different than my offer. I don’t feel the answer is different than what I say very directly about and in my experience. I do sometimes find that what I say aligns with certain traditions and it aligns with certain terms. For example, I came up off the floor and discovered Sri Mooji and found absolutely everything was more than alignment. It was in pain, the whole world was speaking, like you say, Japanese or something foreign. I couldn’t even hear regular words, but I could hear the words that Sri Mooji was saying. And I’ve read Ramana Maharshi’s book in hindsight and find that the offer there is some alignment. But the interest in alignment, the interest in comparison, even in the mildest form, is not bringing me anything of value. And especially when pain is still being experienced, my offer remains so immediate. And so immediate also for others, where instead of being so concerned, because I do have some people in satsang, you know, “Oh, this sounds like I am that”, or “Oh, this sounds like I am the seer”. And perhaps, but I sort of leave that up to you, because I don’t have the energy or interest, especially when pain is the reason and the ongoing driver and pointing to the ongoing fulfillment, to pretend that I can make those kind of alignments.

Rick: Yeah, it seems to me like… that your experience is its own confirmation, you know, and its own justification. And it’s known with an immediacy, a directness, a certainty that doesn’t really require external authorities to confirm it or articulate it or anything like that.

Sruti: And in some ways, in order to have the courage to share, sometimes even just you share the nature of the pain, and you don’t commonly find young women sharing the nature of pain. I wouldn’t have, I would have been embarrassed. I would have been maybe even ashamed. So somehow to have recognition that is valuable at that level, at the deepest offer, is also present in my whole being and offering and sharing. And again, it would be a mistake to assume that this is avoiding a question. This is deeper than that question even, deeper than proof and deeper than needing to confirm, like you said, deeper than needing to confirm. And it has to be that way or else we’d get stuck five minutes into this interview and I wouldn’t tell you with such honesty about things that are very very challenging sometimes. I would not do it.

Rick: There’s something that occurred to me a few minutes ago as we were talking about “the fabric of our universe is more benevolent than we know”. And I’ll try to express it – we live in a culture in which the dominant paradigm has been material, scientific culture, scientific worldview, in which the universe is assumed to be mechanistic and in a way meaningless. And many people feel that – to quote my friend Alex Tsakiris of – that we’re biological robots in a meaningless universe. But I think if we consider that in light of the idea that the fabric of the universe is actually benevolent, then it may be that our very culture is going to be put through, and is already being put through, a metamorphosis which may involve pain on a social or collective level, much as it was involved for you on an individual level. And that there may be travails, difficulties, trials and tribulations that seem capricious, that seem – if we have this mechanistic viewpoint – the vagaries of a cruel or mechanistic or heartless universe, but that actually in the big picture, at the deepest level, are something very benign taking place, unnecessary purging that is essential for waking humanity up. So that was a little bit long-winded. Irene’s been writhing over here, “get to the point!” Not writhing, but sighing and gesticulating and yawning. But I think you probably understood what I said. Do you have any comments on it?

Sruti: I was listening.

Rick: Just a recap. That on a collective level, we may be going through an awakening which recapitulates the individual awakening and in which many of the same symptoms that individuals go through will be seen on a societal scale.

Sruti: Perhaps. You could make a metaphor with recovering from addiction. You see the same, very similar symptoms and feelings and processes across many different people. And I do feel that many awakenings do involve some type of pain and that it’s not all that personal. What I mean is the experience of how you deal with pain or bitterness or whatnot is not all that personal, I feel. The value of sharing an experience like this is if indeed these awakenings that we’re seeing now involve pain like that the challenge is then, does this pain bring us deeper into disillusionment? Or is there some guidance or trust that actually this pain is like a tool handed to us collectively? And yes, we do see, we’ve seen some very painful things play out globally recently that seem like things are getting worse. And I have to say that very deeply I don’t feel that way. I don’t feel that things are getting worse. And it is directly because of what I’m offering from my experience of seeing things get worse. Because what’s available is a much deeper understanding of the world and understanding of yourself in the world and where pain and suffering come from. If this is part of the value of sharing then like I said, some of the most powerful awakenings can be if you find the candle that cannot go out as you’re walking through the valley of the shadow of darkness. Like, why do you have to wait? My whole book is why you wait to leave the valley to find the light. Why do you need to recover to find out who you are in that suffering, who is not suffering? If you find this once, if you find what cannot be put out by pain then this is the strongest awakening I can imagine, at least for me. There were many experiences of awakening but the strength, the foundation, the solidity, the unshakable beneath confirmation, beyond doubt – this actually came from the darkest moment. It’s just an offer, it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to do that to find stability in your seeing. Like I said, I’ve seen many different pathways.

Rick: Yeah. So, for those listening, if Donald Trump gets elected president I don’t have to move to Canada. In the big picture, despite the bleakness of the prospect of the next four years, something good is happening. And it’s all kind of well and wisely put and we’ll see how the divine drama plays out.

Sruti: If at least just with you.

Rick: Have you been in pain during this interview?

Sruti: Yes, I am in pain now.

Rick: More than… I mean, it looked like it kind of came over your face after a while more.

Sruti: It builds, it builds. Like I said, it’s like an ongoing experience of form. And if this understanding were not so deeply loving I would always see it as a disruption. But instead of a disruption, I always see it as a guidance.

Rick: Yeah, beautiful. Well, that’s a good note to end on and I should let you go. So, thank you very much for this conversation.

Sruti: Thank you.

Rick: I think people have been enjoying it and many more will enjoy it when it goes on. About a hundred people have been listening throughout. And when we put it up on BatGap, many more will listen in the coming weeks and months and years.

Sruti: Thank you so much for having me on. It’s such a pleasure.

Rick: Yeah, pleasure for me too and blessings on your path. I hope that if you get to live in Mooji’s ashram, if that’s what you want to do, or that whatever happens, you know, that even though pain has been a teacher for you, I hope it’s already done its role and you can be relieved of it.

Sruti: I see what you’re saying. Thank you.

Rick: So, I’ve been speaking with Sruti and as usual I have a page for her on and it will have a little bio and links to her book and her website and so on. These satsangs you do, are they just in Boulder or are they online, live? I know you have a lot of your satsangs on the internet, on YouTube, but can you actually tune in live?

Sruti: Well, we’ve been trying to get recordings up there. I’m realizing now that we need to have webcasts.

Rick: Yeah.

Sruti: So, something that we’re beginning to offer that I’m working out, because I’m not familiar.

Rick: Some people use Zoom for that, you might want to check into Zoom.

Sruti: Okay, yeah, live webcasts, because there are people in Boulder, but I am aware that…

Rick: Big world out there.

Sruti: Yeah, it’s much beyond Boulder.

Rick: Yeah, yeah. Okay, great. Well, people will be getting in touch I’m sure, both far and wide and near and far, and it’s really been great speaking with you. Next week I’ll be speaking with David Spangler, who is one of the original founders of Findhorn up in Scotland, and that should be an interesting conversation. And as I mentioned in the beginning, this is an ongoing series, so if this is new to you, go to and you’ll find all the past ones archived, you’ll find a list of all the upcoming ones that have been scheduled so far. There’s a place to sign up to be notified by email each time a new interview is posted. You can also subscribe on YouTube and YouTube will notify you when a new one is posted. There’s an audio podcast of this, for those who don’t feel like sitting in front of their computer for a couple of hours, you can listen while you’re driving and so on. And the donate button, as I mentioned earlier, and a number of other things. Explore the menus on – there aren’t too many of them, but there are some interesting little resources and things that people might enjoy. So, thanks for listening or watching, and thanks again, Sruti.

Sruti: Thank you, Rick. Thank you.

Rick: It’s been a lot of fun.

Sruti: Such a pleasure.

Rick: Yeah, pleasure. And we’ll see you all next week.