The time has come. In December 2016 I turned 60. How I managed this extraordinary feat is completely bewildering to me after the trials and tribulations of a dramatic life starting with my Eurasian birth in 1956 into a viciously racist London, the capital of an empire which had recently lost India. My unusual childhood, filled with overflowing and unconditional love, was however disturbed by the deep underlying cross-cultural challenges of my parents’ marriage over 60 years ago, at a time when racial prejudice really prevailed; something which nobody on the street today can or would understand.
It has become clear to me that as I reach this respectable age, I have to tell a story. This is difficult for me because I am old-school and don’t particularly like discussing my private affairs, but healers, close friends, acquaintances and the casual man in the street who have graciously listened to me over the long years, have recently urged me earnestly to speak about my life as a modern source of inspiration. I hope I am able to be of value in this way.
In my early years, I became a loner; deeply loved, acknowledged and praised, but not always understood because I disliked the banal and could see beyond the obvious. I was querulous: God, why me? and who am I anyway? I carried a profound sense of family responsibility as the eldest child of a Muslim father – a responsibility well beyond my young years and something which I have found difficult to lose even today, but it taught me crucial survival tactics as the girl moved into woman with an unusual skin shade for those early times. It was extremely rare to be coffee-coloured in the years between 1950s-1980s in London.
I was also born with a great love of God which I intuited from the love of my mother and father for their apparently different Gods, but specifically more from their love for each other, and how they loved me because of their coup-de-foudre mutual adoration. “You were born out of our great love for each other, Selima. You are our lifelong rose.” I have drawn on this divine sublime memory in my darkest hours through my life, and as a child born as the fusion of east and western spiritual energies in the 1950s, I would experience the embrace by the Great Love into which I would disappear, as what I finally discovered decades later, was spontaneous Samadhi.
As a little girl before puberty, I would sense the Great Energy approaching me into which I would dissolve as It embraced me to become the solitary Seeing Eye, observing my kingdom, the world, and realising it was all Me. The Love. The last time I experienced this dissolution into Oneness (which I had not experienced since a child), was around 1978/79 when I was about 22. I was standing at my desk at the American Investment Financial House, Chemical Bank, at 180, The Strand, London WC2, after having returned from lunch in Covent Garden. My business jacket was slung over my right shoulder and sunlight was pouring in through the window onto my desk. Love had not forgotten me in my 3rd decade! and with such familiarity, It approached again to embrace and envelop me as I disappeared into the Field, observing the department of computer banking specialists become me and the surreal realisation of supposed reality. My boss strolled by along the expensive carpeted corridor and exclaimed, “You DO look well, Selima!” I remember the response that emanated from the silence that I had become, “I FEEL well!” Oh! the absurd Divine Comedy!
It was around this time in my life while in deep contemplation one night, that I found and entered the Kingdom of God. But my profound explorations were cut short and not to be revisited for decades because my life changed beyond recognition when I was 23.
In 1980, I met a man who was to teach me my greatest life lessons, and for whom I am eternally grateful to God for appearing to me in this wonderful male form. My international life with him lasted 15 years and took 7 years more to finalise, all during which I fought for my human life, identity and spiritual essence and then for the safe upbringing of our child. In the 20 years after I left, walking out with nothing but my books, child and passport, I remained celibate as a solitary parent with the sole purpose of raising our child of God with the same love that had been shown to me by my parents, and by circumventing the norm and dodging the obvious. (I just add, for humour here, that it was with some alarm that I suddenly realised we had reached the end of the century in 1999, and regarded my celibacy as embarrassing. I was able to add a couple more to my one hand within the space of 4 weeks, and the matter was resolved. Year 2K looked promising.)
Mother and child moved house 14 times in 19 years. My personal total is over 35 house moves since 1976, many international, some for less than a year, not counting the hotels and stop-overs in between. I am told I became impenetrable with a steel girder around the two of us for 15 years, a deep moat around the periphery with a guillotine for a portcullis.
I am sure all single parents are so, however, particularly those without any meaningful or compassionate practical support. I also make a difference between single and solitary parents and it’s obvious why. I had to return from Europe back to the UK in 1996, where I had no credit line, with little work history since I had left in 1983, and where London culture had completely changed.
Throughout all my life, I have taken counsel from my silent witness through which I penetrated when I finally entered the Kingdom. This is the silence which pervades from the watchtower within (known as the witness or observer in eastern traditions), and had always guided my direction and behaviour in life. More correctly, my reference to the witness was my light in dark avenues, and in 2000, in order to maintain my individual self and my sanity, and to create great beauty out of the anguish and desperation while raising my child, the idea of EmW Peace started to blossom.
Through the dramatic fight for my identity – fragile, of course, as it had been as a young girl – and wellbeing of my child, I had lost my connection to my inner beauty, realm of love and belief in myself, but I kept moving forwards. As I coped with my child’s teenage depression, our loneliness and financial insecurity without his father or any family support of note, I plunged into creating the greatest beauty I knew.
There were times when I did not leave the house for a year apart from grocery shopping because I could not find a baby-sitter, and during the days of the teenage depression, I sat in twilight in the house for 5 years because my son could not stand any sunlight to shine in. He hated his school life and was a solemn, unreadable child because of all the house/school moves and general lack of direction in his life. I moved house each time he changed schools so he would not have to travel the 100 miles a day that I undertaken as a schoolgirl in the 1970s. I had to keep the momentum of our life moving and hold him the cradle of my being to see him into adulthood.
So, in attempting to keep my sanity, I thought that perhaps now had arrived the time to express in words what I knew through the beauty of east and west; through my spiritual longing to return to that innocence of my childhood where I had understood and ‘seen’ it ALL. Was it not surely now or never?
During the years of my relationship, I had learnt all the prevailing healing systems in the 80s and 90s, looked at New Age teachings, obtained an honours degree in Art History & Philosophy, and searched everywhere through the spiritual literature of east and west to find that which I had ‘seen’ in the 1950s and 60s. It remained elusive as I filled myself with vast, unending libraries of mystical and rational knowledge.
In great, traumatic never-ending emotional pain, often there is a profound desire to project great beauty in forms of art – via the visual, musical or written – as the wounded healer who produces a holy solace or sacred balm to ease a breaking heart. Broken, because my responsibilities and loss of myself through my relationship left me for years as the fragile shell of a mother, daughter, sister, lover and vibrant woman that I had been, notwithstanding the physical toll of innumerable house relocations on my body. I don’t think I slept for over 20 years because I had a supremely heightened awareness for danger. Solitary parents become a Cyclops, with one eye always open in case of emergency, particularly at night. I was so wired that for ten years electric sparks used to fly if I touched metal.
As the years went by, I took knock after knock as a floating cork smacked against a wild, merciless ocean clutching my child with the only thing I had – my life. I could not even find an Executor for my Will who would act on behalf of my son without payment if I had died. I remember asking the parents of one of his few school friends if they would look after him if anything happened to me, and they did not reply to my request. I asked my physiotherapist if I could give his name, he asked me to book an appointment and billed me. I used to pray my son would reach 18 without anything happening to me.
I will not discuss here in too much detail the last 10 years from the time I turned 50 to today. I can do that another time, and it is just another story, but fundamentally, I could not find what I was seeking; that which I had seen up to the age of 22. That was the excruciating, appalling twist. I had incarnated with true spiritual understanding, and through the love of my parents. This I recognised immediately when I read eastern spiritual books, but knowledge is not the same as experience, and mind is the greatest deceptive instrument of man, and I could not re-find It. Were was It and where was I?
There was a difficulty too. With my early vision for EmW, something profound had started to happen. I could not find the energy to talk about something that I could no longer feel. I couldn’t find the mental creative mechanism to discuss the intricacies of the similarity between the world’s religions and how we can bring the common threads into society for the good of all. I was world-weary and tired. Global societies had moved on with people from all walks of life, colour and creeds marrying inter-culturally and happily without a second thought. Perhaps I was of no use with my vision for EmW Peace and Understanding; should I let it go, as I had with most aspects of myself and my life? What did I have to offer? Another spiritual teacher saying – what, exactly? I had nothing really to offer anybody anymore.
My life continued to implode as my now adult son left university early to return home. I took the mantle of responsibility for my mother’s descent into dementia and assisted a family member through a highly acrimonious divorce during which he was accused of unspeakable acts against his children. He spent much time with me during this phase.
I found myself trapped in a life of living hell, trying to find a way out into beauty but finding none within or without. I had lost all sense of myself since 1987, and in 2012 I was finally brought to my knees when my mother, who could still communicate through her dementia, telephoned me to say her care person had walked out without notice demand money.
I raced around in a taxi to find my mother sobbing, standing in a raincoat, with her underwear in a plastic bag waiting for me. I took her home with me, and remember my heart pounding ominously – deep, powerful thuds the sensation of which I had never known before . My ears filled up as if I were beginning a descent in a plane; later there was dizziness, swaying, and a complete loss of sense of body or position in space, and my mind was gone.
I was due to leave the country for Italy in 3 weeks with son and dog, and we were vacating our home.
I went to see my gynaecologist, a man I had known for 20 years, and explained that I had no sense of body, and that my energy was escaping through my crown. I didn’t dare say my mind was gone because physically, I looked and was, in great shape, and it was not obvious what was happening to me. He was so alarmed he told me to see a psychiatrist and not to leave the country. My life had entirely imploded and the self I had been seeking since 1987 was gone. I was no more.
In the last 4 years, nothing of that original woman has returned. The witness, entry to the Kingdom has also disappeared. I had to dramatically reduce the activity of my life because I had no energy and something profound had happened to me. Something intangible had left. There was no barrier between my body and the outer ether of the world and I had a barely functional mind – all I had left was love, sometimes overwhelming, other times just settled. I could scarely look after the house, its finances or eat, and spent days and weeks lying flat with exhaustion barely alive. What ever was happening took every ounce of stamina that I possessed but it was the dramatic process that was draining me; the paradox was that although my functioning mind had all but closed down, the creative free inspirational aspect was unaffected. I wrote a book and researched according whim through this cataclysmic shock to the body/mind continuum.
I was so raw and open it was as if a cannonball had shot through my thorax/abdomen. I was an amoeba moving slowly through the ether seeing, hearing, perceiving directly. I was apparently alive but could not prove it. I could say something appeared to be alive, but that was all. My survival instinct had disappeared as well, and often, it was highly dangerous for me to be outside the house. I remember standing with groceries in each hand waiting for a tram to cross in front of me in Berlin, and terror gripped me as I poured in sweat because I could not remember which way to look first – right or left. I thought I was losing my mind.
The emptiness in my head which started as increasingly worsening dizziness in 2012 became predominant, and slowly I realised there was nothing I could do. Life had to continue and I still had my responsibilities, so I altered my life to the minimum to sit it out. Through my terror, I knew something was dying.
After four years, now in 2016, after listening to teachers for 3 years online and in person, I realised that great veil of illusion, Maya, had started to drop sometime around the final 2012 crisis as I surrendered to my life. The witness had merged with the One – that is why it had disappeared, and why I have only seeing and not the reference point.
The complete and alarming emptiness of the body and its vacuous expression left me left with the natural state, and my brain within the body/mind is re-wiring. This magnificent organ is totally unrecognisable from the previous 55 years. I am able to halt the mind at will and sit quietly in no-man’s-land, holding it at bay; this is NOT the same thing as sinking below or behind the diaphragm of mind in the vastness of being.
Today, it feels as if both hemispheres are one and my body signals speak a language I no longer understand. If I look at photographs of myself from the past, it is just a woman – although I remember perfectly what and when, I cannot hold the energy of her in the photo, and I would collapse gasping for breath if I had to wear her mantle again. But I repeat, this is just description and all I have is this moment – alive, present, unique and forever and bodily sensation.
May I conclude my loving welcome to you with the following: I have partied and lived an extraordinary life with wonderful people in the world, but I have also spent much of my life in contemplative solitude working quietly to understand my life., and certainly before the Internet and cell phones.
All this is just a story, including the tale of my early life as a little girl with two spiritual energy systems a decade after WWII and Indian Independence; but it still seems that I could offer something from this perspective simply because I have been Eurasian for so long, and that I came through a dramatic realisation to answer the ultimate question, “Who am I?”
I offer myself to EmW and its Peace Perspective as a woman who went through it all to find her paradise lost, but actually realised paradise is here. My mistake, in ignorance, was to fight my way through, instead of accepting what was in front of me during the lengthy, gruelling decades of unrelenting challenge; well, that was the way it happened, it was all I knew, and, I am a mother desperate to stay alive for her child. At some point, the mind exhausts itself of get-out-clauses and survival techniques, and that is when the journey home commences. I was caught in the end and macerated, pounded repeatedly, mercilessly annihilated without explanation to unwanted dust.
This piece of writing will form part of a free book I shall write for the spiritual community to put on record this instance of dramatic realisation. There is little reference in the canon of spiritual literature to this kind of awakening, I understand, although Meister Eckhart refers to it in the Christian tradition. In Zen Buddhism, there is also discussion about life without self, and I am grateful to Adyashanti for his once remark about the works of Suzanne Seagal and Bernadette Roberts 30 years ago who described exactly the same as I. Through those pieces literature I was able to come to terms with the living through the death of the self.
I am also grateful to the Zen Master in Japan and the long term student of Jean Klein who gave me their gracious attention and advice, offering me their presence. Both urged me to take care. I do.
If my love and understanding can inspire, lift up and soothe anybody who is drawn to EmW, I truly stand here quietly awaiting your gentle command…
EmW Diamond showing fusion between eastern and western cultures
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
His Grace Archbishop
I am indebted to these two eminent peace icons for supporting my vision.