Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Life With A Hole In It: Guest Teaching by Vicki Woodyard

WELCOME.  We're glad to have you with us for the seventeenth installment of our Guest Teaching Series.  We're already brought you wonderful offerings from some of the foremost spiritual teachers in the world, and we have quite a few lined up for the future.  Look for Suzanne Foxton, Bentinho Massaro, Jeff Foster, Chris Hebard and Ellen Emmet in upcoming issues.  Starting next week, the GTS will begin alternating with posts of my own.  I wrote a great deal in the first few months of Awakening Clarity, then stopped altogether to get the GTS firmly established.  That goal, it appears, has now been accomplished in a big way.  I've had a number of requests from our readers in recent months to get back on the board myself, so I guess it's just about time to do exactly that.  I'm looking forward to seeing what comes out.

VICKI WOODYARD lives just a couple of hundred miles West of me, over in Georgia.  However, we are both hermits, so she might as well be in Asia.  We've not met in person, and perhaps never will,  but life is long (except when it's short) and one can never know what's coming even in the next moment.  We've discovered a natural resonance, so we email quite a bit.  Scott Kiloby originally had her contact me about website advice, and we hit it off right away.  Vicki will be writing a regular blog on Awakening Clarity in the very near future, so keep an eye out for that.  Her "Wisdoms" page has already proven to be quite popular.

VICKI IS INTENSELY HONEST, and I thoroughly admire that.  That quality may be less prevalent in spiritual writing than we like to think.  It's easy to carve out a niche and then begin to protect it.  But not Vicki.  She's writes from wherever she finds herself, whether that is joy or pain, in the midst of either a life comedy, or a tragedy.  She's not only unafraid to tell the truth, she insists on it.  Her first book, Life with a Hole in It, was published in 2010 to critical and popular acclaim.  Among other things, it covers Vicki's journey through the death of her seven year-old daughter, and then her husband, both to cancer. I'm an Internet bookseller, so I spend a lot of time on Amazon and it's a rare thing to see a book on that site with twenty-one 5-Star reviews and no detractors.  Jerry Katz and Greg Goode are among the reviewers, so it's clear that something is happening at Vicki's Deep South hermitage.   

VICKI'S SECOND BOOK, A Guru in the Guest Room, was just published in March of this year. Greg and Jerry liked this one, too, and Scott Kiloby joined in the accolade.  I'm going to borrow two lines from Scott's Amazon review; I don't think he'll mind. "In an age where so many books on enlightenment leave out the human element, this hits you in the face with it. It is balanced between transcendence and plain old, beautiful, ugly humanness."  I love that.  Jerry tell us, "There is lots of life in this book. Through it all, the eye of wisdom never blinks." Isn't that great?  And lastly, from Greg comes this simple, heartfelt observation: "I see a liberational message here."  As ever, Greg has it pared down to essentials.  This book dares to not take itself seriously while delivering a serious message.  It shows us how Vicki colors outside of the lines.

I CAN TELL YOU from our correspondence that Vicki Woodyard understands the word "surrender," and knows it's not a one-time event, but rather a constant movement, a continuous opening.  The universe is always saying to us--so long as there is an us--"Here's Life.  Your move."  I am taught that this opening gets easier, for there is a point where it's hardly needed, or perhaps it's not even needed at all. I hear something to this effect from my beloved mentors, and thus trust that this is true.  I, of course, can write only from my own direct and current experience, while endeavoring to allow the ultimate understanding to expand.  There's never an end to it, but every "stage," as it were, is full and perfect unto itself.  Always being; always becoming.

I TRY TO LIVE MY LIFE (two lies in just four words!) in a state of what I call pre-surrender.  There is often yet a blurry "I" who meets the moment with judgments at the ready; that's just the way it is. At least my willingness to surrender runs deep and true, thus acceptance is a great deal faster and easier than it used to be; often it's nearly simultaneous to a sparking event. Nonetheless, I can sure get shocked out of that yielding softness; it happened just this week, when unexpected demands really rocked my boat.  After an initial shock, the reincarnated little me dropped away fairly quickly, and Peace came back out of hiding.  

EVEN STILL, it took two days for the body-mind to process it. I'd already "taken delivery," of the "personal me" thought, as Ramesh Balsekar was fond of saying, and it's an all or nothing game. I had no control over that instant karma, but at least I witnessed most of it from a non-involved space.  While the body-mind continued to suffer, I did not have to take the body's suffering personally, or particularly seriously.  As best I could, I let it play itself out as one more thing coming and going.  As I see it, and apparently as Vicki Woodyard sees it as well, grace arrives in an ugly package more often than it does a pretty one.  This week's guest teacher doesn't mind doing "openness heart surgery" in print.  Let's go ahead and let her do so.

VICKI WOODYARD received a B.S. degree, magna cum laude, in English and Psychology from the University of Memphis. She was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and now makes her home in Atlanta. She has spent her life on the spiritual path, and has been writing actively writing about Nonduality on the Internet for more than a decade. She lives in Atlanta, possibly with a cookie-loving swami.

AND NOW . . . 

Vicki Woodyard


"ARE YOU ENLIGHTENED?"  is a poor question to ask anyone. Many claim to tick the box that says Yes; but is it really that easy a question to answer? My teacher was Vernon  Howard, who taught in the fashion of G. I. Gurdjieff. He favored bluntness and shock as teaching tactics. I had already experienced a great shock before I approached him. I lost my only daughter to cancer when she was 7 years old. And being blunt myself, I saw nothing wrong with that approach. It was in my DNA. I can recall my mother saying to people that “Vicki is so honest.” And I always thought, “Isn’t everyone?” I saw no other way to be.
I HAVE BEEN WRITING online for over ten years now. The internet is a poor place to ferret out enlightened beings because wisdom likes to conceal itself. One needs to have passed a test or two before a real teacher is apt to tell you anything remotely life-changing. Vernon Howard did not even talk to people in his classes. By the time I arrived on the scene, there was a sign that said “No talking to Vernon.” You knew he meant it and yet, I met him in dreams and learned things that would give me great faith in his stature as an awakened teacher. Go figure.
I MET HIM FIRST when I ordered a tape of his from New Dimensions Radio. I recognized his voice; it was like deja vu. Then I had a dream that showed me traveling to the desert and visiting a place that featured an elevator. A woman guide took us to the ground floor and then stopped the elevator. She pointed up and there was only open sky. I looked and saw the planetary system and heard her saying, “These two planets are not in right relationship to each other.” And I woke up, startled. 
I DIDN'T REALIZE that Vernon Howard was teaching in Boulder City, Nevada, which is outside of Las Vegas. I only knew that I would travel out west to meet him. In the dream I was also shown a classroom with protected windows, indicating that it was completely safe.

SO MY HUSBAND and I flew west to hear Vernon speak. Bob told me that the desk clerk at the motel asked why we were in town. Bob said, “We’re here to visit Vernon Howard’s school.” His reply was terse, “Oh, yes, Vernon Howard is an eccentric.” Sure enough. He had no use for people who were, as he called them, “the walking dead.” He was only interested in speaking to those who knew they were asleep and wished to be awakened. And there were no guarantees.
WE FLEW BACK HOME and it would be one year later before we returned. In the meantime, I had another dream. In this one, I looked up and saw the constellation Leo outlined in red stars. I called the planetarium to ask when Leo would be in the ascendancy and she said in the fall. So we planned our trip accordingly.
AT THE BREAK, a complete stranger came up to me and said, “Would you like to go outside and do a little stargazing?” And I said yes, knowing that was confirmation that my dream had been a big one. So now I had two dreams of the heavens under my belt and still very little knowledge of who Vernon Howard was. But I began to devote hours a day listening to his tapes. Everything he said made sense. He described the state of the False Self, as he called it, better than anyone I had ever known. He was introducing me to the hell I lived in on a daily basis. Not only me, but everyone who is asleep to the truth of their being.
I STUDIED WITH VERNON for seven years, until his death in 1992. He died of cancer, as did his secretary. Later my husband succumbed to it himself and I became a spiritual writer full-time. When my husband was told he had less than three years to live, he said “I want you to find your passion before I die.” I had always loved to write, but now I devoted myself to it full-time.

THESE DAYS I WRITE, not about the teachings of Vernon Howard, but from my own sense of the living truth. Everyone has their own “take” on how to say things. I am practical, like he was, but I bring my own sense of flow to what I have to say. I share my life story repeatedly, as if to say, “I have lost a child and spouse to cancer; if I can persevere, so can you.”
I WROTE MY FIRST BOOK, Life With A Hole In It; That’s How The Lights Gets In, in 2010. I had no idea how it would be accepted; I just knew I had to get it published. A psychic had told me that I would write a powerful little book that would help people ten steps behind me. And so I did just that. Those who read it apparently enjoy my honesty and emotional forthrightness. As I said, how can it be otherwise?
THE DREAM THAT MENTIONED two planets that were not in right relationship to each other pointed to a key teaching of his. He said that there is a True Self and a False Self and that to know one is to know the other. Beyond that, there is nothing more to say, but he kept saying it in every talk he ever gave. His secretary said to me, “Vernon said he gave the same talk in every class; he just worded it differently.” What was he saying? That which cannot be said!
 An Excerpt from Life With A Hole In It
Through Eyes of Wholeness
AS I WROTE THIS BOOK, I felt as if my personal heart was being ripped out. I drove myself through the valley of the shadow like a demented shepherdess. I knew no peace and yet I wrote doggedly and exhaustedly. I would not have wanted Vicki to be my caregiver. She was someone in process.
LOOKING BACK, I see that the personal trauma was in order to be healed by the universal heart. No one chooses that road or thinks they will survive. Death is inevitable on every level. But so is rebirth. Fortunately I walked in the company of the spirit. I do believe the plan for discovering our inherent wholeness cannot be sabotaged by the ego. The eye of illusion cannot see.
TODAY THE SELF that I used to be would scarcely be recognized by the one I have become. The eye of wholeness doesn’t cry. If you are walking through dark times and feel alone, know that many have gone before you. It is holy ground all the way home.
I Left It All At The Nonduality Salon
I BEGAN MY WEBSITE when my late husband was diagnosed with cancer. I wanted to support him, but as the days went by, I realized I was developing a voice that I needed to share. I began to contribute essays to the Nonduality Salon Yahoo list on a regular basis. Jerry Katz was the first to give me a place to be heard.
MY LIFE WAS BREAKING DOWN, but my writing was flowering. Many nights would find me at the computer busily typing the truth of life, converting it into essays and hitting the send button. I was working as hard as I ever worked in my life, being a caregiver and preparing for my husband’s death. But the writer in me was flourishing. The phoenix of my passion was rising from the ashes.
I WRITE IN ORDER to move you on some primal level. I don’t care much if I make you laugh or cry; I just want you to have an experience. I was born to the path and will die on it. But in many ways, as I say in the essay, "Enlightenment Is A Dirty Word", I am not so interested in my own enlightenment. I still have to chop wood and carry water. I hope the essays will bear witness to the truth as I have experienced it.
THE TITLE, Life With A Hole In It, chose me, as puppies or kittens often do. I had been considering dozens, and none of them really excited me. Then this title suddenly rushed over to me and jumped into my lap and licked the tears off my face. Needless to say, I took it with me and now it has a permanent place in my heart.
I HAVE WRITTEN about my personal losses, but everyone has a hole in their life of some sort and yet in our core we are always whole. To live with that paradox is to live in peace.
Just Beyond Splat
A DISCIPLE HIT THE WALL one day and asked his guru where all of his good feelings had gone. “Just beyond splat,” the guru said, “just beyond splat.”
AND SO IT GOES. Right now snow is hitting the roof like hard rain because it IS hard rain. The weatherman missed his forecast of snow. Life is like that. It is also like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get. Rain is wrapped up in a forecast of snow, love is wrapped up in death and time is what you never have enough of when someone you love is dying.
NEVERTHELESS I TRAVEL on through snow and sleet and splat. I offer you this collection of words as leftovers from my banquet of life. Nuke them until your heart is warm and then throw the container in the trash. Waste nothing. Use everything. If snow is pelting your roof, just know that somewhere, people are shoveling rain, not expecting it to come in that form.
I LOVE WORDS, but only when I can use them as something else—as a key to the heart.

The Ultimate Intimacy
KNOWING YOURSELF as the Self is the ultimate intimacy. Unconditional love for yourself arises. You don't do anything but sit in the silence, inviting peace. I usually say, "I am in God's presence now," and relax into the silence that is always immediately there.
IT TOOK ME A LONG TIME to get to this place. I studied truth for years and years and then one day I had effortless access, sort of like an ATM machine with no limits. I have had no enlightenment experience, rather, one crisis after another over a period of many years.
LATELY I HAVE BEEN READING many accounts of people who have awakened and I know that I am not there yet.
"ARE WE THERE YET, are we there yet?" ask the spiritual seeking children in the backseat of the enlightenment limo. Those who have arrived have a lot to say about the silence. Much of it is helpful and most is not.
THE MOST HELPFUL INFORMATION comes from those who do not wax overly eloquent. Although I have read tons of tomes, usually they did not have the energy contained in some of the pithier statements. I guess it's like the guy said, "If I had had more time, I could have written you a shorter letter."
FIND AN ENERGY STATEMENT that works for you and work it. Here are a few of my favorites:
Let it have you.
Let everything unfold.
I choose to love myself.
And finally, meditate on the word inevitability.
We will get there when we get there—inevitably.
* * * * *
Vicki's Website:  http://www.vickiwoodyard.com
On Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/vkwood 

Vicki's Books on Amazon:  http://amzn.to/IUG8Ff
Vicki's Book on Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/JcbLdV

Audio Interview with Vicki at Where is My Guru, recorded on 5.11.12:  http://bit.ly/JjoH5e
(Vicki's interview is at the 45 minute mark)

Interview on Non-Duality Magazine: http://bit.ly/fHq5QP
Some older blog posts:  http://nondualnow.blogspot.com/
Review of Life With A Hole In It on SearchWithin.org: http://bit.ly/JozLvL
Vicki's posts on Jerry Katz's blog, Nonduality.org: http://nonduality.org/tag/vicki-woodyard/
Jerry Katz and Vicki on Nonduality Street:  http://bit.ly/IIZMap
On Self-Growth.com: http://bit.ly/IGnzTg

On This Unlit Light: http://thisunlitlight.com/tag/vicki-woodyard/

On Emptiness: Buddhist and beyond: http://www.emptiness.co/writing_new_self

On Kajama.com: http://bit.ly/IB4jbc

At TAT forum: http://tatfoundation.org/forum2002-11.htm

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