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  • Writer's picturePeter Mitchell

Spiritual Friendship

A Gentle Push

Peter Mitchell

In a recent exchange with Amir Freimann, a friend who is researching into questions relating to spiritual experience and spiritual exemplars, I described the qualities of the background to my experience in the following terms:

“Quite recently, two words from a quote by Ramana Maharshi describing resting in “choiceless, effortless" Awareness woke me up again to the vital sense of living presence in which all the content of my experience unfolds. And it is experienced as a change in how I perceive my experience. The apparent solidity and inertia of the experienced world acquires a quality of evanescence, a flow of ever changing, unfixable, ungraspable unfolding that I liken to watching the curls of smoke from a burning incense stick.

That awake presence is starting to establish itself as the one constant that never changes and that I can trust in and rest in when the highest highs and the lowest lows threaten to dominate and overwhelm. It is so hard to give voice to its qualities but 'effortless' and 'choiceless' are key words for me. There is a longing to rest in its essential infinite quiet that comes with a peaceful vitality and a sense that everything is perfect. Deep acceptance and engaged curiosity (an active not passive receptivity) also arise although it is hard to say if that is the background itself or what first arises from it.”

I then further added: “When I am not lost in and identified with the content of my experience and am awake to the background, it has an immediacy, a vitality, a freshness and a sense of seeing things for the first time. It comes with a subtle positive affirmation of Is-ness and I-Am-ness and a sense of no immediate problem.”

Soon after, my close and dear spiritual friend Anne Sweet gently affirmed my description of the ‘background experience’ and encouraged me, with a subtle push, to realise that:

" 'The one constant that never changes' is YOU/the Ground of Being/the ineffable Subject. The freshness you described is IT/the here/now immediacy of Presence. Give everything

to it/You and it will overtake you-as-separate-person and that's it, everything starts from there, unfolds from there. Allow it to swallow you up.... just love It and immerse yourself in It and be in delight and peace with It without it meaning anything about you, the person.”

With that gentle push, a deep recognition of the true nature of my experience pushed me over the edge into embracing it and recognising the clarity of perception that it reveals. The cherishing of that precious perspective is a constant but subtle pull to preserve the purity of the view and not to allow it to be tarnished by selfish, self-centred actions. I described it as:

The underlying quality of stillness and OK-ness maintains a gentle presence, exerting a quiet influence on everything I do in a subtle way .... i.e nothing has changed and everything has changed.”

In response, Anne again affirmed what was/is still unfolding saying:

That is the Self firmly establishing Itself – it will move from an objective experience (‘exerting a quiet influence on everything in a subtle way’) to the deepest and most thrilling subjectivity (I am That) – if it hasn’t already”

That precious spiritual friendship has led to a resolution that has been coming relentlessly closer for many years by giving me the confidence to trust it and let go into it. It affirms the value of spiritual friendships based in love of the deepest truths and how in dialogue we can support and help each other’s unfolding.

Anne’s exchanges with me were carried out with such care and concern in the realisation that such a friendship is a delicate matter and that both friends have to be willing parties in the exchange. Then it is a true partnership not a hierarchy of needs, and it sets the tone for an ongoing and mutually beneficial relationship.

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1 Comment

Sven Hansson
Sven Hansson
Jul 27, 2022

This was a beautiful exchange that can be recognized here. The "background" moving forward and the "forground" moving backward until a stable and effortless equilibrium is established where the Self, the silent and still background, is fully embracing any movement in the forground, obliterating separation. Not this, not that, but all of it as One.

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