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This Above All: A Journey of Self-Discovery Kindle Edition
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Tess shares her story, with all the non-glorious-ego problems she had to face. We can relate to these everyday-issues of a tough life on (beautiful) earth, and our personal twists.... of how we see and describe our life.
This book is not full of spiritual-idioms and philosophical mind tangles..... so it is for a normal "seeker" with a simple desire to see how freedom from "ego" plays out. Her layout is well chosen (The Ox).
Most people don't realize the modesty of enlightenment ...which she very clearly describes...as "not a state". States of mind....are moments of enlightening experiences that eventually "end"...and normal life continues afterward..... but with less of the mental-ego-bull ....that we wish to clear out. You chop wood and carry water .... either with a ego-chip on the shoulder...or "without". Life has more meaning when the attention is free from the small-circle-of-the-mind centered on its "form"....and the accompanying anxieties.... related to its survival defense mechanism.
She made it very clear...that a "normal john doe person" has access to freedom ... by way of self inquiry ...ie total honesty about how the mind plays around....each mind is a personal adventure....usually trash to clear out.
Thank you Tess
The most apt title comes from the famous verse in Shakespeare’s Hamlet – This above all – to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not be false to any man. And to delineate her journey to its conclusion, she has made brilliant use of the zen parable behind the Ten Ox-Herding Pictures, adapting it to the stages which at the time she unknowingly passed through, and then though hindsight a personal and universal progression was revealed. She ends each chapter with an interpretation of the parable by Bernadette Roberts, the modern day Carmelite mystic, who in some regards could be considered as Hughes’ Soul Sister. Coincidentally, I was reminded of Robert’s classic book The Experience of No-Self in reading this one.
Hughes articulates lucidly her permanent discovery of what the title alludes to. Of what the American mystic Richard Rose referred to as a golden find beyond the mind. Though this memoir will no doubt appeal, and should appeal to women seeking inspiration from an awakened woman’s perspective, it is meant for all serious lookers. It would be a great loss for men to not take this book as seriously as some of the spiritual classics written by men. The writer is one of those rare individuals who is mentally ambidextrous; formidable in her ability to think with incision and progression, and feel with subtle and intuitive discernment. This capacity served her well in her quest to become free of human suffering.
Hughes stresses the importance of integrity in what first called her to living an examined life. As one begins to read, this integrity shines through, along with her scrupulous honesty. There is the growing sense that something very very serious is transpiring in these pages. Like the phenomenon of two people at a social gathering suddenly rapt in a special conversation, oblivious to those around them, until the others stop talking and start gathering closer to listen. But this seriousness is not heavy. There is the intrigue of a great mystery unfolding. But the telling of it carries a humilty and lightsomeness in the manner she addresses the reader.
Even though she comes from an ordinary background, there is much to fascinate in her depictions of the various themes and chapters of her life. As she passes through her Catholic childhood on a farm, getting married and having children, and eventually becoming a science teacher; she was always turning over stones, questioning the beliefs and presumptions of those around her, and more importantly her own. Never satisfied, with never ending existential angst (her Western translation of Buddha’s suffering), she eventually encounters the Perennial Philosophy, followed by the spiritual community of Richard Rose, she begins her spiritual education and practice, which will comprise the rest of her life’s investigation.
Hughes, being a true individualist, does not rely on other’s interpretations of tossed-around spiritual concepts. Her insistence on deriving meaning from everyday experience is also an invitation to the reader to distill meaning from their own lives. To ‘look within’ becomes her golden mean, the order of choice. But it is not as apparent as it sounds, for many seasoned meditators never really get it. And for her, it becomes both a maze and a mandala which takes her many years to master.
According to Hughes, a maturation process is required, and one cannot leapfrog over this into the serious spiritual work right away. She understands the value of acquiring a more refined vocabulary of emotions and thoughts through methodical self-observation. For the years she was busy being a mother with children, she had little time to meditate, so she uses mundane activities such as dishwashing to watch her self in it various guises. She learned the art of subtle evaluation; looking at how ego, pride, suffering, greed, anger and ignorance can have inner and outer faces. Gradually, she enters the realm of contemplation, or what she came to know as self inquiry.
By the time she had entered her 50’s, she had for some time known that the ‘life as enjoyment’ phase was over, and all that remained for her was the ‘facing death’ phase. This catapulted her through an astounding series of events which culminated in a new birth.
What I took from this book was many things, but these two convictions above all. Tess’s repeated emphasis that what she came by is available to each and every one of us. And how the ultimate is to be found in the ordinary, and then the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Easy to read, but profound in its essence, this is a book which everyone seeking deeper wisdom on ultimate reality, in a secular and weary world, should read. It is very upbeat and accessible, without any agenda.
I can read it over, and each time something new comes to mind. I believe it will be a classic.
In Tess Hughes’ new book This Above All, inspiration abounds for us ordinary seekers of Being. I found similarities in the psychological nature of the author’s journey to the path of many seekers. From her early question what is character?, to dream work, to self-observation experiments that she designed herself, to self-inquiry, and to a devastating encounter with the shadow near the end of the journey. Of course, as all Finders share with us, psychological work and our identification with mind comes to a permanent end as the identity shifts to “what we really are, Awareness.”
Read her exciting, unique offering and you will find much inspiration and honest writing to help propel you on your journey Home.
It is deeply personal but also a clear-eyed look at what it takes to embark upon and remain on the spiritual path. Beautifully organized around the oxherd drawings (of Zen Buddhist origin), Tess Hughes' journey emerges with clarity and skillful description. This is an engrossing must read for those committed to the spiritual path!
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in her quest to face her biggest fear - her own...Read more