Design-in-self

What I sought to create, I found inside myself.

11 years ago (feels like lightyears), for my architectural thesis I designed CeSRON- the Center for Self Reflection, Otherness and Narcissism. A building designed to be a mirror for our inner space.

Little did I know I would create Come to Center, a live mirror that does just that, or that I would end up becoming that mirror myself for others, down the line. 

This surreal project was a celebration of, in a very tongue n cheek way- the obsolescence of self-awareness- before I had heard of transformation, awakening, healing, or any of the work I do now- ALL of which is about self-awareness.

I was fascinated by the race riots in Detroit- and in studying, and considering what led to the violence and deep separation between people, I saw very clearly, how the inner division leads to outer conflict. I was just so curious about the moment at which a child looks in the mirror and says- “me”. 

I spent final year of architecture school studying Lacan and Jung and Heiddeger and falling in love with Gordon Matta Clark…. I had a hay day questioning everything in a way that ultimately led to transcending my discipline of design and architecture altogether, when staring at the face of human suffering. 

What supported this inquiry was a reflection from my professor- I had finally found one person who saw my hunger for the edges of knowledge, and encouraged me to go all out-wherever you are Rupinder Singh I am so deeply grateful for our time together spent in joyous explorations of the depths of art, architecture, meaning, connection and dissection of life itself! For hiding my keys to get me out of hiding in the bottomless pit that was opening up as I got closer to facing existential truths. You weren’t just a teacher, you were a healer to me.

I didn’t know it then, but the questions alive in all these drawings are: What is the root of separation?

How did we become people? What got made into a self? Who am I? What is this? I even labeled the diagrams things like (my favorite) “Labyrinthine search for self”, never suspecting any of this had to with Spirituality.

And the thing is, I knew then, that all this, is really the search for our center. I just hadn’t seen I was literally searching for my self and that the answers lay within me, and that I could trust all that which I knew, but couldn’t understand. 

That took time. It took living in inquiry and eventually turning inwards.

It took facing the pain of my own inner separation, seeing through the trap of needing to understand things that lay beyond the confines of the mind.

As they say, hindsight is 20-20! Of course it adds up. Having looked in the mirror long and hard, coming to face myself over the years, now I have become the mirror I once set out to design.

Everyday, I hold a mirror to reflect back the truth, power and wisdom that lies within my clients, their shadows, their light and everything in between. In deep inquiry, I appeal to something that lies beyond my clients’ intellects to allow them to step outside the confines of their minds- diving into their conditioning, their traumas to find freedom within.

The journey of personal healing paves the path for our collective transformation. 

I often say, everything is everything- all forms reflect the One. What appears to be separate, is a facet of difference, not separation.

From the outside it may seem like I am doing transformational work, business consulting, designing a building, painting a painting, writing a poem or telling a story… 

From the inside, it’s always been about one thing- falling ever more deeply into loving exploration of myself, and life itself!

What drives me, what drives you?

Ever wonder what it is that drives you? What you yearn to bring forth?

It turns out, purpose is always about something bigger than ourselves that we are asked to stretch into.

What is your yes to in life? That’s the elemental question of purpose.

I get asked this often, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what drove me to end a decade long career as an architect and start Come to Center — a holistic transformational consultancy, that constantly has me walking the edge of discomfort, asking me to face my demons every step of the way.

And the answer is L O V E!
Big love.

A love of life itself, a love of something bigger than me, love of those in search of light, of truth, of something bigger than themselves.

So often in our world we go looking for fulfillment outside of us- marketing is great at perpetuating a paradigm of lack- get the new outfit, the perfect job, the perfect partner and then you’ll be happy! And we believe them, until we actually ‘get it all.’

We can have the perfect job, the perfect house, a helluva lot of money and still feel empty, disconnected and meaningless. We can have three PhDs and a lineup of accolades and still know nothing about our own nature- who we are, why we came to be, how to live a joyful life!

We can go through a whole lifetime in unconsciousness, driven by compulsive consumption- without ever honoring our deepest yearning, without ever knowing the exquisite privilege it is to be alive!

Seven years ago I saw through the illusion I’d been living in a way I could no longer deny. I had always suspected there was more to reality than met the eye.

And this seeing shattered everything I thought I was, I wasn’t, everything I thought I knew and my whole worldview itself.

It gave me absolute response ability. It silenced the yearning in all my questions. It plunged me into a bottomless hole that grew so big, it swallowed everything up and left a Wholeness that has never since left me, even in the darkest of times, even as I’m still falling through the hole! It’s the wildest, most fun ride I’ve ever been on!

So fun that it had to be shared- you know, like when you find the most incredible secret, so simple and profound, you want to TELL EVERYONE? Like that! So I listened to my heart and let my spirit drive.

I now live and share a simpler, more authentic and fulfilling way of life. I know what I am, I know why I’m here:

I’m here to know myself ever more deeply in relationship- with life, with all of creation, with you.

To be unapologetically me.

To heal inner division.

And I’m here to embody and teach a new way of being- one that lets us love ourselves fully and deeply.

To provide an alternative to existing in stress and turmoil.

To empower conscious evolution.

To bridge the wisdom of the East with the gifts of the West.

And holy shit, is it scary!

It turns out, purpose is always about something bigger than ourselves that we are asked to stretch into.

You will be tested along your hero’s journey. Every day I face some flavor of my shadow- my shyness, my reticence to really be vulnerable, shame in asking for my needs, to allow myself to be seen in my power, to let you know I know what I’m talking about and a hundred other defense strategies I’ve perfected over lifetimes…

But beneath all of that, there’s the love. It permeates everything. It shines from behind the fear and guides me through and to the light. There is much to learn and be and do and share!

So, what are you driven by in your life?

What is your yes to? Can you let your deepest love be your guide?

Come to Center is an invitation to join me on the ride. To turn suffering into growth. To return home to yourself. To live from the center of your being- to align with your truth, your beauty and your power- and bring it through in how you meet life, in this moment. And this one. And this one…

Come with me. Collective transformation starts with us!

in a nutshell

I feel called to serve beauty, wisdom and wholeness. I was recently asked what my ‘message’ is- and here is what I said:

I am interested in existential, fundamental truth. The mechanics of being. In my explorations here’s what I have found to be true:

Absolute Truth can only be approached as Shiv-a – That which is Not.

The reflection of this Absolute is knowable in form as the organizing intelligence of the universe. It manifests within each of us as our own internal harmonic.

Every being is moved by a unique internal harmonic sometimes called God and exteriorized in culture, but of course, the source of creation, of preservation, of destruction- all aspects of manifestation are alive and beating from within us.

The degree of our alignment with the harmonic determines our degree of coherence with the rhythm of the whole, and the fluidity and joy we experience in life.

The illusion of a separate self to be protected, guarded and perpetuated creates distortion in our alignment with the harmonic (never in the harmonic itself). Self betrayal- saying no to our life force- the harmonic- leaves us disconnected from the song our instrument wants to sing.

Liberation, fulfilment, efficacy, joy, and fullness of expression- all lie in aligning with the harmonic. Learning to listen, trust and be guided by it- moving in harmony with all that is, asymptotically towards coherence of the particular with the Whole.

The harmonic isn’t missing in anyone of us. Even those of us who have conditioned and distanced themselves from it consciously or unconsciously, intellectually or somatically…the harmonic vibrates within us all.

To listen, we need silence. To trust, we need direct experience of our own Truth. And the only way to aligned, fulfilled, joyful living, is in.

All that is ever needed, is to go within.

In every moment, consciously allowing the directness of experience to be seen, felt, known, allowed, invited and finally loved…

Hence, Open Meditation.

no-thing

Let me preface this by saying once again that words are never true and all forms of communication are inherently subjective, and this one is no exception.
That said, living from non-dual experience, it is pretty clear there is only One. Because ‘things’ are just processes disguised, it feels more correct to say there is only One process than One thing.
However, as I noticed at some point in life, not everyone is experiencing existence without separation. It’s kinda curious isn’t it? In the dual experience multiplicity is mistaken for separation, fueled perhaps by the perceived evolutionary need for self preservation- which appears to necessitate differentiation between self and other, the formation and attachment to that identity. And the One/Self/Whole nature becomes forgotten.
Even the different stages of awakened consciousness models are inherently embedded in a dualistic model at a level. As I pointed out my discomfort with this to a teacher (Steve Ulicny) in a discussion, he noted there aren’t different states of consciousness, but different experiences of Totality.
But of course!
The Whole/One/Formless is unchanging. There is only One Process. The experience of it as such however, changes with the neurophysiological state of the ‘experiencer.’ So, there aren’t different stages of consciousness, but simply different degrees of experience of Oneness. In the fully integrated functional neurophysiological state (enlightenment, the culmination of spiritual awakening), the experience of Oness/Totality is total.
No remnants of a separate self remain, and as the ultimate alignment within solidifies, deep trust emerges, leading to surrender of individuality. The piece of the whole (the small wholeness) begins to function in coherence with the Whole, of which ‘it’ is a perfect and complete reflection, ultimately totally.
So, from this perspective, it’s obvious that everyone everywhere is capable and wired for the experience of re-cognizing/re-membering/coming home to Self/One/Wholeness, often termed Awakening, and the delusion of the separate self falls away.
And while there is only One Process, there are as many ways of experiencing it, as there are its reflections. 7.2 billion people on this planet = 7.2 experiences of Wholeness. Here to be/experience just that!
It’s why formlessness keeps coalescing into form in the first place.
Which is why a role I play in the world is to serve as a constant reminder to look inwards, within, without attachment to method, process or external models to compare experience to- which leads to distortion of isness. But instead, to look within and see what is true for you now! What has the One Process incarnated into you to experience fully, in this moment? Allowing it to be seen, held, known, loved, celebrated! That’s the premise behind Open Meditation.
Reminds me of a poem Shunyata (voidness) I wrote a while ago…
“existence smiles, experiencing itself
as you in me in me in you and I”

on advaita

Advait Vedant (अद्वैत वेदान्त) is the collected body of existential knowing transmitted through eons in India, reflecting the nature of being and the organization of formless into form that points to source.

A = not/without. Dvait – two/second.

So the word Advaita, points carefully to ‘that without a second.’ For it wouldn’t suffice to say One- it must be noted that there is no possibility herein for a second- for divisiveness within the whole. The focus is on the indivisible whole that knows nothing outside of itself- pointing to intrinsic, inherent existential connectedness, oneness, wholeness of which all form is a reflection. Multiplicity without separateness. And there is no possible way for a separate self to exist, even though sometimes we are deluded into believing in this separation…In Vedanta, each “piece” of the whole is known and celebrated to be a “small wholeness.”

Lacan wrote “The I cannot exist except in the field of the other.” Conditioned to believe in the separation between self and other, driven by the evolutionary need for self preservation, somewhere along the line the knowingness of the connection of the piece to the whole is lost and an identity emerges, wrapping its cocoon around a piece of the small, a small wholeness, that forgets its own nature.

And 13.8 billion years of evolution later, one small wholeness begins to question itself. To yearn to know itself. A seeker is born. Consciously or unconsciously, engaged in a journey that inevitably begins to point back to the seeker itself. Constructs and identity unravel into a homecoming. Wholeness begins to be experienced by its smaller reflection, and self dissolves into Self.

Advaita. That without a second.

Open Meditation Meetup

New online meetup to demystify meditation and build conscious community.

Looking at collective social, economic, political and cultural suffering I have always asked why? And, what can I do?
For years, I looked to architecture, design, writing op-eds for the answer. Every line I drew as an Architect, every space I envisioned, was aimed to mitigate disconnection, depression, anxiety, overconsumption, isolation…but it didn’t seem quite enough, when people were suffering the nature of their own thoughts and emotions.
Design aligned the exterior, but if our interior itself was misaligned all beauty, wonder and joy would be missed. And it is. Everyday, we suffer our own constructs, individually and collectively.
A good friend once said to me, “In America you have to be rich, white, thin and beautiful to be happy. Ishita you are not the richest, whitest, thinnest or most beautiful person, but you’re probably the happiest!”
And in that spirit, as I grappled with the divisive and fear based political upheaval, I realized more and more that I can only ever do one thing- be whole in myself and keep clearing out my own core wounds so I can serve the highest and best for all, through the highest and best in me.
What can I do? Facilitate conscious connection to fullness and wholeness already within you which is our birthright. When we feel safe, full and connected, we act out of love not fear.
That was the birth of Come to Center. The only “work” that feels both worthy and true for me.
Meditation aligns our interior. Gandhi once said, “Happiness is when what you think, say and do are the same.” And that is my “secret.” Conscious alignment.
I dream of a conscious and present world, where every being acts from stillness, fullness, from love, for the highest good of all, which is the highest good for each.
Wherever you are, I hope you will join me for Open Meditation. It’s what we really need in the world now.

embrace

transformation can only occur in embrace.

embracing I
am
become

love,

transforming holes into wholeness.

look-
where did    you      ever       find
a piece of the          whole
(a (small) wholeness)
less than,
that?

did you find shelter from your shadow in the womb of darkness?

in the great No thing
where Allness
hides

swallowing form
forgetting to remember
whence you came?
how will you know the shadows you carry?

without
ever turning to the Sun

in embrace

 

 

*photo by Nikki J.

 

Lead, learn, thrive!

Re-wire Your Brain to Master Your Game

Life in 2017 moves faster than we can keep up. Overstimulated, hyperconnected and always on the go, we seldom pause to self-center. Competing priorities vie for our scattered attention, and in the face of increasing workloads and pressures we navigate life on autopilot.

Stress or burnout inevitably follow, hijacking decision-making and communication, thereby straining relationships and inhibiting access to flow- the very place where creativity, innovation and joy thrive! 

Overwhelmed, we start to question if it’s all worth our life energy. You may know this cycle. Through my time in the high stress design industry, I sure did.

So, how can we lead, work and thrive in the Attention Economy without sacrificing our sanity or well-being?

The key lies in our ability to align intention and attention- our skill at being present, here and now. Best practices in business and spirituality intersect at meditation, or in simpler terms, attention training. Efficacy lies in the mastering how our inner space meets the world.

Mindfulness and Meditation train our attention on which all else depends. Cultivating focus and self-centering develops flow. Presence, Self Regulation and Emotional Intelligence are vital to harness technical and leadership skills in the fast paced digital age.

Enhancing our work, relationships and wellbeing depends on enhancing our inner space. Neuroscientists and global business leaders know this too well.

Presence, Self Regulation and Emotional Intelligence are vital to harness technical and leadership skills.

Rewire your brain to master your game. It’s time to come to center.

on attention

From a certain perspective, meditation is essentially attention training!

“You should care because training your attention is the most important thing you can do in life. All your other skills depend on the quality of your attention. A weak, flitting attention makes doing anything in life slower and harder. A strong, steady attention makes doing anything easier. It even makes being yourself easier, because it opens the door to knowing yourself. It smooths the path to knowing who you are, what you want, and what to choose in life. It allows you to navigate your life more skillfully. So why not put in the work to develop a strong, steady attention and take the easy path through life?”

-Steven Kessler (author of the 5 Personality Patterns)

the ease of being!

erik-on-the-water-copy
the ease of being

no action 

           rooted
 in      lack

could ever

bring

forth fulfillment for fulfilment

is

here    now     whole ness
               !          (the nature)


of being 

               free and full and delight full !

action
            may
                     (or may not)
arise and 

you 

will know from the 

very 

ease of being

 

in prose:

No action rooted in lack could ever bring forth fulfillment.

Fulfillment is here and now. Wholeness is the nature of being- free, full and delightful! Action may or may not arise- you will know, from the very ease of being.

and more:

To examine inner grasping with curiosity and amusement, rooting into being, is to invite its own dissolution.

Photo above
My husband floating on backwaters in rural Thailand, March 2016 (from STUDIO-ish)