Brandon Bays is an inspiration. I’ve interviewed her a number of times for this and other publications and everytime she began to speak I would feel a shiver of loving delight shoot up my spine. Her energy is truly infectious. As we spoke, I felt myself deepen into a softer, quieter, gentler place... it was a meditation in itself. The whole interview lasted well over an hour and only a portion of it is printed below. Towards the end of the interview I found myself listening from a vast ocean of silence, my heart wide open and receptive to every word. This two part interview explores the next phase of her work as outlined in her new book “Freedom Is”.
InnerSelf - I’ve just finished reading your new book “Freedom Is’ and I wonder if you can share with us what the title means for you.
Brandon Bays - Freedom Is because the truth of who you are already is. There’s nothing you can do to change it, to make it go away... it already is here and what this work really does is help penetrate the lies, the concepts, the ideations. We obliterate any concept of separation so that it exposes the essential freedom that is already here. Freedom already is and with your awareness and your being you focus it on that, you realise it’s already here.
IS - You’ve moved your attention to writing about awakening and liberation rather than the healing work of The Journey. What’s taken place in your life to bring this shift about?
BB - Well you know originally The Journey work was really born out of the experience of awakening. The original “down through the emotional layers” will take you into this realisation of this Infinite Self. So it’s really been the context of all Journey work, and yet because healing is a catchphrase that people can hold onto as an idea, so much healing was taking place. From this vaster realisation of freedom The Journey work became initially known for physical and emotional healing although anyone who really dives into the work - not just do the Journey Intensive, the initial foundation work - really went into the in-depth year long training that I have, knew that it was about living life in freedom. And really allowing yourself to cut out the lies and limitations and really face the truth or who you are. They knew what this was about and I felt that The Journey had been embraced and recognised as a “personal growth tour” if you like. It then liberated me to be able to talk about what it’s really all about.
And I wanted to find a way of writing a book that everyday people could turn to the first page, never having any interest in freedom or truth or realisation or awakening or liberation, and yet get a direct experience of the Present, of the Self. I wanted to give them everyday work that they can do with themselves to open into this essential Self.
IS - I’d like to ask you about one of the chapters that I found really enjoyable, the chapter on Gratitude where you remind us to look closely at areas in our lives that we take for granted. And we can very easily slip out of being grateful for each day, especially with all the challenges that we meet...
BB - Yeah...
IS - I know that it’s a challenge for me often, even though I’m very immersed in the work... so what does a grateful heart play in our awakening?
BB - I want to say it’s everything. I one time heard that this gratitude is the one emotion that isn’t born from the ego self, it’s born from Grace. And when you open to this that you are grateful for, it carries you into that Grace. Let me get down to the practical. I was just in South Africa and I was giving the Accreditation program and it was opening night. I just got into the dining hall to welcome everybody and I was really swimming in a bath of Gratitude, that I get to spend my life with fellow lovers of Truth, and I was kind of awed by depth the of realisation of the people around me. Then I walked out the door and it was dark outside and this is Africa, it’s not like it is in western countries. So, someone called my name and as I stepped out, I stepped into air... I fell and broke my ankle. I was free-falling and I hit the ground and I heard a crack, then I heard the next crack. There was a knowing that I had broken my ankle and in that moment, gratitude was there... gratitude to have a body, gratitude that there were people who could help, gratitude that I could be present and open to what was there. And I very quietly said “Oh no, something’s happened. Can we get one of the surgeons (a lot of surgeons end up using The Journey work in their practices) so I had Rita who’s a surgeon look at it and she said that it was broken. And I said “Can you take me to the Satsang Hall, I still want to welcome everybody, I still want to open to the present, I still want to pray, and know that can only do good before we go to the hospital.”
So we went in the Satsang Hall and all I could feel, truthfully, was Gratitude that “My God, this happened, I had a surgeon by my side. I walk into a hall and there’s other people full of the love of Grace, the love of Truth, of freedom.”
So we sat down and we went through the welcoming, the prayers and meditation and during meditation... just staying open to life, because that’s what Gratitude gives you. It allows you to be open even under the most, as you said, challenging situations. And I felt something happen in my bone. It shifted and moved. It palpably, literally moved. And when I get to hospital with the X-rays they said that there were multiple breaks, but they had all lined up perfectly. And that’s the power of gratitude.
In the whole time there was no part of me saying “Oh poor Brandon, why did this happen?” All I could say was “Wow, OK this has happened. Life happens to us. But how lucky am I to be embraced by these lovers of Truth? How lucky am I to have a medical doctor to drive me to a private hospital, to race me through X-Rays, to call in a top foot doctor in Africa and have it bound and casted by him... And OK, it’s intense from the point of view that my body’s entirely lopsided because I’m on crutches all the time. And what underpins it all, Leo, is Gratitude. It was all happening in an Ocean of Gratitude.
I once heard Gurumayi say that “A grateful heart is an unbreakable heart.” And that’s how I feel. When you surrender to life as it is, all you can feel is just overwhelming Gratitude. And Gratitude is a Grace... it means “Of Grace”. And I do feel that it is a healing Grace to live in Gratitude.
IS - What do you encourage your students to do? Is there some form of spiritual practice that you recommend?
BB - It’s pretty much been laid out in that book. What it is, is being open to life, welcoming what’s here. In writing that book it was like swimming in Grace the whole time. And then ultimately I found that our bodies still have Karma stored inside. We still have old emotional patterns that act as filters to our experience of life and the original Journey work is the most powerful I know of for clearing those filters so we can have a clear windscreen to life. And so they both go hand in hand: you can live a life in Grace and Freedom but you still need to be real, there are physical bodies here. And there are all kinds of emotional patterns, old ideations, concepts, patterns we’ve absorbed from life, and the Journey work is practical work, that gives you the ability that even when you’re feeling “not free” to finally get to the root cause of what has put the filter over your experience of reality. And to clear that out in a very real way, to open deeper into freedom. So it gives you tools daily to live in the Now. It’s not one spiritual practice but if I had to limit it to one, I’d just say “Surrendering to what is, and then the next moment comes.” Being open to what is here, now and not wishing it were any different. Wishing it were different than what it is creates the friction.
IS - Yes, I was reading your chapter on being in the present moment awareness and you were talking about not making thought your enemy, allowing it to be what is. I know that many have such a struggle with their thinking, especially those who meditate. What do you work with if you have a turbulent mind that you can’t still. What would you suggest?
BB - If the mind is turbulent, there’s some sort of way in which I’m placing all my focus on it, and I’m actually believing what it’s saying which is then winding me up to create another thought.
There has to be some sort of engaging with thought for it to continue, otherwise it just passes through consciousness. And if turbulent mind is here, there has to be a point of recognition where I say stop! And I open my awareness, literally open and let it become expansive... and allow awareness to observe the thought passing through without having to reach up into the sky and pull it down and make it all important and add my energy to it. So just to stop, to breathe, to open and allow thought through.
Also there is a moment where right before a thought there is a momentary pause... a tiny little pause. It’s at that moment that you have a choice: Am I going to follow this thought or am I going to just stay still and present. This is where vigilance comes in, but not an effortful vigilance... just noticing that pause and then the willingness to stay still and open in that pause. And to let thought come and kind of let it be none of your business.
Now if someone were meditating and they were assaulted by a lot of thoughts then I’d ask them to let their hearts become as wide as the world and welcome every thought that existed. Because you know what? It’s my experience that thought’s not the problem, it’s our resistance to it that is, and if you welcome all thought... I just did this at the Freedom Is night where primarily “newbies”, never been introduced to The Journey, never been introduced to anything spiritual. and I said “Just allow your awareness to be open and vast, and now welcome all thought. and just welcome all humanity’s thoughts, as a matter of fact all thought that has ever existed... welcome it!”
And when I asked them to open their eyes I said “OK, what did you find remains untouched by thought?” They all said “Well, the awareness remains untouched.” And I said, “But, truly what was your experience?” And literally two thirds to three quarters of the room said that no thought came. Because it felt so overwhelmed that it was just free to stay as unborn thought. It’s a secret, it’s a mystery - it’s only our resistance and wishing it weren’t there... So it’s beautiful for them to see that it’s our choice, to follow the thought, to resist it, to push it away, run from it... but ultimately if you really love freedom then your awareness goes to freedom and doesn’t collapse in on thought. And even if it does, the next moment comes with a choice to once again open and allow awareness to be in awareness.