Embodied Transformation & Evolution

The Level Gaze ~Secrets of the Heart

Posted by on Jan 15, 2019 in Featured Writing, Lifeletters & Articles | 4 comments

The Level Gaze ~Secrets of the Heart

Everyone I know is hoping that this year will be an easier year than 2018. I hope so as well.

It was fascinating for me to discover that the experience of struggle, overwhelm and conflict was almost universal in 2018. From my perspective, a huge amount of the suffering and chaos was happening inside the field of human relations. You might feel this is very obvious, and wonder why I bother to mention it.

I’m saying this because I don’t think our individual and collective experiences will become easier, brighter and more expanded until we are able to transform how we show up inside our relational field. If we look outside, what’s going on in the world can feel pretty daunting. My friend Lauren Tenney from Ten Directions puts it like this:

Intractable conflicts,
Victim-oppressor frameworks,
Social media tar-and-feathering,
Fear to speak openly and frankly,
Us-and-them binaries.

My inquiry has drawn me into looking at what is underneath all of this. When I stay with this question, I feel the lack of something that feels foundational to me. This is the living knowledge of our fundamental equality. Something so essential, so basic and so precious. How are we missing this so profoundly?

The answer to this question is complex, something we need to keep exploring with courage and great compassion. There is one dimension of this I want to explore with you here:
our equality is not something that is constructed. We don’t have to make it up because it’s a good thing. The truth is a lot more joyful and radical than that. Our fundamental equality IS. It’s a living reality that is not obvious or visible on the level of personality or ego. It’s deeper than that; that’s why I call it fundamental. We are equal in the core of who we are, in our essence. Equal and non separate. And somehow, we all know this. Even if we don’t meditate, or think of ourselves as spiritual, we know this. I have asked hundreds, maybe thousands of people by now, this question:
“If you drop deep into your heart, and ask yourself whether anyone in the world is better or worse than you, in the core of who they are–do you think this is so? Is anyone really superior to you, or inferior?”

Whenever anyone is really able to get quiet and listen deeply, they always respond with a no.

This knowing, which does not come from the mind, is the key to our human dignity. Our essential dignity, our capacity to truly respect one another, rests on the acknowledgment of this equality: feeling it, expressing it, protecting it, and embodying it.

Our equality does not exist on the ever-changing level of human personality. There is no equality here. Each one of us develops and grows so differently, grapples and comes to terms with different challenges, traumas and opportunities. You have gifts and capacities that I will never develop. To benefit from your gifts, your experiences, and your brilliance, I need humility. This humility is available to me when I am not caught up in struggling to be your equal on this level. I can find that humility when I know we are equal on the deepest level. You can accept my wisdom, my gifts and even sometimes my leadership, if you know in your heart and your bones that I am not superior to you.

This is the living truth of our essential being; and we are not brought up to understand and embody this. Our global human culture is riddled with innumerable hierarchies, without any real grounding in the living truth of our equality. There is so much healing in the place of equality, of natural dignity. In this place, we meet each other, eye to eye, with a level gaze. There is no looking up, and no looking down. When I see you as greater or lesser than me, I see you, as it says in Corinthians, “through a glass darkly.” The level gaze is a powerful blessing, it lets us see each other, “face to face.”

Young woman in snow gazing straight

If you pay attention to your own experience, you’ll discover how much your gaze is flickering up and down all day long: looking up at certain people, giving your power away to them, and looking down at others, feeling superior in one way or the other. We often hide these tendencies from others and even from ourselves. This is how we have remained for so long inside this kind of fragmentation,separation and disempowerment–these tendencies gain a lot of power when they operate within the shadowlands of our psyches. We don’t like to admit how often we feel better or worse than the people around us. I still find it very difficult to face this kind of conditioning in myself. It has helped me a lot to realize that I inherited it at birth and grew up inside a culture that constantly reinforces it.

Equality is like another note, a sound from a very different song, drifting in through an open window. Can you hear it?

In the Himalayas where we lived
there was a man called Balayati Ram.
Small, dark, immensely strong,
he was everywhere,
raking, cleaning, bearing huge loads
up steep hills on his slim back.
His bare feet met the earth
with profound certainty.
Neither joy nor sorrow
peered through
his fathomless eyes.
He slipped silently around the ashram,
where the guru sat daily,
covered in silk and glittering beads,
surrounded by flowers, devotees and
video cameras.
A single glance from the guru
could change your life, your world.

When there was a job that no-one else
could do, or would do,
‘Balayati will do it,’ someone would say,
and he would appear- silent, ready and willing.
Once the task was done
he slipped from our awareness
like a black stone
thrown into deep water.

Long after we left India,
a wise friend confided to me
one day,
something his heart
had always known:
“In the truth of who we are,”
he said,
“In the unity that can never
be divided,
the guru is no more important
than Balayati Ram.”

Oh it’s a glad day when the heart
spills its secrets.
That one slipped deep inside me,
and gleams there, softly,
like a pearl without price.


with love,


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Michelle Wilsdon

    Your beautiful natural voice
    rings clear to me
    I hold the hand of your words
    as we walk the snowy plains
    in all

  2. Margrit Bayer

    Lovely, just lovely and the poem at the end simply exquisite thank you!

  3. Natasha

    Shayla, I am so grateful you have shared your own poetry here. Thank you for this beautiful offering!

  4. Carol Noble

    So much Brilliance in these words Shayla. Beautiful sentiment and beautiful poem.

    Love and Thanks

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *