Hillary on The Rot
An interview by Ted for Issue #3 of Mutuality Matters.
What’s the Rot about from your perspective?
The willingness to start to face into what you’ve been running from your whole life – because there are no more options. You’ve tried everything you could to keep the pain and irritation away in the hope that you would find the magical thing that would make it go away, and now you no longer have the ability to keep running from what is. This is where most people need guidance; the support that says “Yes, this is the right place to feel, the right place to be.” You just don’t have the juice anymore to try to fix or change yourself. And so there’s a surrender.
A surrender into what?
Into accepting your reality as it is. Into greenlighting the disappointment that you’re not as successful as you hoped, or you haven’t found the relationship you thought would make you whole or you’re not the nice person you’ve been trying desperately to be. Or you haven’t attained the awakening you hoped you would at this point in your life. Basically, everything you’ve done to get to this point in your life has not healed you of feeling the way you actually feel at the core. There can be a huge disappointment in that.
Why would somebody want to surrender into disappointment?
Because you want more of the truth of who you are, you want to be free, so you stop struggling and fighting against yourself. So you give in — but that’s not a giving up. And if disappointment is your reality, then yes – permit it to be there.
Are you suggesting people in this place give into the stuff they don’t like?
Well, yeah. The reality is, you’re having feelings and your mind is in fear and reaction about what these feelings mean. Sometimes you have to let the mind go and just feel the feelings, not your mind’s interpretation of what they mean. Awakening is beyond what the mind could ever know. So the mind is not your authority, even though we’ve always thought it is. You’re just having these feelings, but your mind tells you you’re a failure, etc. But it’s not true. The reality is you’re actually starting to drop into the feeling of what’s it’s like to be you for the first time. And this is a good thing. Without this step, you’ll never awaken. All this goes very much against what your mind is telling you you must do to survive.
Don’t you have to have faith that you’ll survive going into these dark spaces?
It’s not about physical survival; you must be willing to die into what’s real. That’s where a teacher can help. If you have faith in your teacher, then you can also have faith in yourself because you know they’ve been through it and survived.
But what if it feels like you might actually die?
It will feel like death to your mind. Something IS dying – it’s your total identification with the mind as who you are. That belief is dying because you’re opening to something far greater than your mind. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like you’re going to die. Awakening is partly about death. Death brings rebirth.
Isn’t that where faith comes in? Don’t you have to have faith that you’re not going to die, even if you feel like maybe you’re dying?
For me, it was about having the courage to face death.
Are you saying you were willing to actually die?
Yes. For me, I got to the place where I said “if I have to die, I have to die. But I can’t keep running from myself anymore.”
That sounds like more courage than most people would give themselves credit for.
I guess that’s my Advaitic side showing up. Ramana Maharshi had the enormous courage to face his death. And in the surrender, he awoke and broke the code for thousands of others to awaken in that way. I don’t think everybody has to go through that kind of intense death experience in the same way. In fact, it’s just not the case in our work. It doesn’t feel that intense to everybody; everyone goes through their own unique awakening process. I know many people who never had to deal with that kind of intensity.
Would you say the awakening process requires heroic faith or courage?
Yes, and we are all heroes. Saniel has called this process a hero’s journey. And it is. Everybody will come up against the difficulties and find their own courage to keep going. Because when you start the surrender, Being, in its deep compassion and desire to know itself, will support your transformation.
You said earlier that by surrendering into yourself, there is a rebirth. What’s being reborn?
You as fundamentally not separate. When you permit yourself to surrender into the willingness to be with whatever is being presented, you have started the movement away from fantasy and avoidance.
Back to the Rot – do you see that as something that ends with the Second Birth?
Saniel uses that term to describe a stage that happens before the Second Birth. I feel the decomposition process goes on and on and will till my body dies. I keep coming up against ideas, beliefs, and patterns I’ve been afraid to feel before or couldn’t get access to. Being is forever driving deeper down into what has not been seen yet. That’s just what it does because it has to know itself more and more intimately. So I don’t think it is a process that will ever stop entirely.
For many people, the Rot can be a time of intense sensitivity and unraveling.
The Rot isn’t supposed to be easy; it’s a burn, that’s the dark side. And it’s also an awesome time; a very precious, rich, awesome time. But people often don’t see that until later, in retrospect.
The Rot shows you that you’re not who you thought you were; you’re unraveling and it can sometimes feel horrifying, exhilarating, bland or anything in between. All your worst fears, the stuff you’ve been trying to avoid: self-hatred, self-loathing, repulsion, feelings of unworthiness — all the stuff that’s been scaring you your whole life. It takes great courage to be willing to permit that to just be there. And in the letting it be there, I have found the deepest love, the deepest nourishment, the deep feminine.
The question is, how much do you want to awaken — enough to sit with this unbearable stuff? My way is to help people find their courage, to just Be, to accept limitation. By permitting that scary stuff to be there, we’re finding our way home. Home is there! The energy that has gone into keeping all that stuff down, starts to get freed up; and that brings awakening.
So far, you’ve spoken about how the Rot brought you into the realization of Consciousness. How did the Rot move you toward your second birth?
After awakening to my Conscious nature, I spent many months in bliss and ecstasy and very little mind activity. After 3 months of this, my mind came back in with a “vengeance”. It was very strong. I called it Nazi mind. I went back to my teacher at the time, but he couldn’t help me accept my deep distress in these human places. That’s when I met Saniel. He held a huge space of acceptance for these very human parts. As I deepened in myself and this work I had to fall into all the limited parts of my human self and find warm acceptance there – and I still do – embodying the acceptance of limitation.
What were some of the challenges in accepting your humanness?
I couldn’t pretend to be nice anymore; my anger and self hatred surfaced, my repulsion toward people surfaced; everything surfaced during my Rot. Before the Rot I held all these images of myself as being a very loving person and many times I didn’t feel loving at all. In fact I felt how much I hated and didn’t care. I’ve worked with a lot of people who also feel like this and it’s devastating for them. You can start to feel really lonely and alone and you see that you’re not becoming who you hoped and fantasized you would be. But in permitting this hard stuff to be there, Transformation happens.
Were there any tools that helped you to land in your second birth?
There’s a place where you’re utterly alone, there are no tools and nothing can fix it, and you’re just in it. That’s where transformation happens; transformation doesn’t happen thru tools, it happens when you’re flat up against it and you’re on your knees and you don’t think you see how you can go on anymore. Actually I’m being a bit dramatic. Transformation can also happen much more simply and quietly, too. Being is driving the show. Being is far more powerful than any tool that you could help you.
What is the role of surrender?
In coming up against all the tight squeezed places, sometimes it’s all you can do, to surrender. You have no other option but surrender. And tools are great, practices are really helpful, but they’ll never keep you from having to squeeze up in those dark places where you don’t know what’s going on, you don’t know what to do, you don’t know who you are, you don’t know if you’re awakened or not, you know what I mean? . I’m just pointing to that place where nothing will help and you may think something is dreadfully wrong because nothing – no tools or practice will make it go away or change it. That is to be expected. When that happens, nothing is wrong. It’s actually a good thing!
It all sounds so dark. Is there an upside?
The Rot opens up into great beauty. It permits you to contact yourself like you’ve never been able to before. And in that way, it can bring the deepest joy you’ve ever known.