Amanda Rayment on finding our true selves
Suze Pole talks to Amanda Rayment, who works as a herbalist and counsellor, specialising in family life.
I first met Amanda when she was an enormous support to me, and I was struck by her compassion, lightness of spirit, intuition, and ability to help me see things in very different way. Since then she has helped many others I know, and I am delighted to be able share her important work in this interview for Womankind.
Welcome Amanda, we are delighted to share your work here on Pukka Planet. Could you start by telling us about your Prayer of the Heart retreat ?
Yes we run this retreat, Dominique Sakoilsky and myself, at a beautiful centre in the hills of Portugal not far from Lisbon. It is called the Prayer of the Heart as it is time given to step away from daily life and each discover what our unique prayer of the heart is, what it is we truly want. Some people come to reflect on a particular situation they are struggling to resolve or to look at a specific aspect of their life; others come simply to deepen into their heart.
We offer tools such as self-enquiry to understand what is stopping us stepping fully into who we are. The Prayer of the Heart retreat is very practical, offering a way to take back into your daily life the direct experiences of the power of love that you have had on the retreat.
Can you explain what you mean when you talk about love?
These are difficult things to talk about as they stay on an intellectual or theoretical level until you directly experience them yourself but once you know it for yourself you can’t get more practical than love; it’s the heart of everything, it’s about what is permanent, what is always there no matter what. It’s about the loving awareness that is there before and after our lives in this physical body.
There is an existence within every one of us that knows only of love and ultimately that’s what we are all seeking. Nothing is ever hopeless because we can come to this presence of love, which I call our true self, which is like an exquisite jewel within everyone of us regardless of our behavior, our self doubt, our judgments of ourselves or others.
There are many words you could exchange for love such as the word God or Soul, it’s just a personal choice that I choose to use the word love.
How can we find the truth of who we are?
The only way that I’ve discovered to explore who I am is by discovering who I am not. Whatever is not permanent but comes and goes cannot be who we are.
How can we be our emotions when emotions come and go all the time? How can we be our behavior when it keeps changing? Emotions and behavior cannot be who we are.
When we start to notice the outward projections we so often make and the stories we reinforce about who we are based on the filters through which we see the world, then we can notice what is behind them and get closer to our true selves.
What do you mean by the stories we tell about ourselves?
The multitude of thoughts and beliefs we have about ourselves such as ‘I’m good at this but can’t do this…,’ form the construct or story we build of ourselves and in our minds this becomes who we are.
These constructs or stories we make up are really just the effects of seeing and hearing and behaving through the filters of the psychological beliefs we have about ourselves. That almost makes life like a movie or a story that runs all the time in our minds through this changing experience of emotions and thoughts that we then project out on to others.
For example, if I have a belief about myself that I’m not loveable then that creates a radar like filter picking up on words and actions in a way that enforces that belief; we gather evidence to prove these beliefs we have about ourselves and we do it equally with the negative thoughts and the more grandiose thoughts such as being better or more deserving than other people.
What practical tools do you offer your clients to get behind their ‘stories’?
There are as many ways as there are people to discover the truth of who we are. One tool is to be a kind of detective of yourself, to start noticing when you feel uncomfortable in particular situations or relationships. Then rather than going to our usual default of projecting outwards and blaming externals ‘oh, it’s because I’ve got no money’, or ‘it’s because they are like this…’ or ‘it’s my boss’s fault ’ all the arguments we give ourselves about why we are not happy in this moment, then at this point just sitting with the feelings and asking love to see it differently.
I encourage my clients to become the detective of themselves not as another tool to beat themselves up as in ‘I’m doing it again, how awful I am, I’ve done it again….’ but almost to laugh, to take it lightly in the spirit of ‘oh, here I go again…’ I find this tool very useful and is one I use every day.
If you use this process of being a kind of inner detective noticing one’s reactions… does the repeated noticing and observation then lead to change?
Yes, of course we could just notice for eons, it’s the next step which is important and that is offering our willingness to ask love to show us another way. To come to that self honesty, to recognize that it doesn’t make me happy to trying to control everyone else, to control my own life, to change the externals when it is the internals that are going crazy and making me feel uncomfortable inside.
This might mean really having to meet very uncomfortable emotions and psychological thoughts within myself; it may include looking uncomfortably at my behaviour- I may have spent a whole lifetime projecting out that everyone else behaves badly and that I am Miss Sweetness and Light – and it takes self-honesty to recognize it.
Rather than projecting our discontent outwards and reinforcing our ‘stories’ how can we cope with difficult situations?
This other awareness we talked of earlier, the awareness within us all that knows only of love is available to all of us whatever scenario or situation or relationship we are experiencing as difficult. We can just stop the circle of thoughts for a moment and ask that presence of love how to see things differently, to show us another way through the situation we are experiencing as difficult.
To me it is about welcoming what is there in that moment; to open up the tight holding of our mind, being willing to meet the situation with softness. It’s about softening our idea of what the right outcome should be; and instead using the biblical idea of meeting the situation with ‘an empty bowl’ if you like instead of only being willing to look at what we think should happen.
When that little willingness arises to meet a situation with love everything softens and that dissolving process begins.
Of course it isn’t always safe or practical to sit quietly and practice self-enquiry in the heat of a situation so another way to do this is to choose a quieter moment when the immediate intensity of the problem isn’t there, and bring the situation and all its associated thoughts and feelings into the mind and practice softening into the feelings. Allow all the resistances to love, the ‘yes, buts …’ to come forward. By practicing in moments of non-intensity you become more confident and familiar with the process, and then one day you notice that when you are in a situation that feels challenging, your default button has switched to just asking love to see things in another way.
What do you mean by ‘resistances to love’?
By resistances to love I mean the psychological ‘yes, buts’, the scenarios we keep back.
For example, if someone recommends meeting the situation with love, it would be very easy to say ‘yes that’s a lovely idea, but I’m talking about money here‘ or ‘yes that’s all very well, but it’s my relationship with my partner’ or ‘my child’s future’.
There is a wonderful Rumi poem ‘ The Guesthouse ‘ where he talks about the experience of being human and says open the doors and all the windows and just welcome everything that comes because in the experience of that simply meeting, of just welcoming, the miracle is that it dissolves, when there is no resistance it just flows through. It’s our resistance which causes suffering.
For example, if someone comes to my practice room and says I have been given this diagnosis and the doctors say I should have surgery and take medication but I don’t want to, I want to do it in a more natural way. One of the first things I say is why not have the operation? I am not at all suggesting that having the operation is the right thing, but just encouraging that willingness to look at all the tight psychological thoughts in their mind as to why they feel so strongly they don’t want the operation. It may well be the inspiration is coming from their true self and that will soon come clear, and that is then what they need to follow. But it may also be that there are strong resistances in their mind as to why not have the operation and that looking at those ‘yes, buts’ as I call them, will help us to undo the misperceptions and to return to what feels authentic and real within ourselves.
Will we know when we are behaving in a true, authentic way?
For myself I feel at peace when I respond from my true self and can have faith that everybody involved in the scenario will be looked after; I have no idea what form that will take and more than likely it won’t be any outcome that I can imagine but it will resolve itself in a way that serves everyone.
It’s difficult to remember these truths because our society is based on what we have, how we look, achievements, material success and reward and competition.
Yes, and although living your life based on this other kind of awareness is very simple, I am not for one moment saying that any of this is easy. Just as running an authentic ethical business in this world is not easy, but of course this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do something just because it’s difficult. Even bringing up our children so that they know they are completely loveable no matter what, isn’t easy because of all of the challenges raising a child entails. Whenever we are wanting to do something that reminds us of the true self, the authentic self, there is this meeting of the ‘yes, buts’, the resistances to love. These resistances are there because we have held our true selves at bay for so long.
Although we appear to experience many difficulties, we all have everything within ourselves to meet them. The stories we create for ourselves are addictive, but I have discovered that love is more contagious. When we are around somebody who lives their life from what we are calling the true self then we are drawn to sitting by them and being in their presence.
If we start peeling back the many layers underneath what we think we want in life, we actually all want the same thing which is to know that we are loved and we are loveable and capable of loving others and that is really what we are all yearning for.
Amanda, thank you so much for talking to us.
Amanda offers consultations both face-to-face or by skype. Contact Amanda by email: amanda@welcome worldcafe.com; Tel: 02380283323, or