Chris Hebard (Stillness Speaks) – On Self Realization
Chris Hebard is the owner of a non-profit online resource called Stillness Speaks, which is a portal facilitating the use of direct inquiry for self-realization. It shares its namesake in honor of Eckhart Tolle —a physical embodiment of the living principles of a Truth that never changes.
Please visit Stillness Speaks if you are interested in direct inquiry, meditation, satsang and yoga in the pursuit of self-realization and enlightenment. Join us as John (Nonduality Mag.) digs deeper into the mind of Chris with some interesting questions…
Can you please tell me how you first became interested in non duality?
Chris Hebard: There is the story of Chris, perhaps an interesting one. First, let’s state the obvious: there are no rules. Truth is not found in the story, and no one’s is more or less important than any other. Stories merely reflect truth in all it’s glory, and this story is no exception. Nothing that is shared here is meant to imply anything. It is simply the record of this journey.
Some come to this gracefully, gently —while others [like me] have to be hit over the head with a 2×4. There was absolutely no interest here in non-duality [at all] before 2006. Just the opposite, my life was total resistance to what is. In fact, I would have placed non-duality in the trash bin along with many other seemingly new age hi-jinx like power crystals, pet psychics and UFOs.
But, as Robert Adams once said: “All is well and unfolding exactly as it should.” The Chris story is a brilliant example of ignorance in its glory: one attempt after another to complete myself through objects of all sorts: career, politics, philosophy, beliefs, drugs, alcohol, woman, family, travel, luxury —the classic symptoms of greed, lust and vanity, the bell weather of lack. In a word, my prescription was simply, “More!”. Once thing was certain, this profound and deep sense of lack could be satisfied through obtaining some object that was always just out of reach.
Extroverted, entrepreneurial, even slightly “sociopathic”, this certainty began a slow motion train wreck, culminating in 2006. I was experiencing a crisis in all areas of my life. I was in litigation with everyone from ex-business associates to the U.S. government. I lost a very successful business that I had run for over 10 years. I lived in economic fear as one problem seemed to build on top of another. My entire economic estate was ruined by costly litigation and unfruitful business plans. My wife had divorced me, leaving with our one year old child. My mother, father, Uncle and Grandmother had all died —all within one year. Two of my pets died unexpectedly. A routine surgery for an impacted wisdom tooth went badly resulting in my jaw being broken, being wired shut for 5 months, requiring 5 surgeries and causing the permanent loss of feeling in part of my face. I was facing a huge tax liability and was in danger of losing my home. I could not sleep. I had taken sleeping medications for many years and they no longer seemed to work. I would take the medication and it would force me to sleep for a short period —only to wake up a few hours later, full of dread, fear and anger. I was at war with the world, which I felt was treating me unfairly.
“One sleepless night, I experienced what I can only call a complete breakdown.” – C.H.
During an extreme “dark night of the soul” experience, I had a massive, catastrophic collapse which left me spent and speechless, praying fervently to a God [I did not believe in] the only honest prayer there is: “Please help me!” This collapse was sudden, left me completely empty, with not even one ounce of resistance left in me, with no more answers of any sort, in a sort of cathartic and limp state.
Pulling myself up from the floor, where I had been curled in fetal position, still sobbing, I poured what was left of me into a wing back chair. While I sat in this darkened, private library in the middle of the night, mentally and spiritually exhausted, in final despair, with absolutely no clue on what to do with my next breath, much less the rest of my life, a most peculiar phenomena occurred: sitting in absolute silence, I noticed my thoughts arising to me. Mind you: these were no longer “my thoughts”.
For some peculiar reason, in this stillness, it was spectacularly clear to me, that these thoughts, which were arising in the stillness of ‘me’, were not me at all, or, more specifically, that what I was had to be something quite separate from these thoughts. For, it was clear that, if I observed these thoughts arising, then, who was observing them, if not me? And, if it was what I call ‘me’ that was observing these thoughts, then, what exactly was this ‘me’ which so clearly did not include these thoughts?
This was a profoundly unsettling awareness; in fact, it completely shattered my world. Everything that I had taken for granted up to this point, came roaring back into question: my career, my marriage, every decision supporting the entire direction of ‘my’ life. The only thing I was certain about was that I was uncertain about everything.
In this space of not knowing, of complete uncertainty about everything, I began to reach out for help. Desperately, I searched for any clue about what I was experiencing. For better than a year, I locked myself in an apartment, meditating, “journaling”/reading everything I could locate, leaving my residence only when I uncovered authentic teachers who might offer me direction.
“This initial experience, completed shattered and redirected my life. I can not imagine how I could ever reconstruct it.” – C.H.
From there, I have merely followed the perfume. It has been a spectacular journey that has honored me with meeting many gifted teachers who patiently and gently tolerated my fumbling , feeding my deep curiosity with insights and gem-like experiments designed to challenge deeply held beliefs that colored what remained of my confusion.
This Sadhana left nothing but scorched earth as lightning struck many more times. I suspect revelation never ends. So, this is how my interest in Advaita was born. I hope this answers your question. Bring it on, John!
To read the full interview with Chris Hebard and find out why he thinks “there never has been an enlightened human being.” – please visit Self Realization
*interview excerpt from Non-Duality Online Magazine.