Catherine Ingram is a dharma teacher who has been leading Dharma Dialogues and retreats since 1972. She is a co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and author of In the Footsteps of Gandhi: Conversations with the Spiritual/Social Activists. In this very elegantly written book, Ingram discusses her spiritual journey and her eventual realization of the supreme value of awakened awareness.
For over a decade the author worked as a journalist and traveled the globe interviewing spiritual thinkers and activists. She operated on the idea that being a seeker was a good thing and right in sync with the highest ideals of Western culture. But her Eastern spiritual teacher, Poonjaji, opened her eyes to the realization that our own passionate presence holds all that we need. We can stop looking elsewhere and tap into the seven primary qualities that emerge in awakened awareness: silence, tenderness, embodiment, genuineness, discernment, delight, and wonder.
Silence, for example, is a great spiritual faculty. Yet many of us are frightened of it because it forces us to square off against the frantic nature of our minds: "It is strange how much we resist the inherent peace and quiet that is always possible," the author notes. "Perhaps this is because resting in simple presence is so foreign to a lifelong habit of mental complication, and we may have confused complication with a sense of aliveness. We might assume that having no particular mental project would result in boredom. Or we may be overwhelmed by how vast and free life suddenly feels when our minds are not on the hunt." She believes that quiet, witnessing awareness keeps us in the present moment and unperturbed in the face of difficulties.
Ingram exhibits a fine gift as a storyteller, using both ancient and contemporary examples. One old story proves the value of greeting anything that happens with the saying "Thank you; thank you for everything. I have no complaints whatsoever." Another from her own experience is about a day she thought her car might be stolen; searching for it with writer Andrew Harvey, she discovered that they could also notice the architecture they were passing, a vegetable garden, a boy with a kite they "walked in a state of grace, in gratitude." An anecdote about the best gift Ingram ever received illustrates what the Buddha called "kingly giving."
By the time she discusses the abundant virtues of delight and wonder, the author has cast a spell upon us with her graceful understanding of the soulful dimensions of life. No more seeking, Ingram advises. Follow your innate wisdom as it unspools in your actions.