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Polishing the Diamond and the ascent transition

May 9, 2009 by claire

Vanessa, Trine & Amanda in the Beach Prayer RoomWhat is the Diamond? And how does it carry us through our work, our lives, our transitions? In a recent conversation, former staff of ascent and new staff at rad’a montreal reflect on their experience of  Polishing the Diamond – how it has affected their own transitions and deepened their relationship with the work.


ascent has published their final issue, Timeless Books has moved back to the ashram and is evolving to include online publishing, the rad’a space and former ascent offices in Montreal are undergoing a transformation, Lightwaves is expanding… There is definitely something happening around the publishing aspect of Radha’s work.  It feels like the beginning of fresh growth after pruning.

The Ashram recently became a sort of spiritual nucleus at the center of this swirl of change, as members of ascent and rad’a converged here to participate in the last ascent intensive – Polishing the Diamond with Swami Radhananda.  ascent’s former publisher Vanessa Reid and art director Amanda French met with Trine Mikkelsen (who will be managing the re-emerging rad’a space and former ascent offices) and Geoffroy Tremblay to reflect on their own transitions, the transition at ascent, and their experience of the course.


Gef: If there was one teaching that you could take home from polishing the diamond, what would it be?

Trine: For me, I made a promise to put in my calendar – the way i organize my day in terms of ‘I have a meeting on this day at this time, etc.’ – to actually put in a slot that I’m meeting with Divine Mother. To really start having my own practice during the day, and not what I have been doing, saying ‘oh, I want to do this’ and as the day progresses things take over, people are pulling and all of a sudden I’m back home and it’s 8:00 I haven’t done it. So I’m just being really aware that I need to keep the appointment as if it had been another friend or another business deal, like something that has to be done and I show up. I don’t squeeze it in or come late, I really honor it in a very practical way.

The other major thing for me was the dream that I had about value – how much value I put on the experience that I have. In this dream there was a group of architects talking and one of the girls had just finished with her degree so she wasn’t expecting a whole lot when she asked for a salary. And this other guy was like ‘I have all this experience behind me so I want $24,000 a day.’  The girl was like ‘wow that’s way too much,’ and he was like ‘well I deserve it, this is what I’m worth, this is what I should get from everything that I’m doing.’ And I just thought wow, in my mind and in my heart can I really allow myself to say ‘well this is actually what I’m getting out of it – this is the outcome from all the years and years of work.’?  I have been doing this work for ten years, so I’m starting to realize that the value I’m getting out of what I’m doing in a week like this is bigger than if I’d just started out, and to really honor that.

Gef: Swami Radha talks a lot of a “spiritual bank account.”

Trine: Yeah, exactly.

Amanda: For me, I think it’s really to build on what you said, Trine. I said this at the closing Satsang, and I noticed myself saying it through the five days – how Swami Radhananda said ‘close your circuits.’  Its not a new concept for me but I think I was just really ready to hear that. It just felt like an ‘oh of course’ moment. I know that before coming to the Ashram I felt empty, very empty, sometimes just staring out the window thinking ‘what is life… what’s next?’ Things had been closing, I had moved out of my apartment, my family came, and I just didn’t know why I felt so empty. In being here I’ve been realizing that I can take the time to first close it and then fill it and then operate from that kind of core of light…

Trine: She was talking about when you do our own practice, you cross your ankles and your wrists or palms. You want to physically actually close in and keep the energy in, like this is what’s happening.

Amanda: And I wonder, how much is it a tendency of women? I have always struggled around needing to share so much, because that’s how I create connection and bring people with me – in particular my partner who I love very much, I want him to be part of this. But it’s almost like I’m making a decision that he is part of this, but that there are things that are really mine, and mine only. That was a scary statement but it was very empowering at the same time. I realized that I was hearing ‘okay, you need to work on that.’ In a way I felt that that was one layer of what I was working on, my relationships and my relationship with myself. So the practice that I feel I would like to really delve into is the Divine Light Invocation – to really do that consciously. So that’s where I am now!

Gef: Yeah, I thought it was interesting what Radhananda brought to the satsang  yesterday. You have to find one thing inside that you can rely on, because money goes, people go, Montréal goes…

Vanessa: What’s the constant? Montréal goes, ascent goes…

Gef: What’s inside yourself, what’s really precious… to keep that always.

Vanessa: I really liked the analogy, the metaphor and the tangibility of the diamond as something that has weight but it’s completely light – all it is is light!  It’s reflecting and refracting and it’s a kaleidoscope and it’s clear and its all those things, its almost like its nothing…

Trine: It’s pretty heavy…

Vanessa: There is a certain weight to it.  And at first I just really felt like the diamonds were around me, and I could see that light, but I hadn’t really asked ‘where is mine?’ And through the hatha practice and through our explorations – I felt like we were little discoverers going out into the day and practicing and coming back – I realized that my diamond really is in my heart, and that I’ve been covering it and covering it. So this week was about how do I open my heart and let my diamond shine, but hold it embedded in me and not just give it away.

One thing that Radhananda said, that I thought was just a little comment but it started to kind of pool out, was that you need space for intuition to come through.  And there was so much space in this week. Each day felt like a month, and after the day it felt like ‘How can we go any deeper?’ and then the next day we would go deeper.  In the course there were so many practices, some of which I had met before here and some of which we’d done at ascent, but the relationship was so spacious this time. I felt like it had time to sink into my pores and into my cells, and I really felt it in a physical way – it was the first time I felt the Light fill me. There was enough space that I created, there was enough space around me that I actually felt the Light and I felt my diamond and I felt the wisdom from this group. It was a very embodied experience and I think the five days were incredibly wide and deep.

Trine: I had a really deep experience of ‘if you don’t create the space…’  I’ve been so emotional this week, the first few days of Polishing the Diamond I felt the emotions in every part of my body and there was no space. It wasn’t until after the day with Divine Mother, just doing ‘functioning from my center’ and crying, crying and clearing out, and then when we did the Divine Light Invocation in the temple, that was the first time I felt like okay, now there’s actually space. But there has to be a will to create that space honestly and clear it for the surrender part to come in and the Light to come in.

Gef:  So it’s not a secret anymore that you’re all in transition, because ascent is closing and rad’a Montréal is re-opening and flourishing. How did Polishing the Diamond bring knowledge about your transition, and how have the wisdom of the teachings helped to guide you through your transition?

Vanessa: I just thank goodness that this was a part of my transition, in life but particularly with ascent. Being in Montreal and a part of ascent we were so immersed in the teachings, but in one particular kind of way. I feel my experience this week was… almost like releasing that immersion into the wider pool of the teachings and Swami Radha’s lineage. I had a different experience of all the practices and teachings than I have ever before – coming here and experiencing them in a bigger context, and particularly with Radhananda, has allowed me to understand my own process of learning more. I feel like it’s helped close the experience with ascent by actually opening it into the wider context of all these teachings.

But then in a really personal way what happened for me was that it allowed me to shed identities – I really felt like I was shedding skin. And because it’s so deep, over five days I could do that – that might have taken me months or years, but I was really given the tools to shed those identities and skins. I really feel like it’s a rebirth – I’m stepping back into the city and into the world in a really fresh and raw way but with these foundational tools, which I did not have in the last transition I had so I was very overwhelmed by it. I didn’t know how to work through it, I didn’t have my diamond intact. I feel like in five days this helped end something, helped solidify my own foundation and launch me back, in some way, into the unknown, but I feel really ready and fresh to do that, and I’m so grateful for that.

Amanda: What I realized was that I was very much in a transition, and then when we were in the circle, everyone said the same thing. So everyone is in transition but I think we always are, and that’s where our pain is. We’re like ‘no, no I don’t want to change again, I don’t want to look deeper!’ and that’s when we’re digging in the heels. I think the one thing that helps ground me in the life flow – I think life is transition – is that question ‘Where am I now?’ And to keep asking – ‘Where am I now? Okay, where am I now?’ And you just keep trying to hook back into that life force. I was seeing a healer before I came here and she told me ‘you’re unhooked! You’re unhooked, how can you get back in?’ She was like ‘Go to the Ashram, they’ll help you hook back in.’

Trine: Hook back into the main power system again…

Vanessa: The Mother ship…

Amanda: And my main question coming into Polishing the Diamond ‘was who am I now?’ So checking in every day is something that I hope I can keep up.

Trine: Someone in the course said that it takes a diamond to polish a diamond, so I’m bringing you guys home with me. I’m so amazed that I’m actually in a city where there are other people who have been here (at the Ashram). To actually be in an environment now, where we can set up a class every Thursday where we come together and reflect or do ten lights or whatever, and just keep helping each other remember, keep polishing each other, its huge for me and makes all the difference. I’ve been wanting that for ten years, so thank you.

Gef:  Did you have any insights about the next step of Radha?

Trine: Partly why I wanted to do the course when I first got here was about rad’a. I was having a lot of talks with Janet Gaston who has run other Radha centers, and she was making me aware that it’s so easy to get into the practicality of it – you kind of forget if you’re not careful why you’re doing it. You need that heartfelt connection, it’s a personal practice that you bring into something bigger. If you don’t have that personal connection it becomes a place where people pull you in all directions, there are great ideas, you work with the budget… it becomes all that other stuff. One, it drains you; and two, that’s not what it’s about. I have to do the work in order to teach it and I have to be what I’m trying to inspire.

So that was my initial reason for wanting to do the course, to deepen my connection so I had that really strong, to enter into rad’a. And I definitely have that now, knowing that Divine Mother is with me, and that she’s always with me. And creating that diamond, to not forget why I’m doing it – there’s a difference between ‘how do I do it’ and ‘why do I do it.’ Its so easy to be in the ‘how do I do it’ and forget the why.

Amanda: They need to be together to really flourish.

Trine: Yeah, I’ve had a week of why in the course and now I’ll have a week of how in the meetings, so then it comes together.

Vanessa: I was thinking about that too with the emergence of the rad’a space. We created something really special with ascent this past year, there was a real shift in the energy and the way we worked. There was a really exciting thing happening in that one year, I felt, but I didn’t feel it so much in my heart. It was just really good work and at the end of the day I’d be like ‘you know, we did really good work today.’ It was really satisfying. But I think what’s happened with coming here is that now there’s a connection with ascent, even though it’s gone in that form, and with rad’a, from my heart. I think that’s what Polishing the Diamond was, it polished that heart space. So the connection now with Trine’s work and with rad’a is coming from somewhere else now, its softer, and I can just show up as me – I don’t have to somehow make things work –  I can just show up and we can see what happens.

Gef:  Any last words of wisdom?

Vanessa: I’ve noticed that one thing the Ashram is really good at, in practice, is that change is constant.  What I see out there in the world is a tendency to force things that naturally want to move in different ways into an outcome that’s preconceived, so it’s as small as it can be because it’s not left to the imagination. Its really interesting to see that kind of integrity – how the teachings are integrated into practice in the way people live here. My word yesterday kind of captured it – it was shedding. So it’s not something concrete like ‘I’ve arrived,’ but that I’m shedding and I’m always going to be. I hope that what I’m learning is how to be in the flow of all those sheddings, to let it happen. Being here in the lived experience – where it’s not just a philosophy but the way people are actually living – is a real inspiration.

And that’s what I really really felt this time with the practices… I can be on the bus, number 80 going up Park, and I can talk to Divine Mother. Or how about I ‘Om Tara’ the whole way home, because it’s hectic and everyone’s on their cellphones… I really feel like that’s available to me now, whereas before it was like ‘that’s a neat idea… and I’ll do it at the Ashram.’ One of my conversations with Divine mother was around whether I should I stay longer at the Ashram, but  she was like ‘No, leave!’  I was surprised but also relieved, because she basically just said ‘Go and practice, and then come back.’ For the whole week in the back of my mind was ‘should I stay longer, could I do Karma Yoga…’ and underneath that was a fear – what if I don’t have enough? What if I can’t quite make it? What if I’m just not quite ready to really face myself, and who I want to be and what I want to create? In these five days I feel I got everything I needed. It was very  powerful.


Vanessa, Trine, Amanda

No Comments »

  1. beautiful!
    allowing space and trusting…

    Comment by palma — May 10, 2009 @ 11:34 am

  2. Thank you Trine, Vanessa, Amanda & Gef for this truely inspiring conversation. I will try to bring some of your Light filled thoughts to my/our work at the Ottawa Radha Centre. It’s great to know that you’re in Montreal… so close!

    Comment by Joan Gamble — May 11, 2009 @ 8:14 am

  3. Thank you for sharing, its conversations like that which remind me why I am offering the teachings here in France. Great to ‘listen’ to Trine again.

    Comment by Danuta Karpinska — May 11, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

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