One of Eliza Mada Dalian’s main teachings is: “To be a knower of Truth you must experience it for yourself.” Mada asked me to write the introduction to this book in a way that illustrated this teaching. I’ve answered that request with my personal story of searching for healing and finding my own truth while working with her personally and professionally.
When I was eight years old, my mother’s kidneys failed, and she became very ill. She spent the next seven years in and out of the hospital until she finally died at the age of forty-two. As she lay dying, she told me, “Don’t live your life in a shell. I lived the first twenty years of my life in a shell, and the second twenty trying to break out of it, but my body became too weak to do it.”
Her illness and eventual death led me to question the meaning of life and my life’s purpose. Unable to relate to the concerns of the adults and other children around me I felt all alone. The more isolated I felt, the more lost, depressed, and anxious I grew. I was sent to counselors and psychologists, but they didn’t know how to help me. I was told that I was thinking too much and not to worry about these questions. The religion on which I was raised discouraged this kind of questioning, or it offered me simple answers that didn’t feel true or resolve my anxiety and restlessness.
Around the time I was fifteen, I was put on antidepressants. Over the course of my adolescence and university years, I was prescribed more antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, stimulants, sleeping pills, and medication to counteract the side effects of the other medications. I felt better for a while, and on the outside I seemed to be doing well. But on the inside I eventually began feeling numb and disconnected from my emotions and my own life. I felt as if I was dying in my own prison. As the feeling of being disconnected and alienated from myself intensified, I decided that spending the rest of my life on medication wasn’t the answer. Deep down I knew there had to be more to life than the way I was living it.
After graduating from university, I stopped taking my medication and began to search for another way of living. My search took me to the desert of Utah where I lived and worked for two years and then to Asia and around the world. As I traveled, I began to realize that my depression and anxiety were, at their root, a spiritual problem that would need a spiritual solution. I figured what better place to resolve my questions than in India. While in India, I began my search for a cure to my angst and depression in earnest.
I started my search the only way I knew how – by reading books. I read and read: books on meditation, spirituality, religion, psychology, and even science. From my reading, I understood that the Eastern mystics and the Western physicists were describing the same truth (one from the inside, the other from the outside): we and everything in the universe are all one and everything that appears solid and separate is only a temporary illusion. I realized that all of my stress and suffering was due to my ignorance of and resistance to this truth. I knew that beneath all my wounds and fears I was okay, and thought that meditation might be the cure to my depression. I wasn’t sure how it would work exactly, but I felt as if I was at the end of the line. I desperately wanted to be free.
I signed up for a ten-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat. Vipassana is the key meditation method taught by the Buddha. It is the observation of the body, breath, thoughts, and emotions with the understanding that everything one experiences is impermanent. It was a revelation. Instead of staying in the chain of emotional reaction, I understood how to break the chain by simply watching and letting the thought or emotion or sensation be there. By doing this, I literally felt the layers begin to evaporate from my body. I started sleeping better and felt less anxiety. I felt a peace that I had never known before. I knew this retreat was just the beginning, a taste, but I was certain that I had found the way to free myself from unhappiness and depression. After the retreat, I continued to meditate faithfully every day.
Upon returning to the West my “high” gradually wore off, and deeper layers of unconscious thoughts and emotions began to surface. It became increasingly difficult for me to meditate without getting caught in my mind and emotions. Somehow, sitting and just watching wasn’t bringing me the same peace it had in India. I felt I needed guidance, but I wasn’t sure what to do or where to go. I thought about studying transpersonal psychology that incorporates mindfulness and meditation and at the same time prepare myself for a career as a counselor, but after visiting the school I was interested in I realized: How could I hope to help others when I was still becoming aware of my own unconscious? I decided that I had to continue to help myself before I would be ready to help anyone else.
A friend referred me to a transpersonal psychologist working in Vancouver, British Columbia. I traveled to Vancouver and worked with him for almost nine months. When I realized I had arrived at a point where he couldn’t lead me any further I stopped seeing him. I was grateful that he could take me as far as he himself had come on his own journey, but I knew I needed to move further.
I understood that in order to awaken, I had to peel away the layers of unconscious thoughts and emotions I was carrying around with me, but somewhere along the way I had become lost in all the baggage I was “working” on. I had already tried many different therapies, including talk therapy, massage, reflexology, chiropractic, acupuncture, flower essences, Rolfing, tai chi, qigong, yoga, chanting, physical cleanses, as well as continuing to faithfully meditate. If anything, I had stirred up so many layers that I was now feeling even more lost in a cloud of my thoughts and emotions.
I hoped and longed for a guide who could take me to the other shore, but I wondered if any guide would come. I knew I wasn’t looking for a traditional guru to follow, but I also knew that the modern self-help-style psychologist/teacher wasn’t for me either. I didn’t want to hear more ideas about positive thinking, love, enlightenment or awakening. I wanted and needed practical help so I could discover the truth for myself. I wanted help simply peeling away the layers – nothing more.
Then I had a dream. I dreamed I was in the Arctic, on the edge of the ice. Everything was bright and shining with light. The water was intensely blue like the water in the tropics. It was so bright it hurt my eyes. Polar bears were swimming in the water, and I was swimming off the edge of the ice with them. At first I was afraid and intimidated by the bears. But then I saw a woman standing on the shore and I relaxed. She guided me firmly yet encouragingly. I finally managed to make it to shore. Once I was out of the water she said, “It’s time to take a break,” and she suggested that we go have something to eat. I was struck by her power and fearlessness, but mostly I was impressed by her gentleness, warmth, and compassion. She was like a mysterious temple priestess and a down-to-earth mother at the same time.
Two months later, a yoga teacher I had met referred me to healer and spiritual teacher Mada Dalian. When I met her, I recognized her as the woman that I had seen in my dream. Words cannot describe the tremendous relief I felt. I immediately knew that she was different from anyone else I had ever met. I was overwhelmed by the stillness and silence that she radiated. I knew right away that she was a “knower,” though I didn’t want to admit it out loud, even to myself. It terrified me to contemplate it. She had experienced first hand what I was searching for.
I was nervous at first when I sat in front of her. When she asked me to tell her what had brought me to her, I spoke quickly without pause. I told her about the “work” I had been doing. After I finished, she asked me to close my eyes and focus on breathing into my belly. She too closed her eyes and began to “look” into my energy. After some silence, she said: “You have been doing all this work on yourself with all these different techniques and you have stirred up a lot of stuff, and a lot is happening, but it’s all like a cloud covering your awareness. You are missing your center. You are just moving in a circle. You have been doing this for lifetimes, trying to find yourself through the mind, and you stay trapped in it. We need to break through your cloud. The only way out is through witnessing the cloud of the mind. Just jump into the center and watch whatever is happening. You are only the witness.”
She said this in a light, almost humorous way, yet I could feel her compassion. I also felt her strength and wisdom and knew that she was not merely guessing or feeling things but, in fact, was truly “seeing” me and my life. I knew she was right. I didn’t feel defensive or concerned that I had been wasting my time up until now. Rather, I felt relieved that she could see and explain to me why I felt so lost. I felt myself relax deeper as she continued to speak: “People who don’t have the awareness of their own center have been misguiding you. What does it mean to be enlightened or awakened? Coming out of the illusion means coming out of your ego-mind and its desires. Part of your illusion is that you think you are the one doing things to heal yourself. You think you are the one doing all this “work.”
I felt the truth of what she was saying. I had become so identified with working hard to heal myself, it had become part of what was keeping me in the suffering. I was actually fueling my ego through my attachment to healing myself. I was attached to my identity as someone who needed healing. I thought I wanted to heal, but in reality, I was afraid to let go of being wounded. As I was digesting this, she went on: “You have been staying in the illusion of your ego-mind because you are afraid of your own power. Living in your power means taking responsibility for your own life and living your life and your truth, regardless of what is going on in the world. You are afraid to live in your power because if you do, you will have to stand alone. Only by standing on your own two feet can you make a difference in the world. To make a difference in the world and your life, you have to destroy the false within yourself and around you. Right now, you are controlling yourself to fit in. You had to do that in the beginning because you had to survive, but now it’s no longer an issue. The only way of the spiritual warrior is to face the truth. It’s the only way to be free.”
These final words frightened me, but I knew she was right. I had spent my life hiding, trying to fit in and live up to the world’s standards. I had been afraid to speak up and live my life according to my own truth. Even though I was trying to find the truth, I was at the same time afraid of finding it because it would mean that I would be responsible to live it and would no longer be able to hide. My mother’s words came back to me: “Never live your life in a shell.” I had to risk letting go of my shell, if I was ever going to be completely free.
After Mada finished “reading” my energy, she moved on to the practical part of the healing session, explaining how she was going to help me experience my center for myself using a technique she had developed called the Dalian Healing Method®. I lay down on her massage table and she worked with my body and the suppressed thoughts and emotions that were in my energy. She told me that healing and experiencing my truth doesn’t have to be a struggle.
During the session, I had a glimpse of my center for the first time and was able for a moment to step out of the cloud of thoughts and emotions I had been lost in. After the session, I felt such a profound sense of gratitude to her, to the universe, and such a sense of relief and joy, I wept and laughed at the same time. I thought that I had been doing a lot to improve myself by working with many different therapies and techniques, but I had been missing the most important aspect – the witness in the center. I could relax now and surrender to her guidance. No matter what obstacles I might run into along the path, I could trust she would lead me through it.
Like any good teacher, she assigned homework. She told me, “Over the next little while you may again feel a sense of struggle, but don’t get discouraged. The struggle is simply the shift between the old pattern of thinking and your new emerging consciousness. It takes time for the new consciousness to integrate. Contemplate the question, ‘If I was absolutely free, what would I do?’ Come back and see me as a friend, but not to talk, just to feel the silence. So start focusing on your inner silence. Don’t talk about yourself, just feel and be present. Talking takes you out of the present.”
As I was leaving after my first session, I asked her, “Where are you from?” She laughed as if it was a strange question. She replied, “Here.” I persisted and asked, “No, I mean, where were you born?” And, this time, humoring me, she replied, “Armenia.” But she had told me the truth when she answered me the first time. She is from here. Or the Here-and-Now. Mada belongs and has always belonged to the universe, like the serene, detached, temple priestess I saw her as in my dream. But she is also a blunt, firm, practical, and compassionate mother and woman. Although this was my first meeting with Mada, my real work with her did not begin until I attended my first twenty-one-day meditation and enlightenment intensive with her.
While attending her meditation intensives, where she used a combination of active meditations, group work, individual guidance using her gift as a healer and medical intuitive, Mada would point out the areas in my body where consciousness was not present and would instruct me on how to work with my unconscious. Her instructions were very spontaneous, practical, and direct. She talked matter-of-factly about even the most taboo things. Some called it blunt or even insensitive, but I found it to be the most helpful approach I had ever experienced. Sometimes what she would say would hit a nerve and expose a wound that was hidden in my unconscious, and although painful for me to see, it enabled me to have a breakthrough in my self-awareness and moved me one step closer to healing and freedom from suffering.
Several years after first meeting Mada, I came across a story called “Fire Poker Zen” from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki. It neatly encapsulates this aspect of Mada’s teaching style.
Mada will frustrate every notion you might have about what enlightenment is, or what an awakened person is like. She doesn’t fit into any stereotypes. Her contradictions are a gift to her students and clients, but it is also what makes her so challenging to them and others. Though she can be called a healer and a spiritual teacher, she is most of all a mystic – one who has had direct experience of the divine. She is truly a Bodhisattva who after her awakening has committed herself to helping others wake up.
Mada’s style of teaching may not be for everyone, but I find it to be incredibly and wonderfully refreshing. She is like the master Lao Tzu writes about in the Tao Te Ching who “…leads by emptying people’s minds and filling their cores, by weakening their ambition and toughening their resolve. He helps people lose everything they know, everything they desire, and creates confusion in those who think that they know.”
She is no-nonsense and completely and utterly practical. She doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about love, enlightenment, or abstract concepts and philosophies. Instead, she spends her time and energy practically directing us so that we can have the experience and know the Truth for ourselves.
I admire Mada for declaring the age of guru over. She does not encourage her students to be dependent on her. She never sets herself up as some figure on a pedestal. She insists that she is a human being like the rest of us with her own lessons and life to live, and she pushes her students to take responsibility for their own lives and choices. One of her main messages is: you have to do the work for yourself – no one else can do it for you. No one else is responsible for your happiness or your pain. To be a student of Mada’s, you cannot just listen to or parrot her ideas – you must practice it and embody it for yourself. You must be courageous and absolutely sincere in your efforts. There is no getting around it.
I focused most of my energies over the next three years on my meditation practice and my work with Mada. After three years of studying with her, she asked me to help with the editing of her book, which she had been working on for several years. I then spent the next two years working with her on the manuscript. If anything, working with her day after day on the book was more transformative than anything I had done with her previously.
While working on the book with Mada I felt as if I was unlearning everything I had known, and becoming like a child again. Being in her presence, my consciousness naturally evolved. This meant I had to be always present and stay in my heart and my innocence, watching my mind and its judgments, fears, and reactions.
It wasn’t easy. Mada was like a waterfall, gradually and continually wearing down the shell of my ego. There were many days when I went home and needed to scream or cry in my room because something Mada had said or written had hit my ego and exposed its wounds and fears. Being with her helped me truly understand what Rumi meant when he said, we need to tear down the house of the ego and dig under its foundations in our unconscious to find the treasure of our true Self.
As the Buddha said, “Regard the person who sees your faults as a revealer of treasures. Associate with the skilled person as one who is wise, who speaks reprovingly. Keeping company with such a person, things get better, not worse.”
Every moment of working with Mada was an opportunity to shed more and return the next day to work on the book a little bit lighter. As time went by, I gradually learned to observe my mind and its thoughts and emotions without reaction. I felt lighter and lighter, to the point where my life itself became a meditation and it felt paradoxically both more ordinary and extraordinary. I now know that the whole universe is my home and I can never be lost.
If Mada’s teachings can be said to have a purpose or goal, it is to help every sincere seeker make the leap into the boundless unknown of no-mind – the silent stillness that exists within our center. What sets Mada apart from other masters is that she is also a practicing hands-on healer. What sets her apart from other healers is that she is not primarily concerned with fixing symptoms but rather with helping people heal from unconsciousness into consciousness.
Mada calls this book In Search of the Miraculous: Healing into Consciousnessas an homage to two important twentieth-century mystics, Georges Gurdjieff and Osho. It follows in the footsteps of P.D. Ouspensky’s book on Georges Gurdjieff’s teachings, In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknowable Teaching (the book that sparked Mada’s own journey), and Osho’s book In Search of the Miraculous, which further spurred her quest for enlightenment. To me, these three books about the search for the miraculous are attempts at speaking of the unspeakable.
In this book, Mada shares her own unique perspective on enlightenment and healing and their relationship to spirituality and growth in consciousness. Through her own personal story in Chapter 10, she illustrates everything covered in the book and shows how she herself has lived and experienced what she now teaches to others.
Mada calls both the journey to awakening and the awakening itself “healing into consciousness,” and describes the journey we all take as we evolve into consciousness. She illuminates the purpose of our ego and takes us through the stages of its development, and of the need for its final surrender. She also offers practical guidance and an array of exercises for breaking through the illusion of the ego-mind.
By its very nature, a book like this can never be complete because the journey is full of paradoxes that cannot be adequately described using the linear mind and language. However, Mada describes the paradox of the spiritual journey: on the one hand the idea that we even need healing is an illusion; on the other, to get to this understanding we need to do the work of healing and becoming more conscious. Or, as she is fond of saying, “It takes effort to get to effortless effort.” In other words, only by “trying” and “pursuing” healing and awakening with 100 percent of our mind and energy can we exhaust the mind of all effort and realize the natural and whole state of our being.
Above all, Mada emphasizes the need to strengthen our inner witness and teaches that each one of us can find ultimate health and wholeness only by witnessing and disidentifying from our ego-mind and surrendering to what is. She offers clear, simple guidance and instruction so that we may know this truth for ourselves.
In essence, this book is a how-to manual on transforming our unconscious into consciousness. It is packed with exercises, meditations, and visualization practices you can turn to over and over again on your healing journey.
Although you can read and practice with each chapter alone, each chapter also prepares you to understand the deeper truths and wisdom in the following chapters. You will get the most out of this book if you practice with the suggested exercises and meditations; however, if you only work with one exercise, look within and practice watching your breath. This practice alone is the key to awakening. Reading and reflecting on the book while maintaining a regular meditation practice is the ideal way to walk your healing journey.
If you feel overwhelmed while reading this book, don’t be discouraged. It isn’t meant to be read quickly. Read it slowly, and let yourself digest it. Our intellect alone is not enough to understand life or find healing. The concepts discussed in the book could be at times overwhelming – they certainly were for me. What we can grasp with the mind is limited compared to what we can grasp through experience. Don’t worry about trying to understand everything; instead simply practice with the exercises and understanding will happen on its own.
This book is like a mirror that reflects whatever is within us. Something ugly or beautiful might be revealed. Every line is a potential arrow that might expose something hidden within your unconsciousness and help you come a step closer to your true Self. To get the most benefit from this book, look inside and sincerely reflect on each line you read. Maybe you have heard it before. Maybe you already feel as if you know it, but are you living it? Does your life reflect what you think you know?
It is my sincere wish that reading this book is every bit as powerful for you as editing it was for me. I hope that it becomes a helpful guide and inspiration for you on your healing journey into consciousness. I am forever grateful that I was blessed with the opportunity to be part of its creation.