What is the Open Path?
The Open Path is a non-sectarian approach to spiritual realization. It is a path dedicated to the direct experience of our natural state - a state known as Pure Awareness, Selflessness, Nonduality, Oneness, Original Spirit, and by many other names. It is a process of natural enlightenment that belongs to everyone. .
To travel the open path does not require following a belief system or a specific set of esoteric practices or ritual forms. What is required is that we relax into the awake openness of our original nature, free from assumptions about who we are or conclusions about what is real. What is required is that we relax from compulsive doing and mental commenting and recognize the immanence of the here-and-now for what it naturally is.
With this unadorned recognition we experience release from our insecurities, self-doubt, and judgments of others. As a result we are able to respond spontaneously to whatever comes up for us with equanimity, creativity, and with a kind heart.
The Open Path Training
The intention of the nine-month Open Path Training is to introduce you to the direct experience of pure awareness, free from religious interpretations and obligations. Usually this experience begins with short glimpses of its lucid clarity. As these glimpses are pointed out, you learn to open to them again and again. The natural ease they reveal becomes increasingly familiar. This familiarity gradually allows you to sustain and integrate the realization of the natural state in your daily life.
A central aspect of the Open Path Training involves noticing the stream of assumptions that accompany our moment-to-moment experience of life, and that obscure recognition of the natural state. These assumptions range from ideas about the nature of reality to the requirements for happiness. Most of these assumptions involve the sense of our being an identifiable entity – a self – who is the agent of choice and action, and whose well-being is dependent on getting the phenomenal world to line up in a certain way.
In the training we directly inquire into the truth of these assumptions, looking for the evidence upon which they are based. This deconstructive inquiry, or unlearning as the Sufis call it, becomes a natural part of our everyday experience as we proceed on this path of opening. In the process we may experience moments of bewilderment or disorientation as our assumptions about what is real and true are seen through.
There is nothing aggressive about this process, and everyone is encouraged to follow his or her own pace of inquiry. Gradually the mental and emotional constructions that we have taken for granted lose their substantiality. They become transparent. In that transparence we are able to welcome and rest in the stillness and openness that is our original nature.
In the Open Path Training we are committed to direct experience rather than studying about the recognition of the natural state. We acknowledge that the mind’s tendency is to make up stories and interpretations about what is real, and that these interpretations give us a measure of security. We try to be gentle with ourselves here, neither blaming ourselves for objectifying our experience with concepts nor exerting tremendous effort in attempts to stop our habits of thinking and conceptualizing.
The key to our “work” in the Open Path is to allow ourselves to relax from the need to figure out what is true. This relaxation - often called unknowing - is not laziness or dreaminess. It is an openness to direct experience of the present moment in all its spontaneity and mystery. While we do explore many exercises and practices, and share many “pointing out” conversations and written material, the heart of this Path is not didactic. Our explorations are primarily devoted to evoking each person’s direct experience of the natural state – timeless awareness – without relying upon belief or cognitive understanding to convince ourselves of its presence.
The Structure of the Open Path Training
The training, which spans a period of nine months, is offered in England and Germany. A four-day seminar is held at the beginning, middle, and end of the training. The "textbook" for the course is the newly published The Open Path — Recognizing Nondual Awareness. You will receive each chapter’s essay – with exercises - by email every three weeks. These essays and practices focus our work together.
In addition, we connect with each other by telephone on a regular basis. This telephone work is a central aspect of the training. There are group conference calls with Elias every three weeks (approximately 10 participants per group), and individual calls with Open Path guides twice each semester. You may also arrange individual calls with Elias if you wish during the training. In addition, each student chooses one or more “partners” to work with by telephone or in person on exercises and inquiry work.
During the course you are encouraged to maintain a contemplative practice – a period of about twenty minutes (or more) each day during which you follow both specific practices as well as periods of “non-doing” – simply resting in the natural state.
How Much Time is Involved?
In addition to the three 4-day seminars and a daily contemplative practice, you will also spend about one hour (or more as you wish) each week in reading and in exercises done independently or shared with other participants. In addition, you should be prepared to spend about two hours each month on the group and individual telephone calls. You may also wish to do readings from the bibliography outside of the course work. If you are not sure you can devote this amount of time to this work over the nine months of the course, we recommend that you wait until your life schedule will allow it.
Who Is This Training For?
The Open Path Training is appropriate for people who are psychologically stable, emotionally resilient, and who are invested with a deep spiritual calling for realization. Of course, everyone experiences ups and downs in his or her life—the stability and resilience mentioned here is the capacity you have to deal with these natural ups and downs honestly and wholeheartedly. In engaging with this course it is also helpful to be someone who has a strong love for life and who has a natural generosity—these qualities serve to support your commitment to the learning involved, as well as deepen the contribution this work can make to the well being of your family, friends and community.
While it is often beneficial to have had a background in meditation practice or in a spiritual tradition, it is not necessary. Most important is a steadiness of commitment over time and an honest curiosity to explore your direct experience of being.
The Lineage of the Open Path
The Open Path is a contemporary and non-sectarian approach to the journey of awakening that is at the heart of all mystical traditions. The particular style of the Open Path emerges from the lineage of western universal Sufism expressed by the Sufi Way.
This “style” is inclusive in its methods, non-dogmatic in its view, and dedicated to direct experience. The methods we make use of in the trainings are drawn from many sources: classical and modern Sufi practices, contemporary psychological methods for releasing mental and emotional fixations, Buddhist meditation practices, forms of inquiry from Zen, Advaita Vedanta, and Tibetan Dzogchen and Mahamudra traditions, and from the inspiration of many historic and contemporary Western nondual teachers.
The Open Path Training is taught by Elias Amidon, the spiritual director (Pir) of the Sufi Way. Elias teaches and holds retreats on nondual spirituality and Sufism throughout Europe and the United States, and is known for his direct and experiential approach to spiritual realization. He has worked for many years in the field of peace and environmental activism in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and with indigenous tribes on land-rights issues. He is the author of the book The Open Path: Recognizing Nondual Awareness, and co-editor of the books Earth Prayers, Life Prayers, and Prayers for a Thousand Years.
Information and Registration for 2016 Training – Austria
The 2016 Open Path Training will be held at Die Lichtung, a beautiful retreat center near Vienna, Austria. Please click here for specific information, costs, and to register.
“The Open Path course over 9 months was a beautiful experience. At the end there was no finishing – only an ever-new beginning. There were 30 participants on the course and we opened like flowers together; each one of us unique and yet completely unified in the timeless moment. Elias guided us all from a place of no-separation, into an awareness which is open, transparent and Loving, which is always here and is in fact who we are! I feel so full of gratitude for having found so many wonderful new friendships, which I have no doubt will continue unendingly.” – Ali MacArthur
"I am not a great one for sitting with groups and have always been wary of any kind of organized spirituality, but I felt I had come home when I found the Open Path training.
I am particularly drawn to its inclusivity, non-structured way of being and open-
heartedness which has had profound implications in my own life. I have become more aware and content in the present moment, more connected to what my own body is telling me, more 'awake' in all senses to the internal and external world." – Celia Snow
“Exploring the Open Path has brought me a tremendous sense of ease and flow with its kind and gentle invitation to be 'in' and 'of' life without judgment, regret, separation or fixation. The practices introduced feel both profound and profoundly simple in their accessibility and immediacy and Pir Elias is a delightfully wise, warm and humane teacher.” – Lynn Reed