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 of — 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, Germany, and the United States. A four-day residential 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. Students are asked to study one chapter of the book every three weeks, and follow the practices given at the end of most chapters. 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, and individual calls with Elias once (or more if requested) each semester. 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 also 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, the Open Path Training involves a minimum of 20 minutes each day in a contemplative practice over the nine months of the course. 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 two to three 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 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 has worked for many years in the fields of peace and environmental activism and travels widely as a teacher and citizen diplomat.
Information and Registration for 2013-14 Trainings
The nine-month Open Path Trainings for 2013-14 are being held in three different locations. Please click on the links below for information pertaining to each location.