Sharing The Teaching of Self-Inquiry

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Elizabeth MacDonald

Elizabeth MacDonaldElizabeth grew up in Ontario, Canada with her two brothers and a sister. During her early years, she felt out of place with those around her as she had feelings and thoughts that were so different from her family and friends. She comforted herself by withdrawing into a quiet space inside herself where nothing was going on. In doing so, she closed out the world around her. Even though she appeared to be a “normal” child to those around her, she was withdrawn and felt protected in her own little world inside herself. The phrase that kept coming up to her that was a mystery to her was, “Complete it all this time.” This did not become clear to her until many years later, when she met Ramana, her spiritual teacher.

As a teenager she found herself unable to find protection from the conflicts of life. Many painful situations presented themselves in her life and she could no longer escape them. The pain was unbearable. She constantly prayed, reaching out to her traditional Christian upbringing for a connection with God and for some relief from the pain. In her search, she tried all the different Christian denominations she could find. But for her, this was no answer and gave her no relief. After awhile she gave up on God and tried to find some form of happiness in the world, and those around her. She had completely lost her ability to withdraw into the quiet space she once knew.

At age twenty, she traveled to North Carolina to assist a family member who was ill, and there met her husband to be. They were married later and had two daughters. Elizabeth’s search for happiness in people, places and things increased at this time. She fulfilled the deep longing for relationship, family, friends, and material things. And yet, with many of these desires now fulfilled, there was still a deep feeling of something missing, a knowing within herself that this wasn’t it, that she was not yet complete. She loved her husband and family, yet she still felt a deep hunger inside of her.

The marriage began to fall apart when it became clear they had different interests, and were going in a different direction in life. They separated and then divorced and her spiritual search began in earnest for what is real, genuine and lasting happiness, inner peace and true fulfillment.

It was about this time, in July 1978, that Ramana came into her life. He became her spiritual teacher, and she began to awaken to the quiet space inside herself once again. The difference this time was she did not have to leave the world or withdraw into her protective “bubble” to have peace. The significance of Ramana’s teaching, to her, was that she could “live in the world, but not of it.” Her worldly affairs and her spiritual practice worked hand in hand.

 

Elizabeth MacDonald and Arunachala Ramana and R

 

During Elizabeth’s years of initial practice she was involved in a very active lifestyle. Her days were filled with working at various jobs, the responsibility of raising her two daughters and serving AHAM as she could during its beginning stages. This included teaching a class on Sunday for the young, handling most of its AHAM's administrative duties, helping in newsletter publication, assisting Ramana in programs, and whatever else was required at the time.

Then, due to financial pressures it became necessary for her two daughters to live with their father. This was a tremendously painful experience for Elizabeth, as she was unable to adequately support them due to her lack of steady income, and absence of child support. Regarding that period in her life, she has said that if she had not had Self-Inquiry and AHAM she may well have ended her life, because of not being with her two young daughters.

Self-Inquiry became her moment-to-moment practice. The practice being, that whatever came up in her life that would otherwise pull her attention away from the true Self, the Heart, was actually used to withdraw attention back into the Heart, the Self, and the stillness within. Eventually, the practice easily and naturally shifted to just simply Being the Self, as It is, in the Heart as the Heart, and no more practice as such was necessary.

In 1989, Elizabeth began to travel to Unity Churches along the East Coast of America to give talks and meditation instruction. Her spiritual practice then escalated as she utilized the AHAM processes in meeting all the challenges involved in traveling on her own in unfamiliar surroundings, driving a large RV, and all this with minimal funds. She traveled in this way for AHAM for five years.

Elizabeth MacDonald and Arunachala Ramana and R

In 1991, when AHAM moved its headquarters from Greensboro to Asheboro, NC and opened the AHAM Meditation Retreat Center there, she moved onto the center grounds between her travels and fully dedicated her life to sharing AHAM’s teaching with the world. She knew unquestionably that this teaching and practice works; that it is a simple and practical approach to being fully connected with one’s True Self, and at the same time remain vigorously involved in an active lifestyle.

Over the years she has played many roles in AHAM. She has been both the main cook and housekeeper to Ramana and all the people at AHAM. She was one of its first buddies, and was its second ordained minister and trainer, the president of the board of advisors for many years, as well as AHAM’s executive director and senior trainer, and the trainer of all the other AHAM trainers. She co-created AHAM’s present programs based on her experience of living the Teachings of Sri Bhagavan and A. Ramana. Ramana often said, "There would not be an AHAM without Elizabeth."

After the passing of A. Ramana on February 15th, 2010, Elizabeth became AHAM’s Spiritual Director.

She considers these various roles as gifts that have been given to her from God, or from the Heart.

Elizabeth retired on November 1st, 2010 after 32 years of service to AHAM.  She is traveling abroad and visiting her spiritual family – sharing the wisdom she realized in her association with AHAM.

Elizabeth MacDonald and Arunachala Ramana and R

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Living from the Heart

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