Catherine Ingram

About Catherine Ingram

Catherine Ingram

Catherine Ingram is an international dharma teacher with communities in the US, Europe, and Australia. Since 1992 she has led Dharma Dialogues, which are public events that focus on directing awareness toward greater wellbeing in an ethical and happy life. Catherine also leads numerous silent retreats each year in conjunction with Dharma Dialogues. She is president of Living Dharma, an educational non-profit organization founded in 1995.

Review of Passionate Presence
Seven Qualities of Awakened Awareness

When Brandon Bays recommended this book, I paid attention. I wanted deeper insight into the kind of spirituality that Brandon lives, and Catherine Ingram's book is a glimpse into that way of embracing life in awakened awareness.

Every word of this book is purposefully selected and as complete as language can be, describes and teaches the reader to become more aware of the self in relation to the whole. Just when you think it is impossible to describe the enlightened life, or Truth, here comes a book that manages to give essential insight into what it is to shed ego and become living expressions of the essence that we truly are.

Catherine writes with eloquence. Each word is precisely chosen to convey the correct message. There can be no misunderstanding. Catherine clearly describes the complications and simplicities of all that encompasses our existence, our universe, in a remarkably well-written book that I predict will be considered one of the Holy Books of our times.

Passionate Presence introduced me to my ego in places I never realized it was so grotesquely domineering. I've been alerted to creating a better balance. I've been consoled that what I perceive I need in order for my life to be meaningful, is merely a cultural belief I bought into. I've been challenged to reshape my views and recreate a life that is truly rewarding in each moment – instead of just appear to be rewarding against some man-made scale of self judgement.

Passionate Presence is a book like no other I've ever read. It is in a class by itself. It is the unique kind of book that comes along perhaps once in a lifetime, to totally dislodge your long-held beliefs… in a good way! It opens doors to possibilities previously never remotely detected: the possibility of living as something greater than the self.

If you have read all the self development books, and feel that intellectually, you already grasp most of the concepts for creating a better life, I invite you to read Passionate Presence. It is a book beyond books! It will most certainly thrust you into a new level of life experience.

Interview with Catherine Ingram

You have been a spiritual seeker for many years, your journey taking you worldwide. What prompted you to originally begin your intensive spiritual study?

Suffering, mainly. By the time I was about 20 years old, I had had it with being alive and was desperate to find some way of perceiving cruelty, injustice, and loss that made sense. I tried all kinds of experiences in a worldly sense and then turned to spiritual pursuits. I was the classic example of the Sufi saying, “There are three stages to the journey: the journey from god, the journey to god, and the journey in god.” It took about twenty years before I realized the journey was in god.

Does your seeking continue, or do you feel that you have "found the answer" that keeps you content, as described in your book, Passionate Presence?

No, there is no more seeking. That is not because I feel I have landed on some lofty perch called enlightenment but because I have seen the futility of seeking. Seeking must be fueled by the belief that something is missing. In seeing clearly, one realizes that nothing is needed for one's sense of aliveness but being alive. Seeking is counterproductive to that kind of awareness and gives the mind a feeling of agitation with the thought that there is something more that should be done.

Please tell us how the Dharma Dialogues began. Do they still continue today?

Yes, they very much continue today in cities in the US, Europe, and Australia. The schedule is always on our website. Dharma Dialogues grew out of my having been invited to teach with Ram Dass at a number of his retreats in 1992/93. I had never thought of teaching but when Ram Dass asked me to join him at a retreat for that purpose, I found that I loved sharing in that way.

While many religions and philosophies represent belief systems that are subjective and therefore not necessarily "real", what is your view on science, which is largely based on theories and hypotheses?

I am a big fan of science and find some of the most interesting views of reality coming from that domain rather than from religion. Science also has the benefit of applying the rigorous method for proving, or at least accepting as working hypotheses, that requires experiments to be done repetitively and by different people in different places with the same results before they are accepted by the community at large. This is at total variance with religion which relies instead on faith and belief.

In order to survive as human beings, must we opt for some kind of belief system? Or can we live without one?

I feel that it is the belief systems that are threatening our survival. Most of the blood spilled in history and even today is due to belief systems, primarily religious in nature. We can live very well without belief systems and rely instead on our own direct experience.

Your book is beautifully written, and very well articulated. Do you think it is primarily for people already on a conscious spiritual path, or can one attain these qualities of awakened awareness without having had a certain amount of personal experience searching for meaning and self-discovery?

The seven qualities of awakened awareness are inherent in everyone. The recognition of them does not require any attainment at all. Qualities such as tenderness, embodiment, delight, wonder, and so on are not some special domain of so-called spiritual people. They are qualities that exist in us when we are relaxed and at ease in our own skin. The book is simply a reminder of them and serves as an experiential celebration of what we already know in our heart of hearts but sometimes forget.

Thank you, Catherine, for writing such a much-needed, sacred book!
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Quotes by Catherine Ingram

There is a story about a little fish who swims up to his older and wiser fish friend and says, “You go on and on about water. I have been searching for it everywhere and it is nowhere to be found. I have studied all the texts, practiced and trained diligently, and met with those who have known it, but it has eluded me.” The wise old fish says, “Yes, dear. As I always tell you, not only are you swimming in it right now but you are also composed of it.” The little fish shakes his head in frustration and swims away, saying, “Maybe someday I will find it.” p.xvi

The search had been an attempt to make more of myself. No matter how noble my various endeavors, the intention to enhance me remained a primary motivation. Even in meditation practice there was a hope that I would attain something one day, something more would be added on. I would get the insight, realization, satori, or enlightenment, and then I might finally be able to relax. p.5

What if we knew that nothing is missing – right now – that nothing is needed for our experience of aliveness but being alive? p.6

It seems that we are almost genetically programmed toward relentless mental occupation with desire and avoidance, a desperate squirming out of now. p.8

The fact is that all thought fades as soon as it arises. Of the millions of thoughts we have each experienced there is not a single one that has lasted. p.13

When we experience life directly, we are not chopping it up into distinct pieces or relying on pictures from the past to give it meaning. We are not even particularly interested in giving things meaning. We live in an innocence that accepts life as it comes without trying to appropriate every occurrence for a story or a myth. p.14

From where does this genius arise? It comes from the inherent intelligence that is available when we are quiet, when our minds are not running the show. It is upstream from thought. Awakened awareness. p.21

The creativity that comes from ambition often has the taint of ego in it, no matter how majestic or laudable the production. Its contribution usually serves the general thrust of competition in the world. It titillates the movements of ego and often fosters jealousy and resentment.

The creativity that comes from silence, from a quiet heart, feels different from that of ambition to both the creator and the observer. When the artist or the worker is out of the way, both the creator and the observer experience the art as simply a gift , an expression of the impersonal intelligence shared by all. The creator has no need to take credit for it, the observer no need to possess it. p.21-22

We are whole not only despite what we have suffered but often because of it. p.46

Birth and death are but momentary punctuations of this cycle, two ends of a spectrum of being that takes place within a greater whole. And yet, how utterly unique the expression of each life – a cosmic story whispered only once. All that is left for us is to fully live it. p.95

There is only the ever surprising journey in now, taking you and your companion where it will. It is akin to listening to music. Enjoying a piece of music does not depend on getting to the end of the song. p.110

In response to past suffering we develop a false self as a cloak or mask in an attempt to protect our true and tender self that has been hurt. Yet maintaining the false self is actually more difficult and painful than living in the vulnerability of the authentic self. And it is very lonely. p.115

Presenting oneself as a somebody to the world is wearisome and, ironically, an announcement of insecurity. We can never be at ease if there is a show to be kept up. p.115

As Poonjaji would say, “A true teacher gives you only his or her experience; all else are preachers.” p.145

But from another perspective, all is consciousness, endlessly rearranging itself into form and formlessness. There is no need to demand that its creatures of form should continue past death in some manner when the underlying reality from which they spring is infinite. Knowing this, we are witnesses to eternity, if only for a very short while. p.188

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