The School of Acceptance – Interview with Catherine Harding
You met Douglas when he was just a few years younger than you are now, 86 years old.
I met Douglas when he was 82 years old, and I was sixty. So that was a 22 years difference between us. But I never felt that difference because he was such a strong guy, physically and also mentally and spiritually. He was open like a young man. He knew how to remain informed about modern things. He started working on the computer and used internet; he was quite extraordinary. There was a beautiful love between us. Sixty years old I fell in love just like a young girl and I think he did too. We had 20 years of great happiness together. I supported his work because I really think he was a genius. But he was ahead of his time and his message might only be understood in 50 or 100 years time. I feel I was so privileged to meet him and help him because I think that seeing is, or could be, the solution to our modern problems. It could be good for so many people. If people could use it maybe the situation in the world would be better.
Would you say that after you have seen who you really are, and you are really living it, a deepening or ripening happens?
I would say that seeing cannot be dated; it is new every time you do it. It is always the first time. And at the same time when you have been seeing for a long time it is always at your back. No matter if it is in the foreground or in the background, it is always there. I would say that it is deepening, but slowly, very slowly. Sometimes you may feel that you are losing it because life is too difficult, but you never really do. You can always go back to it. That is the miracle Douglas made possible with his experiments.
When I can see that I'm not seeing, I can always go back to seeing. When I am recuperated by little Catherine, by my little one, seeing helps me to see that I am not in the right place. Then I can immediately correct it with this internal gesture: to turn around internally and see that there is absolutely nothing here. Here is this huge infinite space, welcoming the world and everything that is happening, even the difficult things. I have to accept this all the time now. My little Catherine's wishes have now so often not been accomplished that it is just a whole school of acceptance.
What influence has seeing on old age, or illness?
Old age is a school for acceptance. First of all getting old is very difficult. It is a hard time. Maybe people who are in excellent health don't see the difference but they will see the difference in appearance. That is the first problem. You have to accept that your body which was beautiful and healthy, or more or less beautiful and healthy, suddenly deteriorates. Seeing helps then because you see it is not you: your physical appearance is not you. You look at your body and you realize you are looking at an object, which is the same as the glass on the table, the cup, the chairs or the cupboard. All these things around me are objects and this body of mine is also an object.
So you accept that the body changes like you accept that your car gets old and deteriorated. Then you see that you are not this at all. Because the light within us that drives us is the same, exactly the same. The luminous awareness within you is still there, absolutely untouched and perfectly intact. You realize that you just have to get used to dwelling in this light, in this space, in this luminous awareness. The whole practice is to always go back there and see that this is what I am. I am the flame that is lighting everything. Without the light inside I couldn't see the world. In fact it is creating the world. Growing older you realize more and more that this is what you are.
With illness it is different. It is physical pain. I think I am not afraid of anything anymore, except pain. Physical pain is very difficult to bear, even with seeing. I see this body as an object, but I also see and endure the pain. When the pain is too hard it is difficult to go on seeing all the time. But it helps to try and do it because it creates a distance between you and the pain. You place the pain where it is, which is in the object body. When you put it back there it is more bearable than if you are taking it on to your little self.
How do you see death?
Right now I would welcome it. For me the older I get the more I feel locked up in this body, which is not me. It is now like a box of pain and I just would like to get out of it. I'll be very pleased to die. To me it seems that I am going to run into death like running along the beach and running into the sea, the sea being this infinite awareness I believe I am going to join. I think that is what happens: just dissolving and joining the infinite awareness. I think death will be a real liberation.
You were with Douglas when he died. Do you feel seeing helped him then?
Douglas was remarkable when he died but what was going on within him I couldn't say of course. He had practiced seeing all his life. He was seeing all the time, no question. He was very calm, very quiet. At some point he said that it was very interesting to die. I think he was not suffering at all. He died in full serenity. We were hand in hand; I held his hand. From time to time he squeezed it and then suddenly it stopped. That was it. He was very peaceful.
Is there anything you would like to add, as a message from an elder?
I like to say that it is a wonderful gift to be able to see that we are this huge open consciousness, rather than this small body. We are not locked up in this body. The point is that we are all suffering from being separated from others and from the world. We spend our time trying to improve this little person, protect it, defend it. It is such a waste of time. Because if we just open to who we really are which is this huge infinite space, then you can really breathe. Then you see that all the little one’s problems are not very important. They don't change, they are there, but you are not as crushed by your problems as you would be when you feel that you are only this little person. It is a liberation. For me it is freedom.
Also for me it is very important that seeing is a help to love each other and to accept the others as they are, just as you accept everything else. And to see that they are the same as you whether they want to see it or not. They are basically this infinite awareness. We are all coming from this light, this infinite aware light. They are the same; they just don't know it. And when you look at them, the others, and see that they are the same as you, they feel it. I have experienced this very often. Suddenly they drop their defenses and they also open up. It is very interesting to experience this. To welcome people whatever they are and to just see that they are coming from the same infinite light as you are, and then being ready to love them. They feel it. It changes their way of approaching you. I think that is a great gift in life, and this is why I think this precious message should spread in this discomforting and sad world nowadays.
Interview for InZicht by Karin Visser, November 2018