stalking the numinous niche

This confession was originally posted on my blog this unlit light in 2011.  Recently I’ve been reminded about the little cache of my writing that quietly rests over on that blog and it’s been suggested that I share some snippets here for readers.  I figured that when the time was ripe to do so, I’d get a prompt.

It came a few days ago, over lunch with a couple of dear friends.  We were talking about the way humans seem compelled to “find their tribe.”  To join forces with those of like mind, to feel a sense of belonging and validation.  I had to admit that I’d never found a tribe or group that didn’t end up either disappointing me, or spitting me out for disappointing them.  If I had a tribe it would be in the league of the Rank Outsiders, the Solo Fliers, the Holy Rejects.

The conversation got me reminiscing about my mid-life preoccupation with finding where I fit.  It wasn’t so much about finding a tribe as finding my so-called niche.  It went on for the first half of my life and only disappeared (taking the need for company with it) when the split between the niche-less one and her experience zipped itself up. It had a lot to do with acknowledging what she loved to do (play with colour, texture, visual language), because in that encounter she unfailingly disappeared into the unknowable: into her numinous niche.

I have no idea how it happened. Love has a mind of its own; it slowly seeped out of the studio and spread itself at her feet.  Her niche turned out to be nothing more nor less than the full monty life movie, otherwise known as… S U C H N E S S – to the [n]


Lawrence Carroll, Untitled, 2015


My Niche is The Unknowable – April 22, 2011

About thirty years ago I confessed to a kindly iridologist that I felt I had failed to find my ‘niche’ in life.  He peered into my bright blue eye-maps and remarked that it was strange, because everything he could read there indicated that I was a highly capable person who could find a niche in many avenues of expertise.

It worried me, that feeling of being niche-less.  I was in awe of those who seemed, from a young age, to know exactly what they wished to do in the world and set about achieving it.  And it wasn’t helped by those who knew the potential here and kept asking when I was going to fully explore (exploit?) it.  I was in my mid 40s and still wondering what I would be when I grew up.

I had all the right tools: a reasonably sane brain, a good education, some skills as an educator as well as in the area of art and design, but my life-path seemed like a meandering groping from one neti-neti to the next.

I tried being a teacher, a broadcaster, a fashion designer, a wife, a lover, a wandering yogini, a ‘professional’ artist.  All those niches ultimately failed to fit. The role that held the most promise was that of the artist, but the funny thing was that whenever the flow of genuine creating was going on in the studio, I wasn’t there.  I mean, ‘artist-me’ was AWOL.  In its place there was a spacious, ownerless activity unrelated to all my small ideas of what should be happening.  And the moment the ‘artist-me’ tried to examine this mysterious activity it would vaporize.  It was ungraspable and unknowable.

Later I would find a philosophy that made sense of this mystery – it is spoken about by sages and artists alike as the movement of pure nondual Awareness. But back then it was a total enigma to me; it put the fire under a lifetime’s exploration of creativity. And it eventually delivered me to the niche I had given up any hope of finding.

My niche turned out to be that ineffable intimate Awareness itself.  And the amazing thing is that it always had been!  It had been my preoccupation for decades, yet I had failed to recognize that it was a valid contender for the niche stakes.  I had conceptualised the niche-notion, irrevocably keeping it at arm’s length and ensuring the survival of a niche-less seeker trapped in time.  Truly, I can be quite slow

When the penny dropped, a lifetime’s worth of seemingly incoherent bits of ridiculousness fell into place.  I fell about laughing like a lunatic.  The absurdity and awesomeness of it!  The beauty and simplicity and grace of it!

Like … landing on a bed of rose petals … sinking into their silken perfume … resting, at last … knowing that this simple at-one-ment always runs below the surface of experience, ALL experience … knowing that you never have to leave … even if it were possible!

– miriam louisa
(With minor editing to accomodate a further seven years’ worth of lightbulb moments.)

Artwork: Lawrence Carroll Untitled, 2015
Artificial flowers, pigment, stain, housepaint, dust
7,5 x 218 x 185 cm

mooning melts the night


Utagawa Hiroshige (Ando) - Wind Blown Grass Across the Moon



a moment arrives

without a need of the past

the full moon rises



a thought bubbles up

a preference is posited

the moon doesn’t mind



the bubble bursts, pop!

awareness has no center

mooning melts the night


Image: Utagawa Hiroshige (Ando), Wind Blown Grass Across the Moon
Woodblock print
Collection, Brooklyn Museum, New York

no way in and no way out


Vast Presence  is always perfectly still.

And yet – as happened today – when a child is injured outside one’s gate and lies screaming in shock and pain, there is action.  It is action unclouded by confusion, by conceptualization, by choice.  Action simply acts.  The child is held and comforted, first aid is applied.  She is protected until her mother arrives.

Vast Presence does nothing but be present.

Isn’t it curious that we strive to live in the moment when it’s impossible to find any-where or any-when else but the vastness of the Present, this very moment?  We are prisoners of this perfect Presence: there’s no need to seek it, and no possibility of escape!


See also – I’m prisoner of a presence

on a stone zafu


I leave the mountain, cross the border,
stop where the river rushes into the jaws of the Pacific.
The pretty park receptionist, painted like a porcelain pot
shows me to my spot at the water’s edge.
My tiny tent goes up.

Huge pelicans effortlessly ride the tide.
Ibis stalk around like three-legged cartoons.
A thousand bats silently flap their way –
whence, and wither?

Dusk draws the peak of Wollumbin
in charcoal on hazy apricot.
First the wind carries the drone of motorway traffic,
then it shifts; now there’s rolling surf-speak.

On a stone zafu
at the river’s edge I find
a mind that doesn’t seem to mind.


seething, teeming wideawakeness


It’s true that there’s nothing to do in order to abide in this brilliant wideawakeness. It’s also true that doing nothing is no different from doing everything possible.

Wideawakeness has no preferences whatsoever; its unimaginable vastness includes all activities and practices, faiths and beliefs and philosophies.

Wideawakeness is sometimes called the ‘silent witness’ but if one looks very closely a witness cannot be found at all – it’s merely another arising thought. When the witness idea dissolves, it’s clearly seen that no separation exists between wideawakeness and whatever (is appearing, happening).

The witness and the watcher and the wee-me are all sparkling froth on this unfathomable ocean of seething teeming wideawakeness.


a riddle in three parts


What has neither parents nor offspring
yet knows existence as its family tree?


What has never had a mind to ‘make up’
yet sees everything directly and intimately
and acts freely, without choice?


What has no body, no form
yet the ten thousand things
and the ten thousand no-things
fit it perfectly?


choice is effortless – until you start thinking


Have you ever played the little game of observing – perhaps counting – the number of times in a day (or even an hour) that you express choice?  If yes, you’ll know how difficult it is to think or speak at all without exercising choice – comparison, aversion, preference…

(Do you want another cup of tea? – No thanks, I’m waterlogged.)

It’s a simple example.  No more tea is required, no problem.  A functional decision was made on a faster-than-light assessment of the body-state, right now.

But one step down, when thoughts about rightness or wrongness, about should and ought, about what the other’s reaction to the reply might be… arise, along come the apparent problems.

Immersed in now-this-here, in the inescapable presence of suchness, choiceless awareness is problem-free.