Will Tuttle, Ph.D
Healdsburg, Calif.: Karuna Music & Art; 144 pp., paper, $15.
Intuition involves living from the deeper self rather than just from surface experiences. Will Tuttle, who is a dharma master in the Zen tradition, has been leading workshops to help people develop intuition since 1990, and offers us a seemingly simple method for bringing forth our natural intuition so that it helps us evolve into our higher selves—our true nature.
Tuttle defines intuition as “tuition from within”—tuition being teaching or instruction—that differs from “conventional rational forms of knowing . . . and a basic separation between the knower and what is known” or, in the Hindu tradition, between purusha and prakriti respectively. While we all have this ability, most of us live on the surface of the material world, which results in the usual problems of separation, delusions, anger, and ignorance of the wholeness.
Our “inner islands”—of which there are six—are the source of this evolution, according to Tuttle, which he describes as crossing a vast ocean, making stops along the way and learning the lessons until we reach the other shore—“our fully awakened potential.” Crossing a body of water is a Buddhist metaphor for going beyond the world of separateness, ignorance, and attachment, where we stand now, to the world of pure nondual awareness—emptiness. The boat and the oars symbolize the methods of getting us across this divide.
After many days of travel we come upon the first, the Island of Understanding. There we encounter a sign containing words from a Zen koan, “The ox, trying to go through the gate, is stuck; only his tail won’t go through.” This gate leads us into the “realm of intuition,” which is our “own true nature.” It is our inner voice; the ox is the true self; and the ox’s tail is the ego, which is an obstacle to spiritual growth. It is “the belief that you are a separate thing,”but it is also all the delusions that we have about our stories and our attachments, which we are called to release so that we can take responsibility for our awakening.
We come next to the Island of Energy, where the spiritual energy is so strong that, “like music, we just let it move us and follow its promptings.” On this island we learn to raise our level of spiritual energy to a higher vibration “through cultivating inner receptivity through prayer and meditation.” Through this higher level of vibration, we learn to follow our inner guidance, and more importantly to trust it—perhaps the most challenging thing.
On the Island of Meditation we learn the practice of “looking more deeply” to begin to see the oneness of all things. Words and concepts, the Island of Understanding tells us, “can limit our awareness” and “can become distortions that distance us and distract us from awareness of the deeper process unfolding around and within us.”We thencan move beyond the “conditioned consciousness” of samsara’s illusions.
“The most beneficial teachings tend to come from within, when the mind is clarified and abides in witnessing awareness,” the island tells us. It is here we learn to “expand beyond thinking and beyond being anyone or anything.”
The Island of Imagination is where we learn that the outer world is a manifestation of our inner world. “The world appears as a dream of mind to remind you that as you imagine the world, so it is, and as you imagine yourself, so you are as well.”
The fifth island is the Island of Relationship. Because we have learned the lessons of the previous four islands, we can now allow our relationships to “heighten” our intuitive abilities, and our “intuition to deepen our relationships.” In this chapter Tuttle explores the ideal utopian society. While there have been many experiments in utopian societies, especially during the Second Great Awakening in the United States (c.1795–1840), none seemed to have been successful over the long term. But it has long been an ideal to which humans have sought in their efforts to create the perfect society—or at least one to their own liking.
Surprisingly, the last island—the Island of Compassion—turns out to be the place from which our journey began. Samsara and nirvana are not separate places but are one and the same—states of mind that depend upon how our mind perceives the here and now.“Everything contains everything else and perhaps nothing is ever separate from anything,” andall of our life’s experiences contain the seeds for awakening to wisdom and compassion, Tuttle tells us.
Tuttle, an accomplished pianist, created a CD of beautiful music to accompany each island for an auditory experience on our journey. His wife, Madeleine, an artist, has painted six panels, each depicting the islands, to provide beautiful visuals for the reader to help in this exploration.
Ultimately, truth is a pathless land, as Jiddu Krishnamurti once said, and the journey to the other shore—beyond thought, beyond attachments and beyond the perceived self—is one that each of us must take on the path to enlightenment. In an age when we live more and more from Internet searches and Facebook commentary, Your Inner Islands is a thoughtful guide to connecting us with our inner self, that place where our intuition—and ultimately our truth—resides.
Clare Goldsberry is a freelance writer and author of The Teacher Within: Finding and Living Your Personal Truth, available on Amazon.