“What Never Changes,” first launched in 2006, has always been a non-duality website, but has recently come to focus on traditional Vedanta. The shift of emphasis to Vedanta calls for a little bit of explanation.

I first stumbled upon non-duality in 2005, and it was a watershed event in my seeking life. I’ll never forget the first moment I realized there was something here I had never noticed, that there was this witnessing consciousness which had always been here, was always at total peace, hadn’t changed since I was a little kid, and had never been affected in any way by the experiences of my life.

This recognition naturally led me to want to know more — what is this witness? It’s always peaceful, and it’s always here — I can see this so clearly. But
I’m not peaceful! That’s not my experience! So what’s going on? And there arose a strong desire to get to the bottom of it, to partake of that peace and make it my own experience.

Along the way, I was helped by many wonderful non-dual teachers, and I owe them all a huge debt of gratitude, particularly John Wheeler. I was an enthusiastic non-dualist, to say the least, and for several years I posted many non-dual essays and dialogues on this website. Some even said that I expressed the non-dual ideas eloquently. I was feeling pretty good about it all.

But at some point, I knew there was something wrong. Although I had gone as far as anyone could go with “popular” non-duality — and most of the time I was extremely peaceful — when suffering did arise, I still identified myself as the sufferer. In non-duality, it is this identification with the bound, limited, suffering person that is eradicated completely — or so they say. It hadn’t happened for me. Here I was advising people about non-duality, supposedly having it all figured out, and yet I was still suffering!

What wasn’t complete yet in my knowledge? I knew this much, that there are two parts to discovering one’s true nature: Finding out what you are
not, and finding out what you are. I knew what I was not, but the second part was still evading my grasp. The Self had not yet been revealed. So I kept looking.

The non-dual marketplace seemed to have nothing more to offer me, no more tricks up its sleeve to move me off this spot. In fact, everyone I knew was in the same spot, even some who were publishing non-dual websites and books as supposed experts. This seemed to be a place many people could not get beyond, where doubts remained, final questions were not answered, all the pieces of the puzzle were not fully and finally in place. And worst of all, virtually all the non-dual advice I could find was extremely unhelpful, such as, “There is no one to realize the Self. You are already the Self you seek. The ‘you’ who is suffering does not exist.
There is no such thing as suffering.” No such thing? Then how can it be so painful? This was the epitome of frustration and confusion. More on this in my first blog post.

Through grace, I was led to
the website of James Swartz, who has been teaching traditional Vedanta for forty years, since his self-realization under the discipleship of Swami Chinmayananda in 1970. At the time I found James, I didn’t know there was such a thing as traditional Vedanta, which is a tried and true, systematic, methodical means to non-dual realization, thousands of years old, deriving from Vedic source texts, and given a reawakening by the great philosopher Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century A.D. All this time, I thought non-duality was only communicated in Nisargadatta-style freeform satsangs, in dribs and drabs, and you just had to sort of hope that eventually it would soak in, if you kept “inquiring.” Not very scientific, but okay, if that’s all I had to work with.

Skeptical of the organized method at first (since all my indoctrination had been that non-duality was never meant to be taught in a structured way, and therefore any structured teaching was automatically invalidated!), I just began to listen, and luckily, I stuck with it. I listened to James’ intelligent, illuminating commentary on the source texts of non-duality, in an organized and logical fashion. I couldn’t believe that my long-standing questions were being addressed and answered.

Most importantly, the “person” I experienced myself to be was not being denied (as in the popular buzz phrase, “There is no person”), but instead she was given tools and a road map for finding her way out of bondage. The failure of my previous education was clear: Popular non-duality was negating the person too soon! Before she
herself discovered her true nature as the One Self. The person needs time, tools, a means to dismantle its false self-image and discover its own being as the Self. After all, it is the imagined person who needs liberating, not the Self. The Self is already free — we all know that. The one experiencing herself as a person is the one who is liberated through understanding all of this. Then the person goes, the teaching goes, it all goes. But not before the person’s ignorance is addressed. This is what traditional Vedanta does, it addresses the ignorance and uproots it, piece by piece, methodically, logically, cleverly.

It wasn’t too long before I realized what I was writing online was a bunch of crap. The crap was mixed in with the good, but that made it even worse, in a way. It was extremely confusing to people trying to sort all this out. So I stopped writing, and I swore never to write again until I knew for sure that I wasn’t misleading anyone. So this is why I took the website down in 2010.

For the next two years, I did nothing but listen to Vedanta. I listened in the way James recommends. He says, Don’t analyze this teaching in the light of your existing belief system, do it the other way around: Analyze your existing belief system in the light of this teaching! After all, your belief system is all that’s keeping you bound. Sure, I tried picking it apart at first, trying to make
my beliefs be the arbiter, but I found that my logic did not stand up to the logic of Vedanta. So I just let it take over, basically. It was like getting a new operating system.

And that’s the end of the story. I know I am the Self, and I can say that with rock-solid confidence and know what it means. And, I can still speak from the standpoint of the person, and there is no problem with that. From the standpoint of the Self, there was no liberation, there was no process, and there is no person who was liberated. But that’s not what’s being discussed here. What I’m talking about exists and operates on the relative plane, and affects relative beings. Until you are completely confident that you are not a relative being, and that you are the Self, this talk can be useful to you.

So I wanted to put the website back up, mostly to direct you to the traditional Vedanta teaching, and mainly to the awesome audios and videos that are available on
James Swartz’s website. There are hundreds of hours of teaching available, and it was truly these recordings that, over time, little by little, revealed my own being as the Self. James has spent forty years in service of this teaching, for the liberation of people like you, and these recordings are an invaluable resource. He does a fabulous job of this. I can’t speak highly enough of James.

But it’s not all about James Swartz. I also write about Vedanta myself. I don’t purport to be a Vedanta teacher, but I do have comments, inspiration, and points of comparison between my “old” way of thinking and Vedanta that could be helpful in clearing certain things up. In studying Vedanta, I was constantly reminded of the shortcomings of the non-dual teachings I was exposed to previously. I’d like to share those observations with you.

Annette Nibley
June 2013