This Above All: A Journey of Self-Discovery presents the spiritual journey of Tess Hughes, from her childhood in a staunchly Catholic Ireland, through a painful divorce and a number of years of therapeutic and self-help work, then beginning to look for what she called “the big journey” as she confronted the notion of her own death.
The final step is nothing short of acceptance of our personal death, and this, as I found out, turns out to have been the root cause of all my suffering….
At that point, the story of her spiritual journey kicks into high gear. Through a surprising coincidence, Tess stumbles upon the TAT Foundation and describes in detail her process of delving deeper into self-inquiry,
Self-inquiry is the business of uncovering all that has been suppressed, not necessarily to share with others but in order to be ourselves, right down to the roots of our being.
as well as observing the thought processes through meditation. However, what it particularly interesting is Tess’ discussion of the more intuitive or extra-sensory experiences which gave her insight along her spiritual journey. She describes a number of dreams, subtle energy and kundalini experiences, and synchronicities that adds a fascinating dimension to her story.
Tess Hughes frames her spiritual journey using the Ten Ox-Herding Pictures which depict the stages of enlightenment in the Zen Buddhist tradition. Using verses from each Ox-Herding Picture and commentary from both Dr. John Koller and the Christian mystic Bernadette Roberts, chapter one begins with “The Search for the Ox” and the following chapters expertly weave these varying perspectives into Tess’ journey. As chapter nine is called “Ox and Herdsman Vanish,” I’ll leave it to you to guess the outcome of Tess’ spiritual search!
This Above All ends with an appendix of helpful spiritual practices and advice on prayer, meditation, contemplation (self-inquiry), intuition and solitary retreats.
A fresh and engaging voice on the spiritual scene, Tess also doesn’t pull any punches in her critique of ways we delude ourselves:
Nowadays, I get mail from seekers, amongst them people who have been for a long time following the Non-dual path. The general pattern I see from them is one of denial of every experience they have, especially the negative ones. They tell me of some event that upset them and then write, “…but I know it didn’t happen. It’s not real. I know I don’t exist.” …It is sad that such sincere seekers are not getting the idea that we can’t bypass ego or simply ditch our suffering but that we have to go through it.