"The day before the shooting I thought I knew all of the answers to every spiritual question. The day after, I knew that I knew no answers." Jo Dunning is telling me the story of how a single life event shattered her reality and moved her onto the path of discovery which now shapes her life work. "It was as if everything I had ever talked about and believed in was gone. So I took a very close inventory of what was left. Only two beliefs remained. The first was a belief that everything in life comes as an opportunity to awaken and expand myself. It's up to me to decide if I want to take that opportunity. Another way to say it is that everything comes as a gift from god, which is non-duality or oneness."
Jo had been shot at point-blank range by an intruder who intended to kill her as well as the dear friend and spiritual teacher with whom she shared her home. Both were shot and the friend died. Jo continues, reflectively, "The other belief was that inside of every single person there is a part of us that knows how to get from where we are to where we want to be. That aspect is sometimes called divine guidance; or spiritual connection; or the still, small voice."
Dispassionately, Jo reviews the trauma which tore her life wide open. She often uses this event as a teaching story to encourage others to recognize opportunities in their lives for personal transformation. Jo Dunning transformed her unique opportunity into a process that has brought forth seemingly unusual healing gifts and has touched the lives of hundreds of people as she works with them in Seattle, Tucson, Santa Fe, the Bay Area, and various other cities on her circuit. Jo is a gifted healer, channel and psychic, as well as a profound healer. She is clairvoyant, clairaudient, and clairsentient. Yet she dismisses the idea that hers are "extraordinary" powers, emphasizing that she is an "ordinary" person and "those abilities are available to everybody."
In Jo's view, "Everybody got the full quotient of all of the gifts." She elaborates: "All we need to do is begin to unwrap the layers of our personality. As we unwrap those coverings over our divine self, then all of the gifts begin to come forward. Practicing as a mystic, my focus is to work internally to connect more directly with god, not to develop any particular gifts. A mystic does not become distracted from the goal when the spiritual gifts begin to appear, but understands they are just a natural part of the process. Some people start unraveling themselves and they become psychic and they stop there. They become 'The Psychic' and everybody comes to them to get a reading. If their goal were to move into the center of their being and unwrap all the layers of their personality, they would continue walking the path to the internal chambers, and being psychic would just be one of the things that happens along the way. If our focus is to connect with God, then we continue to unravel towards the core. We discover that all of us are psychic, clairvoyant, clairaudient, clairsentient. All of us can heal at a distance or do hands-on healing. All of us can even experience levitation, bilocation, and all the other amazing gifts the great masters demonstrate. So I don't call these things unusual, I just call them unused."
A conversation with Jo Dunning can be as wide-ranging as her teachings, and as focused. The basic tenets she puts forth center on a threefold philosophy: a trust-based belief in non-duality, the transformational power of releasing fear and judgment, and the ability of each individual to achieve their own awakening. In a recent phone interview, Jo shared insights on manifestation, emotional clearing, opening to guidance, the value of "negative energies," and a multidimensional array of healing processes--much as she offers them in her teaching groups. Now we are skimming through a self-empowerment course on mysticism, the foundation of Jo's journey into expanded consciousness.
Barbara: Will you tell something of the journey which prepared you to teach spiritual acceleration?
Jo: My first 25 years were spent in the Catholic church, so I have a great fondness for the whole Christian doctrine. I spent another 15 years or so in metaphysics, with a tremendous emphasis on phenomena. I really wanted to understand how to be a healer, how to do channeling and work with crystals and pyramids, and how to connect with beings that have died. I spent a lot of time very curious and interested in those aspects of the metaphysical world, those things that were beyond the physical. Then I became very interested in classical mysticism. Mysticism became my major focus for seven or eight years.
At that time I was involved as a lay minister in the Unity Center in Walnut Creek, California. I set aside all of the phenomena and just focused on practicing an ancient technique called the Prayer of the Heart. The silent prayer is repeated constantly, with attention held in the heart.That practice helped me move through a whole lot of busyness in my mind, began to quiet it, and helped me begin to feel a tremendous kind of love, a very pleasant feeling in my heart center that wasn't related to anything that was going on in the world around me.
Barbara: Did you maintain this practice in a worldly setting?
Jo: During that time I was a high school teacher. The high school I taught at was in a ghetto area. It was a very demanding teaching assignment. I was working with a group of students that were very low achievers, not very interested in school. So that was a really demanding kind of worldly job. I think it was my practice [the unceasing internal prayer] that helped keep my classroom peaceful. I didn't have problems with the students. I didn't have uprisings or threats or a lot of tempers going off.
Barbara: So your students were influenced by your practice?
Jo: It felt like that. When anyone is in that wonderful feeling of love, we radiate it. The kids might be fussy and upset when they walked into the classroom, but in a couple of minutes they calmed down because they were around someone who was at peace inside. I'm sure that the same thing happens in other work environments. You know, even though there are upsets and challenges and things that have to be attended to, it's possible to carry on the practice while you're doing other things. After awhile, I noticed when I got upset I would be able to go inside and let the upset just clear itself out. Since my mind was focused in my heart area, the mind could not add more fuel to the upset.
Barbara: Tell us more about the process you used after the shooting to bring about your healing transformation.
Jo: I realized that if I wanted to use the event to accelerate my spiritual growth, what I needed to do was let go of any of the ways I had known life, and especially the rules that I had followed in life. The structure inside of me was so gone that the rules didn't seem to apply any longer. Many of the expectations of society were directed towards recovering--that means covering over again--and I had just gone through a huge trauma to open up and didn't want it all neatly covered over. So I decided that I would not follow the social rules and I would just do what I felt was right for me to do each moment.My goal continued to be to reestablish the expanded feeling in my chest and to continue to heal myself and connect with God. I found it was very difficult to figure out how to live life if there are no rules telling us what we need to do, and who we need to see, and where we need to be, and how we need to act. But as I began to do just what I felt like doing, I began to discover that there was a very slight feeling in my chest. I decided to follow that feeling and discovered that in fact it was the whisperings of Spirit, as I call it, guiding me through this process of helping to unwind the remaining layers of my personality and showing me how to begin to be in the world in a whole different way.
Barbara: It's a big leap to create a whole new way of being in the world.
Jo: What I'm finding is that everybody has this system in their body--in their physical body--that gives them signals, continually telling them how to take their next step. I think it's just a little step rather than a great leap, because we already have this system going on inside us. It doesn't matter what we're doing, that system is there like radar going all the time, and it is completely useable in our absolutely, regular, everyday life. By following that feeling in our heart area, it is very possible to completely take on our own personal transformation. That's why one of my groups is called "Enlightenment for Ordinary People." I share how a person who considers themselves and their life very ordinary can begin to take on their own personal process of enlightenment.
Barbara: What do you mean by "enlightenment?"
Jo: Some words seem to be used interchangeably, like self-realization, transformation, enlightenment, awakening, universal consciousness, and sometimes even ascension. When I talk about enlightenment or transformation, what I'm talking about is continuing to expand our human consciousness into a fully awakened god-being consciousness.
Barbara: You have been coming from Tucson to teach in the Seattle area for the past several years. What is your perception of the spiritual climate here?
Jo: Seattle is a remarkable place to come to teach, because people in Seattle are very open and very available. It's such a delight to work with people who are that available. The climate in Seattle is very receptive to all kinds of information, particularly spiritual information, and people seem to be seeking in a very open manner. There's almost a joyful innocence in the people. They don't seem to have become as hardened to the world as I find in other cities.
Barbara: This decade is sometimes referred to as the End Times, the Changing Times, the New Times. How do you perceive these times?
Jo: I would say that these are the times we are going to look back at and be so happy we had an opportunity to be here. My view of it is that these are the times when we have opportunities to accomplish amazing amounts of spiritual growth in a very short period of time. My sense is that we are doing lifetimes of work each year. We are moving rapidly through tremendous amounts of clearing. The earth itself is beginning to change its vibrational rate and as that shifts it assists us in changing ours. So, it's not possible to remain as stuck or as dense as we have been in the past because even the earth now is assisting us in our expanding process.
Barbara: How do you see this changing our experience of spiritual development?
Jo: Each person is having their own experience at their own level of understanding and there are teachers available to teach at each level. Many teachers right now teach spirituality from a mental aspect, and that's important because much of the world is still very mentally oriented. But where we're headed is to completely embody spirit. That means in the physical body we are going to be bringing in all of the dimensions of God, right here in the physical plane. And universally there is so much happiness and excitement about this process because we're doing it! It's happening! So the teaching that I bring is about empowering ourselves to physically feel the presence of God, the presence of Spirit, the divinity within us. To physically experience and become it! A mentally-based teacher shares processes of invoking or calling forth or visualizing. All of the techniques which are essential at one level of development are also essential to be left behind at another level.
Barbara: You express a great deal of optimism about these times.
Jo: What I'd really like people to know is that all they dream, all they hope for, is available to them. It is completely possible to accomplish that now. No one is being left out. Nobody has been forgotten. No one is unworthy. We don't have to be any different than we are right now to begin to tap into the great power and divinity that dwells within each of us, as us.
Jo Dunning invites inquiries about her Seattle teaching and healing events, private intensives, and publications. Her Initiation Retreat in Seattle is scheduled for October 4-6. (Expanding Heart-works, 4740 E. Sunrise Blvd. #397, Tucson, AZ 85718, phone 800-200-0270).
Barbara Douglas maintains a counseling and massage practice at the Blue Star Center and on Whidbey Island, where she lives and writes.