Claire Pincham has been meditating since she was 11 years old.
And even though I’ve only spent time with her over a screen, she’s had a profound influence on me these past few years sharing wisdom from a lifetime of practice. At 16, an inner voice told Claire she must find a Satguru (Sanskrit for 'true guru’, the remover of darkness), so she left England and headed to India to make that search.
In 1992, she met her guru in The Valley of Gods, Himalayas, and studied under his guidance for the next 25 years. During one of their first conversations, he told Claire to 'make meditation her best friend.’ In doing so, a vision opened that took her far beyond ordinary perception, which is always engaged in the field of opposites, to a dimension of absolute neutrality and stillness.
Throughout her life, Claire has had countless opportunities to see the practice and theory be transformed Into reality. In 2014, she was diagnosed with cancer. Rather then being gripped by fear, she found herself filled with a profound awareness of an unchanging reality that remains forever free and unaffected by any situation or prognosis. Her being was flooded with a euphoric happiness that she had never experienced before. And she realized at that time that true happiness exists only when fear and death consciousness do not. Hence she came to truly understand the meaning of her guru’s mantra Amaram Hum Madhuram Hum, I am Immortal I am Blissful.
What draws you to India?
First and foremost, the Guru-Disciple tradition and the ancient Vedic texts dating back thousands of years. If studied and understood, they remain as relevant today as when they were written. This is the only true calling I’ve ever known, in which the key to liberation was found.
And there are many other reasons why India has always been close to my heart: the Ganga, the culture and land, the science of Ayurveda, the architecture and art, the colors and textiles. I’ve always found it fascinating, though not surprising, that so much of the tradition and culture is intrinsically intertwined with the ancient Vedic wisdom, and has a much deeper significance than how it may appear on the surface.
What advice would you have for someone just starting a meditation practice?
To understand what meditation actually is, why as a practice it’s recommended, and therefore the immense value in prioritizing even a few minutes a day to sit in meditation.
Meditation is the natural state of being that never becomes anything other than what it already is. To sit in meditation regularly is to see the infinite potential that can arise when one allows the mind to be absolutely, deeply absorbed into utter stillness. It is a science: the science that allows one to come to know the true I, rather than only his or her individual transient I, and therefore the science of liberation from identification with one’s story in totality. If practiced correctly, regularly and sincerely, with a full understanding of these points, one comes to see that the indestructible Self itself—the perfect science of Yog—will never fail us. There are many techniques and mantras offered, but the target remains the same: pure awareness of the natural state.
I love the metaphor your Guru uses about perceiving each breath as if you were slowly pouring oil from one bottle to another. It’s one I can relate to!
I also love this metaphor because it immediately gives one the direct sense of the power of attention. When division is removed from vision the vision remains pure and undivided and with that one has full power over his attention. Notice how the functioning of the intellect creates a mixture of identification that effectively causes one to become whatever they are attending to. This can bring fleeting joy or a hell of a lot of pain! But notice the power of being aware of the fact that attention itself never gets mixed, attention itself never changes, attention itself never becomes what it is attending, and therefore attention itself never becomes anything other than attention pure.
If one sits to meditate as pure attention meditating on pure attention, right there there’ll be a total cessation of mind and duality, and a direct example of the power of what meditation can offer. Sit with closed eyes and quite simply do nothing but attend attention.
How do you view the nature of sacrifice?
There are countless manners and dimensions in which sacrifices can be made. But perhaps the ultimate sacrifice is the willingness and ability to surrender one’s attachment to his or her individual identification. This could also be understood as surrendering one’s ego, which actually means to come to know one has never been an ego-bound being. This allows one to be present and fully available, and in the best position to sacrifice in whatever way that may manifest.
What is your relationship with death?
Whatever is born by the law of nature will one day meet its end. I’ve had numerous dramatic death experiences in my life, on physical, emotional and spiritual levels. What was clear throughout all of them was that there was always a witness self that remained present, alert and free. The witness self neither is born, nor dies, nor sleeps, nor dreams nor wakes up. The witness self never gets caught in an illusory mixture with what it appears to be witnessing. Check and see - there is no separation between the witness self, the witnessing and the witnessed. When one understands this and identifies with this, one understands that though it must be said that the body is born and will die, the witness self—the being of pure awareness—is birthless, deathless, immortal and therefore blissful.
The direct experience of this has totally transformed my relationship with death. Having lost my mother to cancer at the age of 6, I became acutely aware at a very young age that anyone or anything can be taken away from us at any time, whether we are prepared for it or not. Knowledge that is realized directly is the greatest antidote to fear, and when one conquers fear an unparalleled relief comes into the heart that even under the most adverse or challenging of situations one is actually equipped and prepared. Knowledge and a fluidity of awareness of the ever free witness self allows us to accept without resistance that there is a momentum to the changing field that is totally out of our individual hands. To be free from the fear of lack of control is everything.
Do you believe in fate?
Fate can be understood and interpreted in so many different ways. What seems clear no matter what we describe as fate or not, is that all human beings have been fated to be born into a human body and, no matter how long or what quality of life they live, the demise of the body is inevitable. What interests me most is how we use this fated existence and our time, as it appears, between the arrival and disappearance of our bodies.
Fate is as it is, but our destiny is what we make of it. Are we truly living or just surviving? And here I am not speaking about worldly achievements. To live fully requires being present, and being present requires not being caught as a victim of one’s thoughts and feelings. It is a big work and, as is clear in the world as we know it and see it, the circumstances different people are born into or what they later find themselves passing through varies massively. But no matter what, I truly believe in the power of the human spirit, which of course is the spirit of the divine. The spirit of the divine is indestructible, fearless, doubtless and needless, and the human being has the potential to realize that directly.
To learn more about Claire, visit her website: