Living from the Ground of Being
Knocking on an Open Door
by Simon Spire
September 21, 2020

Simon SpireAfter attending a retreat with Gangaji in 2020, Simon Spire shared his song, Knocking on an Open Door with us, and his report of meeting Gangaji. It was her invitation to meet failure that moved him forward into a career as a singer-songwriter.

I was introduced to Gangaji’s teachings in 2005, after having recently moved to the United States from New Zealand. As a 23-year-old songwriter following a mysterious pull in both the artistic and spiritual domains, my life was deeply touched by this encounter with Gangaji’s invitation. A mentor had given me a Gangaji DVD to watch as I was in the midst of recording my first album on Orcas Island in Washington, and I remember how immediately captivated I was by Gangaji’s message. Her teachings invited me into many potent spaces, but I remember one of the most critical being surrender to failure and all that it entailed. In fact, I believe this was the topic of the first talk of hers that I ever watched, and it followed a pivotal experience with failure that shifted everything and opened the way for the journey to come.

I had been led to this point in 2005 by a strong desire to honor the beauty of what I sensed calling, endeavoring to give it expression and reach people on a core level through music. But lurking beneath was also a powerful sense of fear about this uncertain quest on which I was embarking, all that I was irrevocably leaving behind in the process, and the intimidating territories—inner and outer—that awaited. More than anything, I feared failure, and the stakes accompanying the potential for failure were greatly heightened by the pressure cooker of this precarious, early moment in my nascent career trajectory—a path that had become the sole focal point of my deepest hopes and fears. As I approached this critical moment of beginning work on my first real album—a moment that, as far as I was concerned at that point, was to determine whether there was any path ahead for me—I found myself in an impossible situation. In light of a series of events leading up to my impending travel from Los Angeles to Orcas Island, I had become convinced that I was in fact a failure incapable of delivering on my musical aspirations and that this planned recording project and my whole current path were disastrously misguided and doomed from the start. It seemed that everything I had sacrificed and poured into this vision, which had been so quietly insistent in its call, was all for nothing. Just three days before my scheduled travel to begin the project, I realized I couldn’t move forward with it, because I was sure that this project and I would amount to little more than a joke. Yet there was no way back, either: I had moved countries and abandoned the opportunities and initial successes of my old life, and now there were people I deeply respected in Washington waiting for me to show up and record an album—people who had taken a chance on me and called in favors in order for me to reach this point.

Simon Spire on StageTrapped, with nowhere to move, I could no longer avoid the specter of total failure and the vortex of fear that held it. At some point during those excruciating three days, it became untenable to resist the reality of myself as a total failure any longer, and I simply had to stop running from it. As all the stories of hope and avenues of escape crumbled, I was forced to release the tightly woven and precious narratives that I believed to be myself. Eventually, there was simply nothing left to hold onto, and the absence of any escape route landed me by default in a place of complete acceptance. To my great surprise, this crucible of pain and dissolution gave way to a profound opening. It was an experience of freedom, vastness, and grace that was unlike anything I had known. I felt like I had been born into a new space and a new world.

Orcas IslandI traveled to Orcas Island with a newfound aliveness and joy. I didn’t know what would come of this recording project or if there was any future for me here, but it didn’t matter anymore. It seemed that the true creative adventure and life adventure had finally begun, and I knew this was the next step, whatever the result. Perhaps it was a week or two after my arrival that I was given that first Gangaji DVD by an artist who was to become a dear mentor, with little explanation other than a knowing smile. I had explored a number of spiritual traditions and practices, but I had no idea what I was in for when I pressed that play button. Here was someone inviting me into the core of my fear, my pain, and my disillusionment, someone who was illuminating with a lethal precision the latent impulses toward running, hiding, getting, avoiding, and seeking in their endless manifestations. And someone who was inviting the recognition of what is already alive and holding it all. Gangaji’s challenge, in one of those first talks I heard, to fail completely and discover what’s here confirmed what had revealed itself in my recent experience, allowing it to settle deeply and continue reverberating. Her unwavering truth-telling and invitations kept coming, drawing me further into this opening and equipping me with the ability to see the unconscious means by which I deny it or turn away from it, while awakening a steadfast resolve to meet whatever appears. The adventure had begun, and the music that followed over the ensuing years emerged from the ongoing journey of endeavoring to serve and apprentice to this endless opening in all its discovery and self-recognition, surprises and revelations, and sacred defeats and disillusionments.

Now living on the East Coast of the US since 2008, I hadn’t managed to attend a retreat with Gangaji since 2011 until this summer, when the challenges arising from COVID-19 also brought with them the unexpected opportunity to attend an online small-group retreat. Although so much has changed in my life since I first encountered Gangaji’s teaching in 2005, there was something natural yet profound about once again being in this setting and feeling the depth of this invitation’s blessing and my gratitude for it. It moved me to share one of the songs of surrender and recognition that have come through over the course of this journey. During performances, I would often introduce Knocking on an Open Door with a story that I hoped would offer a subtle glimpse into what I felt the song pointed to. Within the Gangaji community, however, my introduction can thankfully be more succinct: This is my report.


For more about Simon, including his new song, Uncomfortable, visit this link.



Knocking on an Open Door LYRICS:

I’ve tried to fill the hole in my heart

But each time wound up at the start


And oh, what’s whole, is whole, that’s all

That is all

Nothing’s wrong


And I have had so many names, I watch them fade away

‘Cause I have searched so many worlds, afraid I was too late

And I have told so many lies, but mostly tried to fool my own eyes

And still everything I cried out for—well, I was knocking on an open door


And oh, what’s whole, is whole, that’s all

That is all

Nothing’s wrong


And all this sound is singing out and echoing in everything

And even though I’ve run forever, still I find it waiting for me

And all this sound is raining down and I cannot say what it is for

But I’ve been knocking on an open door


That is all


Freedom’s like love on Halloween

Dressed for a horror scene

Waiting in the deepest dark, to tear apart

Everything we know


And oh, what’s whole, is whole, that’s all

And oh, what’s whole, is still whole, that is all

That is all

Nothing’s wrong

That is all

That is all


“This is your resting place, your watering hole. Find what supports you, what includes you, and drink it in. Be nourished. Be enlivened. And when you feel thirsty again, drink some more.” —Gangaji

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