I AWOKE SATURDAY morning
hoping the weather would be lousy, so just in case the session didn't
turn out as I hoped, I wouldn't have to blow a nice Saturday afternoon!
As I meditated that
morning, it seemed that the process of "flatlining" that I began
noticing in December came to fruition. I found myself surrounded
from the back and on the sides (apparently) by a great void, an
open emptiness. It had no qualities save utter stillness and emptiness.
I thought of the Buddhist word "Shunyata" to describe this and remembered
something that David Wheeler once said, that the feminine aspect
of the Divine, shakti, leads one to the masculine aspect of the
Divine, utter stillness. I realized that this was more evidence
of the ripening of the process of stillness that had begun months
before. I thought to myself, maybe I don't need to have a session
with Arjuna! That was pretty wonderful by itself! I was also reminded
of a sentence in a recent letter from Ken Wilber to Saniel where
Ken stated,"...radiant emptiness is my constant realization." However,
with me, there was still a sense of a separate observer of this;
something fundamental still had to take place.
Despite the fact that
the cloudy morning was giving way to a beautiful Saturday afternoon
just made for a hike, I went to the office on 4th Street in downtown
San Rafael to have a session with Arjuna. He was borrowing the office
from a friend, who had to be a woman, considering the abundant pinkish
decoration. Arjuna set up the objectives of the session and told
me a little about his history. The session began with a long winded
description from me about my spiritual process, with Arjuna writing
down some keynotes like a well-trained psychotherapist. I told him
about my initiation into the spiritual search by finding a book
on Ramana Maharashi, my time in TM, with Guru Maharaji, Sufism,
Da Love-Ananda, in Voice Dialogue, the 7 Keys initiations, discovering
Lawrence, Ardeliza and Saniel. I told him about how the various
aspects of growth happened in the last 21 years, including strengthening
of the ego through a career, Iyengar Yoga, and experiencing lots
of bliss and enduring lots of pain.
When I was done, Arjuna
put his pad of paper down and appeared to slowly move into another
"stance." We sat on the floor looking eye to eye. He started by
expressing his appreciation of my story, and that it was clear to
him that I had done a lot of work in the past 22 years, and that
if anyone deserved to be awake it was me (though this is something
I don't believe is technically true, "deserving"). That was certainly
a nice thing to say, but there I was seeking Awakening.
Then Arjuna seemed to
change in front of me. The normally mellow and laid back British
chap began to lean into me with pointed questions. He said to me
that because of 22 years of seeking happiness through various means,
this creates a self-image of a spiritual seeker, and that has to
be released. Was I willing to let that go? Be a finder instead of
a seeker? He spoke to me very forcefully, peering directly at me
with a pair of eyes that seemed to grow increasingly fiery. Normally,
this question wouldn't seem to be much of an issue; in fact, in
looking at the previous few months it appeared that the mechanism
of seeking was getting flimsy and worn out, based upon a feeling
of tiredness with the whole thing. But in this moment, Arjuna's
words penetrated me to reveal a deep seated subconscious image that
was being held in place, something so intimate with whom I appear
to be, that I tightened up at the thought of releasing it. What
would be left in place? In that moment, in which the volume was
slowly being raised, it seemed particularly frightening, and I was
truly shocked at my reaction. Perhaps nothing would be left in its
place; what a frightening prospect! I was astounded that he was
able to uncover a very precious bit of neurosis that truly had to
be dealt with before I could go on.
I felt like I was at
an impasse. This was a very intense moment for me, more than I ever
expected -- do I really want to let it go? I was afraid of saying
yes and saying no!! Arjuna kept repeating the question with ever
more intensity, "Are YOU willing to let go of being a seeker?" There
I was, like Gollum with his Precioussss... in Lord of the Rings.
After several minutes of psychic tennis, I took stock of my intentions
in the back of my mind. What the hell was I sitting in this room
for? What was I doing for the last 22 years? Do I want to continue
this game? A rush of certainty filled me: NO FUCKING WAY! I have
come too far, done too much, invested too much to let this bullshit
image stand in the way! I reared back and shot back at him, "YES
I am WILLING to no longer be a seeker". That seemed to be a finishing
point of this archetypal exorcism. He simply said, "Good! Now what
else is obstructing you from your Awakening?" To be perfectly honest,
Arjuna seemed frightening to me, with this Jekyll and Hyde transformation
He questioned me about
a number of things. Whenever I tried to find an answer in my mind,
we both noticed that my eyes would veer off the eye-to-eye contact.
He would numerous times correct me by saying come back, stay with
me, stay in the present and force me to re-hook up this very, very
intense gazing activity. I realized how "not present" I spend so
much of my life by this eye-navigation exercise. He began a series
of questioning that was a kind of forceful enquiry, "What was I
not seeing clearly?" "Who am I?", etc. At this point I didn't
dare break my gaze because it was clear that it was having an effect.
I began to become undone, utterly confused, disoriented. I kept
responding to his questions, "I don't know!" I confessed my disorientation
and Arjuna was pleased by it, reassuring me that it was more than
fine. I felt like someone who is about to sit down, having his chair
pulled out from under him. That chair was my own "assumption" of
who I was, and I was free falling in confusion.
The questioning, the
back and forth went on for a while. The intensity in the room was
incredible, and was locked in this eye-to-eye battle, trying to
argue my unenlightenment. But I was like a cheap prizefighter, being
pummelled against the ropes in the corner by Mike Tyson. Arjuna's
unrelenting Advaitic argument kept me backing up and reeling. In
addition to this, the shakti in the room was generating psychic
effects. As I kept gazing into his eyes, Arjuna's face would change
into another face, a face so clearly distinguishable, as if I was
looking at another person. What's more, there was a succession of
faces over and over again. It was icing on the cake of confusion.
Who was I sitting in front of? I have had this experience before,
but never with such intensity, clarity, and duration. About 20 to
30 faces kept appearing superimposed on his: guys with beards, no
beard, black hair, white hair, no hair, blue eyes, black eyes, brown
eyes. It was, however, an almost comic disturbance to what was really
going on, an Advaitic beating.
In the midst of the
intensity, I felt like I was kind of floating, disassociated from
the body, having no home "ground" to land on. But as he kept at
me with questions, the "Ground" became apparent, the Ground of Being.
It's just a name which seems appropriate, but in that moment, it
had no qualities that I could pinpoint, except "emptiness."
The fundamental image of the spiritual seeker was being replaced
by this ground. As he kept hammering at me, "Who are You, Phil?"
my responses changed from "I don't know" to "it's Nameless."
He seemed to know exactly what I meant. After a couple of more questions,
he paused and said, "OK, are you a separate personality looking
at that something nameless, or are you what is aware of that?" All
the confusion and disorientation was leading me to this point. Was
I a separate being looking at this all-encompassing, vastly spacious
I knew this was it,
the last round in the fight. He repeated his question several times.
Sometimes I felt like I was still a separate person noticing this
event, and other times I wasn't so sure. Again he repeated the question,
and in that moment something changed -- a quantum leap occurred.
A quantum leap defines a peculiar event where a subatomic particle
is within the nucleus of an atom, and in the next moment, is outside
the nucleus without any ways or means of getting there. This leap
wasn't a volitional act, but in that moment, I RECOGNIZED that
I was pure Awareness or Consciousness, free of all qualities.
How incredible -- that is who I Am! I forcefully responded,
"YES, I AM THAT!" I'll never forget that moment; it was so OBVIOUS,
how could I or anyone have ever missed it? Of course I am that,
and always have been THAT , it was staring me right in the face
all these months, slowly making its appearance in waking consciousness,
through the fog of this "assumption of self." This background
consciousness was revealing itself -- reflecting my own nature to
me while the cords of identification with forms were being inexorably
cut to allow me to see my nature as it is intrinsically.
Part of me couldn't
believe that I would have the balls to say it, but I was backed
into a corner where it became obvious. Arjuna finally shut up and
just smiled at me. Now, I'm aware of the dynamic in psychotherapy
sessions where the client subconsciously or overtly gives the therapist
responses that s/he wants to hear; I've done it in the past myself
to the point of dropping out of therapy. This was not the case this
time. Something very wonderful happened, though the mind still had
some residual disorientation. But in retrospect, the mind finally
caught up with what was already occurring in the body.
After a few moments
of silent celebration, Arjuna started up again, "Okay, you are that.
What am I, Arjuna?" Oh man, get this Advaitic pit bull off of me!
However, after some time, I could not truly confess you are that
with the same conviction as I am that. There was certainly
an intuition of it, but not a recognition like the one I
just had. Arjuna said, that's okay, it's still good for one session.
He proceeded to describe the process as he understood it, from I
am that to you are that to all is that, the One
Being. I understood right there the vast difference between insight
So, at around 4:00 PM
on March 18, 1995, forty years of seeking to know who I was came
to an abrupt halt, and I began a new phase in this remarkable and
Graceful process, which I now call Phase 2A (as opposed to the former
Phase 1C). It was as if for my whole life I had been running in
a straight line, then in a moment, I stepped to the side and moved
in a whole new direction. The analogy was similar to what Joel had
said, that he had turned a corner.
The session was over,
and when I looked at the clock, I was very surprised that over ninety
minutes of eye-gazing had just passed. Arjuna embraced me, and I
literally felt like a newborn baby in a new world. Then he said
something that was really penetrating and revolutionizing for me,
"Man, do you realize that you are radiating right now? I can feel
it". Excuse me, I'm radiating? My whole life was spent in
the assumption of this little meat-body running to and fro to this
teacher and that teacher seeking shakti, spiritual nourishment,
darshan, etc. It hit me like a ton of brick: I was that same
One as that One giving Darshan. I was giving Darshan to Arjuna
now! This felt literally like a slap in the face of my illusions.
I've been giving Darshan my whole life, and so has everyone else!
(A few smart-alecks understand this and turn it into spiritual business,
and some use it to help others or make money, exploit people, etc).
As we parted with this
last bit of flash fresh in consciousness, I was flooded with a torrent
of insights. Everyone who has ever been a valuable teacher in my
life -- Love-Ananda, Ramesh Balsekar, Ramana Maharshi, Bernadette
Roberts, Saniel, Lawrence and Ardeliza, Buddha, and even Joel R.
-- their words began to reverberate in my mind with a new understanding
that can be summed up as, "Holy shit, that's what they were talking
about. Man, it's so clear now!" I was particularly reminded of Bernadette
Robert's admonition that there is no individual self at all. Saniel
loves to quote Buddha's famous statement of his enlightenment, "A
tacit understanding, that is all." This was so clear; that
shift of recognition is so subtle, so ordinary, but as Lawrence
says, "Everything hinges on that." An expression that Lawrence used
to describe awakening, "consciousness recognizes itself," arose
very loudly in mind, and again it was clear, "oh thaaat's what he
meant!! He wasn't trying to be esoteric, but was accurately describing
how Awakening takes place!" I could understand why Buddha felt that
this was not in the reach of the common man, and initially thought
about being quiet. You could spend your whole life with Being becoming
Obvious in every moment of your meditation, but if that tacit shift
of recognition of "I Am That" does not occur to reveal your Self-Nature
in every moment, you are still a seeker, the musk deer in search
of the source of the scent of musk originating from its own belly.
I have read many accounts
of the events of Awakening from various spiritual traditions, some
of the more famous being getting one's face slapped with a sandal
(Naropa), severing a student's arm with a sword (Bodhidharma), smashing
one's third eye with a glass shard (Ramakrishna), having sex ( Saniel!),
writing a contrarian confession on the monastery wall (Hui Neng,
6th Zen Patriarch). What came to me in the moments after leaving
Arjuna, and reflected in so many stories, and in Ardeliza's own
words, was how simple, how obvious the Truth is, this
I am. It's truly so in front of everyone's face that it will
be missed, even though accurate words may be communicated about
it over and over. It certainly was in my case; I have heard the
words Consciousness, Being, Isness, Suchness maybe thousands of
times, but until it became Obvious in this waking consciousness,
it was still an unsolved puzzle, an enigma. I just couldn't see
it -- Being, Consciousness, even though I was being it every moment!!
Buddha's description of Tagathata (translated as Suchness or Isness)
really rang true for me in those after-moments. I felt sympathy
with all those simple Zen haikus that newly awakened individuals
would spontaneously espouse (in fact, it seemed very corny if it
weren't for the fact that it was so real for me in the moment).
What seemed to be very
clear to me was that I no longer misunderstood. I had been
alive with a misunderstanding ever since I became an aware ego as
a toddler. Even with the advent of the Ground of Being becoming
apparent weeks before my "breakthrough," there was still the assumption
of a "separate I" apparently looking at external phenomenon. To
understand is such a small, yet momentous shift, and Love-Ananda's
description of "The man of Understanding" expressed in his teaching
makes so much sense to me. Not the man of absorption, ascension,
descension, bliss, intuition, insight, cosmic consciousness, but
understanding. Right on the mark!!
Traditions have used
the analogy of being Awake, "waking up," etc. I thought about this
and had the firm conviction that I was never "asleep". In
fact, it seemed absolutely clear that my Self-Nature was prior
to time, and had nothing to do with time or space. The dialectic
of asleep versus awake didn't seem to be completely accurate to
me. The sense of no longer misunderstanding ("to miss the understanding")
was much more real and descriptive of what occurred. In fact, I
simply knew that I had made a fundamental misunderstanding, ignoring
or forgetting who I am for my whole life, but I feel a complete
conviction that I always have been awake.