By Phil Servedio
ALTHOUGH A LOT OF the flash and glamour has worn off, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a “speeding up of the process of standing still”. A lot has happened in this short period of time, in the sense of the stabilization of the Awakening. This has been experienced in many ways. One of the most interesting has been often the feeling of Utter Stillness that seems to permeate my life more and more, even in the midst of arising thoughts. It seems that the mind will quiet down to the point where not a single thought could penetrate the simplicity of a condition of “no-arising”. What has occurred recently reminds me of part of a poem by Love-Ananda:
“I am the headless horseman...
There’s nothing above my collar but the evening.”
This sense of not having a head has been quite remarkable, albeit not a stable one, of course. There is no sense in expecting such wonderful states to be permanent, but nevertheless it seems to be a normal part of the current process. Often I feel that “I” am sitting on the base of my brain and sometimes even lower, into the chest. The connection with the arising of I from the right side of the heart has become evident more frequently. It seems to me that the sense of I arises in the right side of the heart, and is filtered, processed and translated by mind, which notices difference in all things that arise, like the variety of colors found when clear light is passed through a prism.
The greatest issue so far has been my own self-doubt. As many, many people have stated, Awakening is never what you expect. My expectations were based on a yogic model of absorption, expecting and desiring a continuous, absorbed state where self consciousness doesn’t arise at all. Certainly this has happened in some formal meditative sittings, but they do not last. What many have also stated, Awakening happens at the fundamental core of Being, and from my experience at this point, it doesn’t occur in the body-mind, but the fundamental shift of understanding will “bleed” through to the body mind. Self-doubt has arisen on the basis of expectation of validation of Awakening through something perceived in the body-mind. But just as before Awakening , the body-mind is still subject to numerous changes based on numerous factors and cycles and is entirely unreliable as a means of validation. In fact, when I look for validation, I’ve already lost the View of the context of arising phenomena. What has been helpful in periods of doubt is to look it straight in the face and recognize it as arising from the same Condition of Emptiness as everything else. This has become easier in this short period of time, as the acceptance of the profound-ordinariness of Awakening grows.
This sense of ordinariness perhaps needs some explanation. It is not as if nothing has happened or something has been lost, but the fact that recognition of everything arising from Being, existing as Being, is in fact not some monumental lightning flashing, bombs exploding insight. It is all so apparent, so clear, like looking at one’s face in the mirror, nothing special. What is special is the extraordinary states of samadhi and experiences of rising kundalini. These are really glamorous and fascinating. However, I feel a radical change in me in the sense that I have no desire for these experiences whatsoever. This is truly where seeking has come to a halt - I feel like I have no use for such blissful and exotic distractions in the face of what Ramana Maharishi calls “ the natural state”. It has recently dawned on me exactly what that means, or what the Tibetan Buddhists call “the supra-mundane” mind. It feels as this is exactly the way existence should be seen since the day that I was born, but required a fundamental shift of understanding after years of seeking. The whole tour of spiritual experience and seeking seems grossly unnatural in the face of the simplicity of the natural condition or state.
It needs to be emphasized again and again, as many have said, that an Awakening is not an end in itself, but a doorway which leads to another segment of the spiritual process. The clear recognition of Who I Am seems to have taken shape into seeing the transparency of all arising phenomena in the body-mind. In recent meditations there has been the “seeing” of attention itself, thoughts, emotions and the body itself to be made of the same stuff as the space around me. A feeling of continuity comes forth, where it feels like there is no difference in anything - it is all made of the same Being. In wake of this, it doesn’t matter what arises and a heightened acceptance and embrace of all that arises can occur, because all that arises is the same One Being. It also can be expressed in the notion of “transparency” - nothing is a solid object or form in and of itself, but is seen through. The seeing through of attention itself seemed to be a breakthrough, as attention appears to be the “pole” of oneself that everything revolves around. This reminds me of the phrase “ sat-chit” or Being-Consciousness - they are essentially the same.
In the years of sitting in one satsang session or another, I have heard the question asked, generally speaking, of “how does one get there from here?”. The desire to find the big solution, the final formula is a well-deserved one and a natural outcome of the portion of the spiritual process where seeking is necessary or inevitable. Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution to offer, but here to simply share some insights and inspirations from the telling of my story. But I do have one big piece of advice for anyone who wants to know their true Self-Nature and the Nature of all, and that is to find someone who is awake, functioning as a teacher and transmitter of spiritual wisdom and force (Shakti) and spend as much time as you possibly can with them. Become their friend, take them to lunch, make use of your time and theirs to answer any question and clear up doubts. With the mantle of spiritual awakening being passed to the West in ever greater numbers, the chances of finding such people are much, much higher, and with the dropping of such weighty hierarchies as found in many Eastern traditions, great help is available in people who may have been college roommates, old friends or even fellow seekers in former spiritual communities. While many people denounce the Guru tradition, I feel that it has evolved and molded itself into a form that is workable for us Westerners - simply hang time, in company of very ordinary people like you and me. People such as Lawrence and Ardeliza , Arjuna (Nick Ardagh), Gangaji and David Wheeler are people with pasts similar to mine, and who have been such a great help and boon for the process of consciousness, in me, I couldn’t give it justice in mere printed words. Even my former Guru Love-Ananda, who has his students under a constant stress of unending discipline, would praise the awakening process of Shirdi Sai Baba, who simply lived with his teacher without performing any of the customary spiritual disciplines that we would think were prerequisite for advancement. Simply satsang, the relationship with a realizer, is all that is necessary: everything will come to fruition on the basis of satsang. The old saying that you become who you spend time with is a hard and fast truth, and it has been the greatest spiritual gift in my life.
I would like to end this account with a final or summary statement but it is clear that the spiritual process continues to unfold, and now at a more parabolic pace. Even some of the insights and understandings first expressed in this account, written over a period of weeks, really do not to define me at this point in time.
A good friend of mine asked, “Well, what has remained constant over this time?” It is a really good question, since experiences in the body-mind do come and go, awakened or not, as the body-mind is conditional and subject to numerous forces beyond any individual’s control. What has remained steady is the death of the spiritual search to know who I am. In a real sense, I have gone through a death, and have come out the other side a new person, with a sense of “being different”. The underlying strata of my psyche seems to have been inexorably changed by the breakthrough in consciousness. I feel somewhat dead, not in the sense of being unfeeling or flat, but in the sense that I have gone through the process of sifting of consciousness to its essential nature, which is unmoving, unbound of time and space. I am simply being.
Another steady condition is the sense of the simplicity of life. The sense of dilemma that accompanies the spiritual search of “what do I gotta do to be free?”, “where do I turn?” has been undone. A feeling of rest has replaced a certain cramp of bewilderment or disturbance that has been there my whole life. As it has been less than two months as of this writing, it is taking some getting used to, to live in another mode that is free of the spiritual search. It is true that the “seeker” was an intimate and deeply entrenched segment of my psyche that required expunging, but it did provide a sense of excitement and adventure, hope and fear. With that gone, a great space appears where I can stretch out, figuratively speaking.
Although it is not constant, a strong conviction has arisen since the incident in Denver to see everything as my own nature. It is as if I can say I am God, and this is my universe (of course, not the exclusive God, personally - I recognize that we are all that). A sense of love has come forth, but is a totally different kind of love than what I have ever experienced before. It is a simple affection for everything, because it is all a reflection of the One Being, in its own separate and unique form. This includes space itself - being is there even more obviously, as no particular form distracts me from the sense of seeing Who It Is. The reflection of my own self-nature in the phenomena around me is like the beginning of a wondrous love affair, one that will have no break-up or let down, since there is no “other” to leave!!
On the flip side of the sense of death of the search is an ever strengthening knowingness of who I Am, Consciousness/Being Itself. This knowingness is felt at the deepest core of my being, a fundamental level, which permeates through the strata of my psychic structures, and undermines any form of dilemma about my existence.
Text copyright © 1995 Phil Servedio. Used by permission.
When we published this journal in 2000, Phil Servedio was 45 years old, worked as a software engineer, and lived in California with his wife Annie.
This page was published on February 22, 2000 and last revised on September 3, 2019.