Radical Gradualism

A Journal of Awakening

By Phil Servedio

Chapter 1

May 1994

THE SPIRITUAL PROCESS began to become heightened and intensified for me by taking initiation in the “7 Keys” with a teacher named David Wheeler in May of 1994. It was a series of profound and “glamorous” initiations that re-united the shakti force with me in a big way (I had felt that I broke up with Her when I left Da Love-Ananda several years ago). The 7 Keys were an amazing and surprising set of openings, full of many ascending-type spiritual experiences, which restored me to a sense that I was again moving quickly on the spiritual path (although in retrospect, this was not really the case — I was simply entering a phase that felt a whole lot better than I had been feeling!). It was a journey through a variety of experiences that were deeper and richer than I ever felt before, even in comparison to what I felt with Love-Ananda. It had become apparent that I had grown somehow to be more receptive to the shakti. But there was also a sense growing in me of “been there, done that," as these initiations were grander versions of experiences that I already had. But David Wheeler did speak about these initiations as points of growth to eventual realization, and that kept me very interested. I felt that association with him was very beneficial, and the ordinariness of David, and my relationship to him, were such a relief compared to the overpowering, aloof, and physically unavailable teachers and gurus of my past.

What was very exciting for me in the latter stages with the 7 Keys was that the right side of my heart seemed to awaken, or in other terms, it seemed to be the predominant energy center in my body, more than the chakras. Because of my readings of Ramana Maharshi and Love-Ananda, I felt at the time that this could be something really significant. David pointed out that the awakenings of the Amrita-Nadi, a line of spiritual current associated with the right side of the heart, may not be co-incident with realization, but nevertheless I was heartened by these events. In one of my last sittings with David, in August of 1994, one in which a most incredible transmission was occurring, I lost self-consciousness only to find myself in the right side of the heart. I was there, in this bright pearl of light, which I recognized was the source of I, and without doubt the most intimate experience of my life. I cannot come close to describing the feeling of intimacy, and the surprise to find “I” (the source point of attention) there, instead of being normally somewhere in the head. It was as if I had looked to the left with my inner eyes, I would see my own left lung. That experience of course subsided eventually, and I did ache to go back to that point later on (even though it seemed like a more refined version of seeking). In subsequent meditations, I felt a large, open “cave” just below the right side of the heart that was far bigger than my body. I wanted to go there and stay there.

Meanwhile, Tanya, who was the local area coordinator of the 7 Keys, was telling me about her sittings with Saniel Bonder, whom I knew from my time with Love-Ananda. Saniel was claiming awakening and the capacity to transmit awakening to others. My first response was disbelief and scornful judgment, but many of the people of the 7 Keys were going to sit with him and were confessing some profound experiences of insights, “falling into the heart”, and even some awakenings. This was intriguing but I didn’t feel comfortable with going to sit with Saniel, especially since I knew him before he was awake, and I felt a bit jealous that he broken through to a condition that I had yet to find. I also didn’t know what to expect. Later in August, Tanya told me of a couple who claimed to have awakened within one week of one another, and she invited me and a few close friends to sit with them at her house.

When I arrived at Tanya’s house, there were about 15 people there, and Lawrence and Ardeliza introduced themselves. There was a hint of suspicion in me, as they seemed so ordinary (as the icon of the realized person, Love-Ananda, was still alive in my subconscious). But when we started meditating, all doubt was removed. I ascended into a place slightly above my head, absorbed in light — it was a really cool kundalini experience, and a point of initiation, I felt, with Lawrence and Ardeliza. Lawrence began to speak later and said, “There seems to be a lot of ascending energy here." I said to myself, oh boy, a sensitive one here! I also felt somehow implicated by this and for some strange reason, guilty that I did something wrong. Well, Lawrence told us all this mind blowing story of his and Ardeliza’s awakening that was so moving, so incredible. For the first time in my life, I felt that there was a possibility for me in this life for a real awakening, as his “How could this be happening to a shmuck like me?” statement stuck with me, and this heartfelt feeling was a very, very significant opening for me. Realization was available to ordinary folks like me? Fucking incredible!!!! I also took note that Lawrence stated that it was Saniel Bonder who brought him to full realization. Lawrence and Ardeliza talked till one in the morning and didn’t seem to be the least bit tired, but the rest of us were played out. I got their phone number and went home. About 10 minutes after climbing into bed, the whole room shook twice, once mildly and then very strongly. An earthquake!! About a 4.5 I’d say. The synchronicity of the event was not lost on me. The whole evening really shook me very deeply.

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.

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This page was published on February 22, 2000 and last revised on September 3, 2019.


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