By Phil Servedio
IN JANUARY, I went through some emotional periods, as things shifted for me again, but as time went on, the “flatline” feeling arose again. Additionally, my study of other realizers was having an effect on me, particularly the books of Ramesh Balsekar. He spoke directly to me, and I felt I received his transmission, and resulting insights, directly from the books. One consideration was particularly poignant, in which he spoke about the body based personality being in truth a mental concept or abstraction that doesn’t have the solidified quality of existence that we ordinarily assume. This had a tremendous effect on me — I KNEW it to be true, but in the midst of that understanding, then, who was I?
What began to occur naturally, and with the encouragement of Lawrence and Ardeliza, was enquiry. I can’t say how it arose, but it was borne of a thirst, a genuine desire to know in every fiber of my being WHO AM I? I had tried “doing” enquiry about 2 years earlier, after reading an inspiring book about Ramana Maharishi, but it was forced yet empty, void, like eating cardboard, and it fell away after a while. This time however, it had its own life, and an energy and force behind it. The questions arose spontaneously at times, and at others I would simply enquire based on a current mood of intensity to know who I am. Various questions arose and were tried, such as Who Am I, Where Am I? Arising In What? What Is Consciousness? What Is “I”? Is That It? and others. At times, the “feeling” of enquiry was not associated with a verbal question in mind, but that “I” was a question, my whole being was a question. Lawrence spoke about how the heart reaches out to find itself and returns in recognition of itself, drawing a line in the air, returning to the heart (while he was saying this, I’m talking to myself, “me? me?, aw’ come on!").
The flatline feeling seemed to develop into a sense of nothing-arising, almost like a depression. In retrospect, it was a comparison to a quality of wanting to be “jazzed” by an experience. In other words, nothing was giving me “a rise”. I also felt so, so tired of spiritual experiences. I had so many in my life, and they all came and went, and I was still left there. I didn’t want any more. I wanted to cut through the whole hierarchy of experiences and find out who is there.
Meanwhile at work, I had to meet a deadline to produce a software product for a convention in San Antonio in early February. I manage a group of 4 people, and we worked about 70 hours in the final week to get it done. While in San Antonio, an interesting thing happened to me. One night I went out with an old work buddy of mine. We went to this sleazy restaurant/bar called “Dirty Dicks”, a truly raucous bardo, and had a few beers, which I rarely do. Later on, we went to Morrison’s Cafe and in the momentum of feeling good I ordered a few margaritas, heavy on the tequila. We ended up befriending a bunch of sharply dressed Mexican guys who insisted that we try some of this new tequila that the bar had. It was very good, and 4 or 5 shots went down quite easily. I knew that I hadn’t had this much tequila since I was 18 years old, and that I was about to be very fucked up. But something unusual occurred. While the body and the mind were drunk, slightly slurring words, a little off balance, “I” was not drunk. “I” was witnessing drunkenness, watching the body-mind get plastered. In fact I felt totally straight, a pole around which the body-mind revolved. Thinking about this later on, I thought it was quite significant and told both Lawrence and Saniel, who both, to my surprise, seemed very pleased by the story.
In the ensuing weeks, the “depression” seemed to give way to a stillness that I never had felt before. I began to see how everything but that was movement, and I seemed capable of witnessing the events of my own life before me. It was as if I was the eye of a hurricane, and all arising phenomena were the motion of the wind of the hurricane. The silence left me feeling very separated, distant and this effect was varied, having the same effect as looking through a zoom camera lens, changing the magnification, or the wrong end of a telescope. Sometimes I felt very distant from both “internal” and “external” events , and at other times, I felt up close and personal, as if they were right in my face. Lawrence, synchronistically, in one evening talk, spoke about how it was perfectly fine to feel very separated at times in the process, which helped very much. The feeling of distance ran counter to my conceptions of how it was supposed to be. Occasionally, I also felt the dropping of boundaries. This occurred a couple of times in bed after a Friday night satsang. I lay in bed and just couldn’t figure out where “I” started, and the bed under me started, and the air around me started. It seemed like soup, or a blending of feeling past even where I experience the edge of my energy body. It was an enjoyable confusion, and I was reminded of a friend’s similar experience of about which I had recently read in ax newsletter.
In one conversation in February, Lawrence told me that someone had broken through to some kind of awakening the previous Friday - I knew it wasn’t me. Lawrence didn’t want to say much about it, in any case. Two weeks later, at a weekend workshop, Joel R., a fellow 7 Keyer, made a most wonderful confession, stating that in meditation a couple of Friday satsangs previously, it become obvious to him that he was consciousness itself; it was a confession of I Am That which really ringed true. I felt a twinge of jealously but mostly felt deeply happy for Joel that he could make this confession. But it had a resulting effect on me. Boy, was it ever possible now!! Joel was sitting just a few feet from me, and I know that the M-field can be a boost for others. I felt a real painful longing to step through the doorway that Joel just walked through. At the same time, I felt a great deal of despair, and wondered if I was one of those who would never be awake in this lifetime, despite the sadhana and the most excellent company anyone could have. I used the sense of despair as a motivating factor; a deeper ache arose which resulted in a fiercer determination.
I began to feel hotter and more intent on cutting through to know who I am. Work at times seemed to be an issue in the feeling that I need time for retreat. I found out that Gangaji, who was of great help to me last July, was coming to town for satsang in March, and was having a retreat in early April. However, it just didn’t feel right to sign up for the retreat, but I did intend to sit with her when she came. It was filled with a little dilemma; I felt committed or loyal to Lawrence and Ardeliza, and Saniel seemed to really get bugged by some of the people who came out of the Poonjaji satsangs. However, I knew Lawrence’s story quite well, of how Gangaji helped him to break through to realize the Ground of Being. I felt that if it was good enough for Lawrence, it was good enough for me!! I also felt a little sickened back in July of 1994 when Gangaji would get really gooey and flowery; after all I am a guy! But I also remembered that she can wield a sword with uncanny accuracy, cutting through people’s obstructions directly and gracefully. Lawrence also spoke of how Gangaji, and the Advaitics in general, was very useful for pushing people through the doorway to a 6th stage realization of the Ground of Being separate from arising phenomena. Lawrence would hold up his thumb and index finger an inch apart and say,” they are very good for that part of the process”. So I was inspired to go see Gangaji.
When I first sat with her (and 200 other people or so) at Guzman Hall in Dominican College March 6th, I was expecting hearts and flowers, and was preparing to brace myself for some feminine goo. However, much to my surprise, she came in wielding a blunt sword, being very intense and very direct. It was a marvelous talk, and though I can’t embrace or agree with everything she said verbatim, it was a direct communication to me to what obstructions to realization were in my way. The utter stillness felt very real, and at one point, closing my eyes and listening to her talk, I shifted; I fell “down into myself”, as if I jumped off a piece of furniture and landed on my feet. It also felt like a movement “forward” which seemed counter to what the Advaitic tradition was transmitting. But I wasn’t complaining. I was so moved that I bought the tape of the satsang that day, and wondered how the hell I was going to go back to work in the condition I was in. Leaving the building, I felt as if the back half of me was energized from way above my head to way below in the ground. The back of me was energized, alive, and it seemed very unusual.
After a while, I felt like there was a whole new kind of energy radiating through me, something totally different than anything I ever felt before. And I felt hot, intense; I had spent the last Thursday and Friday evenings with Lawrence and Ardeliza, a 4 hour workshop with Saniel on Sunday, and a powerful event with Gangaji on Monday. I was moved to enquire every single moment; I didn’t care whether it was forced or not; I had to step through the door. I was reminded of the name of a book that Saniel was writing, “The White Hot Yoga of the Heart” - I felt white hot in intensity. I enquired as much as I could - how can the subject of the subject be seen? What is consciousness? I felt hot in my body. (Lawrence calls this the “Who Am I, Goddamnit!” stage). On Thursday, I saw Gangaji again, and this time I felt as if I was cooled down. I left the hall feeling very still but also feeling cramped and annoyed. In retrospect, a sense of the background was bleeding through at this point, and some latent “buttons” were being pushed. I went to see Lawrence and Ardeliza to discuss the process that I had been going through recently. My only regret is that whenever Lawrence opens his mouth I don’t have a tape recorder to tape what he has to say. His viewpoints on spiritual subjects, some of them very contrarian, are brilliant and both of their experiences provide a valuable map for what we are all going through and will go through. During the time with them, Lawrence handed me a brochure for a fellow name Arjuna (Nick Ardagh), a man with a long history in hypnotherapy and spiritual circles, who woke up as a student of Poonjaji in 1990 or 1991. The brochure was about a set of one on one sessions called Hypno-dharma, a blending of the practice hypnotherapy with the Advaitic “ argument”. I have been interested recently in how the arenas of spirituality and psychology could be blended so that the processes of transcendence and individuation can be joined to further both causes. It sounded really right to me, as Lawrence expressed a confidence that Arjuna was very much awakened.
This opened a psychological Pandora’s box for me. Arjuna was stating that he could bring a person to an awakening with one or more sessions. Unbelievable? But it sounded too easy and too “Marin”. A dilemma arose between wanting to do anything to wake up and my sense of loyalty to Lawrence, Ardeliza, and Saniel. It would be great if I would wake up while in satsang with one of them, yet on the other hand I didn’t care if it occurred while puking into a toilet. There was feeling that I was somewhat sleazy, as if I could trick God by buying enlightenment for the low, low price of $95 for a two hour session. But considering the whorish nature of my existence, I decided to call up Arjuna and set up a session with him. I had already established a connection with him at a couple of previous satsangs with Saniel and he confessed that he felt connection with me, which gave the upcoming meeting a positive spin. A lot of doubts arose before the Saturday session came about. I felt fairly confident that Arjuna could do it, knowing the kind of work that graduates of the Poonjaji school did. But what if awakening didn’t occur? Would I be utterly despondent and bitter? Was I being idealistically hopeful? Can a person be hypnotized into being awake? Is there some karmic danger in that? Could a two hour session accomplish something that most spiritual seekers don’t attain for lifetimes?
Friday night satsang occurred on a full moon, and was filled with more than the usually high level of raucous laughter and joking. Meditation seemed to be powerful and still, as I met eyes with Lawrence for a period of time. This eye gazing “practice” is common in this circle of practice and I find it very intense. Ardeliza can appear incredibly powerful, a powerful goddess with waving arms. Lawrence’s face changes frequently and sometimes he is “hot” and sometimes “cool”. This time it was “hot” and the few minutes of eye gazing, which seemed to last for a long time, left my eyes burning. In the previous number of weeks, I found an ever increasing tendency for my eyes to pop open during meditation; sometimes I couldn’t keep them closed if I wanted to. It was as if my body was saying, “don’t drift in meditation, it’s not anywhere else but here. There is nowhere to move to”. The evening ended joyfully, knowing that the session with Arjuna would occur the next day. I didn’t want to tell anyone so as to not be jinxed, or have some psychic influence on it.
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.