"It's not a spectator sport!"

An exploration of evolving consciousness as humanity heads into the 21st century.

The context of my life has always been to find freedom. I could honestly say that this is the thing I have wanted more than anything else. And I don�t mean freedom from the need for money, or free from the merciless government machine. I mean free from my own conditionings, from all the megalomaniac tendencies that I have created for myself; free from the addiction to my own pain and ego.

This desire and ability to live free has taken me many places. First to a cold mountain stream in the high altitude Colorado mountains, and lately to a plush mansion in the Berkshire hills of Massachusetts.� True to the old maxim, �everywhere I went, there I was,� I also discovered that every way I was willing to throw off old concepts of myself, more freedom was found.

I started my young hippy days by throwing off society and heading up into the Colorado mountains. I lived in a tipi, and was discovered by an old mountain man in the area who gave me a little mining claim cabin to live in for several winters. After that, finding the high mountains of Colorado too crowded, I moved to remote central Idaho, bordering on the largest wilderness area in the lower U.S.

Twelve years into my adventure, I had achieved an innocence about the world, but still carried all my nasty, modern, brain-stuff around in my head. I knew that God was good, but had never seen his face. I knew that nature was a marvelous, safe, bed of beauty, but had not encountered the wild streams of the universe rushing through my own consciousness and heart. I was also faced with the terrible dilemma of having to come back into the world and make a living without a resume! I ended up enslaved by my previous life of seeking freedom. It was a marvelous paradox.

During my struggles without a resume, I discovered the most iconoclastic spiritual teacher of the times, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, now known as Osho. He grabbed my innocent heart, threatened to show me God, and I was all for it. Once again, I found myself wanting to be free more important than anything else. But this time, I was able to continue building my resume between hours of meditation and listening to darshan tapes from the commune in India.

Then, on January 19th, 1990, 8:30 a.m., an amazing event occurred. I booted up my computer and found that my beloved spiritual master had died in the night. The story-line from Poona was that he was, �never born, never died,� but that didn�t matter to me; he had died. Still holding a good dose of innocence from my mountain days, I followed my master�s instructions. He had said many times that when he died, all of his disciples would become enlightened. Hearing the news stopped me in my tracks. Instead of waiting for some great light or flash of enlightenment to come rushing over me, I simply looked inside to see what this event that had already occurred might look like.

To my amazement I saw that I had been enlightened all along. I WAS free. My mind was a totally unrelated phenomenon that had no hold over me whatsoever. The emptiness that I was always searching for in meditation was, actually, quite empty. I could feel exactly who I was, and in that could see the harmony of the whole universe. I stepped back into myself, and have been there ever since.

In that split second I discovered that my mind and my ego were not invisible monsters trying to make my life miserable.�They were easily visible, and very happy to hand over the controls. No struggle occurred over possession of my attention. Ego and mind had never wanted to be boss in the first place. They were only filling the gaps left by my neglect. Like the child of an alcoholic, my ego, mind and emotions had been ruling my life because I had given them control. The second I came home, they were more than happy to step into their natural roles as input providers.

The change was radical and permanent. My context grew from a small, personal life to the whole evolving universe. The seemingly-complicated became simple. For instance: the way to stop having so many problems, was to stop creating problems. The key to getting along with other people was to understand myself (I�m really the same as everyone else). The key to the whole issue of human society was to change and adjust, change and adjust, change and adjust. Hanging onto insanity was totally insane!

What a marvelous thing! As simple as that I had become free more than anything else. Now, when I picked up a book and read the words of the Buddha, it made perfect sense and was describing my own experience. Same with the words of Osho, Rumi, and even the terribly complicated Krishnamurti! What easy stuff this was! How beautiful! How important that all humanity see this and be this!

I knew, and still know, that this radical change in perspective is the only hope for bringing humanity back from its head-long plummet into disaster. We are way beyond the point where trying to fix our social problems will have an effect on our approaching global suicide. We need to fix the thing that is causing the problems. I wanted to help.

Now. You�d think that becoming enlightened would be a great addition to my resume. But it wasn�t. People could care less. In fact, I became quite scary to anyone on a spiritual path because I had a very deep self-confidence, and gave no consideration to their numerous personal problems. My effectiveness started at zero, and stayed at zero.

I have discovered that most people live in a world of deep cynicism. They are so afraid of false spiritual teachers, that they insulate themselves from any possibility of finding or meeting a living spiritual master. My stance against this cynicism was that �Everyone is already enlightened.� When meeting people I would make them work hard to prove to me that they were not enlightened. Strangely enough, this did not make me very popular in spiritual circles, though you would think that people might appreciate the honor. Anybody who did listen to me about the �You are already enlightened� line, became quite monstrous in their egos.

My other problem was that I was held mute by my own experience of enlightenment. It seemed like I had just gone along on my spiritual search, and then all the sudden an opportunity for enlightenment presented itself. I happened to open lucky door number three and get the prize. I couldn�t figure out a way to reproduce my situation for anyone. After all, my spiritual master had to die for me to get it. I could only reproduce that particular set of circumstances once.�

The spiritual teachings that I came up with were to tell people that they were already enlightened (if only they could remember it), and that they had to prepare themselves with lots of meditation for a lucky accident, should it come along. These are two very useless pieces of information for anyone on a spiritual path, and yet are the main teachings of many of those same paths! Years drifted by.

I covered up my own incompetence with many of the same lines used by spiritual teachers before me: when the student is ready the teacher will appear, those with ears hear�those with eyes see, you have to be a TRUE spiritual seeker. I also kept my eyes opened in case I could discover another possibility for teaching.

During my quest for a resume I achieved a moderate success in writing a newsletter for knitting patterns designed for handspun yarn. I thought about starting another newsletter on a spiritual theme. Maybe I could sell it around the country and lead a discussion on the nature of enlightenment. I was thinking of naming my newsletter, �What is Enlightenment?� And then, to my great surprise, a friend gave me a copy of a magazine with just that name.� Imagine that! I had been beat to the punch!

�What Is Enlightenment Magazine� is produced by Andrew Cohen and his students through their own publishing company, Moksha Press. He was already doing the work, so I gave up. I settled into my life of obscurity, trying to make a little money with various endeavors, and occasionally playing spiritual guide to people who were looking for nothing more than a quick fix to their personal problems. I subscribed to Andrew�s magazine and watched the group grow.

Year by year my frustrations in trying to voice a message of liberation were echoed by Andrew�s magazine. We seemed to always be on the same page. Why is it that people can have marvelous spiritual experiences and all it does is pump them up? They either become ego-maniacs on a control trip over other people (because now they are so special and spiritual), or they become victims to their own experience (because they can�t reproduce it at will).

I watched spiritual seekers I knew and found them to be basically selfish and untrustworthy. The worse cases were the spiritual leaders in various communities. They suffered from terrible relationships, pathetic work experiences and a feeling of alienation from the world. Their lives were focused around excuses and cover-ups about everything they were doing. I started to think that, to the western mind, eastern philosophies had become an ego virus with no antidote.

We have now entered into the twenty-first century, and I have come to a firm conviction that the spirituality we need to lead us forward into a modern world cannot, and will not, come from the past. It has to come from the modern living masters of today, and it has to be capable of evolving as rapidly as our society is evolving. Spirituality has to keep up with technology or we are doomed. We can�t expect to go back to the Gods and Goddesses and have them save us. I really doubt that aliens from another planet are going to come save us either. It�s time for something totally new.

Over the past decade my stance has changed slightly from �You are already enlightened,� to the idea that enlightenment itself doesn�t matter. Who cares if a big flash of light has gone off in your head? What matters is: are you an upstanding person? Are you honest with yourself and others? Can you see beyond your own fears and strategies? Are you a good person? This stance is probably a little better than the �you are already enlightened� one, but it is still pretty sketchy advice for any spiritual seeker.

As I followed Andrew Cohen�s career he seemed to be coming to many of the same conclusions that I found. What really matters is how we live. We live in an evolving universe. We have to step up to the plate and grab this matter by its horns.

And then I started to hear rumors. Something unusual was starting to happen to Andrew�s students at his retreats. It was like a new being was evolving that wasn�t personal or individual. It was happening around the tables in discussions between talks. It was happening spontaneously and when he wasn�t present.

I couldn�t imagine what it was that might be going on. I queried one of his students and was told that it was amazing; it was indescribable; it was a new being. That was tantalizing enough for me, and I started to scrape together the money to attend an event at his Foxhollow retreat center in Massachusetts. It took a whole year for me to manage the journey. During that time Andrew�s teachings seemed to take on a whole new energy. It�s as if what is happening with his students is inspiring him to create new strategies and tools for teaching. I attended his May, 2003 retreat which (I believe) was a landmark event in his teaching career.

Andrew amazed me from the first day. After a brief meditation he gave a talk clearly describing the difference between living in slavery to addictive egos, or living in freedom. Then he offered us to experience it for ourselves. The assignment was to spend an hour or so going deeply into our personal lives. For instance, when someone calls your name, who is it that turns around? We were invited to go deeply into a thing that we never take the time to look at: our personal relationships, jobs, fears, thoughts, feelings about everything. We were to do the assignment in complete silence as we ate lunch, and walked about the grounds. After an hour or so, when we had had enough of the personal, we were to take a break and look at the impersonal. What was inside us that wasn�t personal?

Back in the meditation hall Andrew queried participants on their experience with the personal and impersonal. Every experience was similar. The personal was dark, unfriendly, lonely, unhappy, fearful and glum. The impersonal was light, full of hope, friendly and joyous. So then, he asked the group, �Which one do you want?�

Whoa!

Eyes popped opened all around the room! Of course we want the good one. We want the impersonal! And then we were given our assignment for the week. No-one was allowed to have any personal conversations. We were only allowed to talk about the topic of the retreat: impersonal enlightenment, and evolutionary consciousness. We were, especially, to stick to the subjects of each day�s talks and our experiences of meditation. That�s when the miracle happened.

It took us all a few days to understand how the assignment worked, but as the time passed I found myself in the most amazing society I had ever experienced. There were a few people who didn�t get what was going on, but for the most part, the people at the discussion tables became completely interchangeable. We weren�t a bunch of individuals from all over the world, we were a group of human beings sharing the same living experience.

I could get up from the table to leave, and someone else would take my place and the conversation would go right on. I could go join a new table, and in a matter of minutes it was like I had been there from the beginning. Just pull up a chair, sit down, and boom! you�re in. The eyes I looked into, across the table, were amazing. People didn�t have to wait to go to talks in the meditation hall to get a question answered. They would simply ask the table, and together, whoever happened to be there, would come up with the answer. Light bulbs were flashing on all over the place. We experienced a deep autonomy by losing our personal individuality.

It was as if, yes, the group itself had become a new being. This, happening right before my eyes, was the answer to the evolution of human consciousness. Suddenly I was sitting inside a humanity that could and would manage the earth like a beautiful garden instead of turning it into a refuse dump. People were really listening to each other as they talked. I know this was so because I found myself listening with more attention and respect than I ever had before. Men and women were speaking to each other from a place of complete understanding.

I was seeing my own vision for humanity in front of my eyes. This possibility of consciousness comes from a living context bringing the effect of fifteen billion years of evolution into our fingertips. This is something that doesn�t come as a miracle, but as a result of our own choosing. It�s a creation, not a miracle. It comes from choosing to be free from our awful, disastrous personal lives. Choosing sanity. This is a choice that gives us back all the energy we waste on personal problems, and frees it up to create real change.

I walked out of the retreat at Foxhollow with a deep change in my own held position about enlightenment. I realized that my moment of awakening had not been a miraculous accident that came about as the result of many years of meditation. It was a choice I made, a definite choice. It didn�t appear to be a choice at the time because once I saw the difference between the personal ego and the impersonal it was a no-brainer which one I was going to choose.

I chose the good one.

Here�s an analogy: Imagine you are very, very hungry. You go into a room and there on the table is a bowl of dirt. Next to it is a hot juicy lasagna dinner, with a fresh tossed green salad, garlic bread, a tall glass of pure water, some wine and Keylime pie for desert. Which one are you going to choose? Are you going to even notice the bowl of dirt? Will it seem like a choice? No. It will seem like you miraculously walked through the right door into the room with the great dinner. Choosing not to eat the dirt happened so fast you didn�t even notice it. But still you chose, even though it was the obvious choice.

The same is true with enlightenment, and this is how all the past masters have been fooled. Enlightenment is not a mysterious happening; it is a choice. All preparation for enlightenment is simply learning to tell the difference between dirt and good food. We only need to learn to tell the difference between heaven and hell, and we will choose heaven every time. Suddenly I have something to talk about, and practical help to give.

Everyone is NOT already enlightened. Waking up is a choice, and it is a choice that each individual has to consciously make. Preparation for enlightenment is simply learning to make the distinction between the impersonal and personal, ego and life, heaven and hell. See the distinction, and make the choice. That�s the path to freedom and sanity.