A Dialogue with Leonard Jacobson
In 1981, Leonard experienced the first of a series of spontaneous spiritual and mystical awakenings which profoundly altered his perception of life, truth and reality. These experiences revealed profound insights about the nature of the human condition and many of the keys to spiritual awakening. As a result, he found himself opening to a level of freedom, love and truth which he had not known before. Patterns of fear, hurt, anger, unworthiness and isolation which had been acquired in early childhood dissolved in the opening into the truth and living in the present moment.
I understand the need to be more present in my life, but how do I deal with difficult emotions like anger or sadness when they arise?
If you are carrying repressed emotions from your past, particularly from your childhood, you will need to allow these emotions right of passage through you so that they can be released. Just feel the emotions as they arise within you. Identify them, confess them and express them in a responsible way, but do not become identified with them. Do not believe in the story that your feelings are presenting. The story is always from the past. The present moment is free of the past. Whatever it is that you are angry or hurt about is not happening now, so it would not make any sense to believe in it. It is just a memory that you are caught in at some unconscious level. Let the feelings up. Allow them conscious expression within you. One of the keys to awakening is to come into right relationship with your feelings. Everything that arises within you is seeking unconditional love and acceptance, even your feelings and emotions. It is only when you repress your feelings that you create an inner disharmony which eventually leads to disease.
You gave me the advice that my mind was too clever and that I needed to return to innocence. Can you elaborate on this?
The mind, by its very nature, is of the past. It is made up of the sum total of your past experiences, together with all of your concepts, ideas, opinions, beliefs, attitudes and judgements, which have been accumulated by you during your life. The mind/ego can only know things from the past, which it accesses through memory. It then projects that remembered knowledge from the past and all the ideas, opinions, judgements and beliefs of the past onto whatever you are experiencing in the present moment. This distorts the reality of the present moment and renders it impossible for you to directly experience the true nature of what is present in the moment.
To function at this level of mind/ego creates a certain level of comfort and feeling of security. It is the nature of the ego to be in control and it can only be in control of a world that it already knows. The ego is afraid of the unknown. When you are experiencing life at the level of mind, at a very subtle level, you are saying to whatever is present, “I already know you. I have already experienced you. I already have my opinions, judgements and beliefs about you. And so, I do not have to be fully present with you in this moment. I do not have to know you in this moment because I already know you from the past.”
There is no innocence in that. There is no presence in that. When you are fully present and awake in the truth of life, you are in a state of innocence. You exist in a state of not knowing. At the very deepest level, it is as if you are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching everything for the very first time. Try smelling the fragrance of a flower as if you are experiencing it for the very first time. Try eating just one mouthful of your next meal in full presence. Try walking through your garden, being fully present with each flower and each tree. Try being fully present with your children or your friends even if it is just for a few moments. You will begin to feel the difference between life lived in the mind and life lived in the joyful reality of the present moment. I know that you cannot live in the world like this all of the time. But to spend some of your time each day in a state of innocence and presence will open you up to a heightened awareness of the sacredness of all life. This in turn will transform you. You will begin to remember who you are. You will begin to have a taste of Heaven on Earth.
Why are some Paths so seemingly complex, and time-intensive and others so seemingly simple (Advaita Vedanta) whilst the “goal” is the same? Why am I attracted to different Paths, and how can I focus on what is True?
You say that the goal of each path is the same. What is the goal? If you are really clear about that, it will cast light upon which path is most suitable for you. What is it that you are seeking on the path? How will you know when you have arrived at the goal? The goal of the spiritual path is simple. It is to awaken out of the illusory world of the thinking human mind into the truth and reality of life lived in the present moment. The world of the mind is a world of the remembered past and imagined future. It is a world of illusion and yet almost every one on this planet believes this illusory world to be the truth of life. The simple truth is that there is no life outside of the present moment. It is impossible to live life outside of the present moment. We must come to terms with this simple truth. I do not mean to imply that life at the level of mind should cease. That is not possible, nor desirable. What is possible however is that we become so awake and deeply grounded in the present moment and the awakened state of Being that we never lose our connection with the truth of life, even when we do venture into the world of the mind. In other words, we no longer believe in our thoughts, memories, ideas, beliefs and opinions as the truth. We know that only this moment is the truth and everything else is a kind of play within time. The world of the mind has developed its own version of God. It is the ego and it is deeply committed to being in control of your life. Initially its motivation was to protect you in this world of painful illusion. But eventually, that changed into a deep commitment to protect its self, and to ensure the continuance of its dominant role in your life. The ego likes sitting on the throne of God and will not vacate the throne easily. The ego wants to elevate itself in any way it can. It will happily set off on the spiritual path because it enjoys the feeling that is becoming more spiritual. It loves spiritual knowledge and power. It will continue on the path as long as it continues to accumulate more spiritual knowledge or power. In other words, the ego is becoming spiritualized, which is most unhelpful for one who is truly committed to full awakening.
If you happen to get too close to the truth or to a true teacher, the ego will have you out of there as soon as possible. It will have you reading other books and visiting other teachers. In other words, the ego needs you to remain the seeker. It does not want you to arrive at the goal. And once again, what is the goal? The goal is to be still and silent.
To be awake in the present moment and know yourself as the One who is fully present. It is known in Silence. It is known as Silence. There is nothing left of you from the past or future. There are no thoughts. Just a silent Presence in a breathing body, which is fully present with that which is present. Know this state of Presence just for a few moments and you are free. There is no more seeking. As you become more grounded and settled into the present moment, your whole life will begin to change. The Eternal dimension of existence will begin to reveal itself through the doorway of the present moment. I speak in some detail about how to become present and remain present in the three books that I have written. I cannot repeat it here, but I do suggest that you will find them easy to read and most enlightening.
Now, to that part of your question about the true path. Beware of paths that fill you with too much spiritual knowledge. You are just feeding your ego. Beware of teachers who elevate themselves above you. Look to their actions and their presentation and not just what they say. Some teachers say that they want no followers and yet, they are surrounded by followers. Beware of too many practices. No practice will deliver you. Being present is immediate. It is now. Just remember to be present with that which is present and you are free, at least, in that moment. Each moment that you are fully present, you are awake. You are enlightened. Each moment that you are not present, you are not awake. It is that simple.
The Advaita Vedanta tradition is simple and very valuable. Through a process of self enquiry, you can liberate yourself from the illusory world of the mind and ego, into a state of pure consciousness. This state of pure consciousness is the “I am” Presence that I speak of in my books. It is an experience of no-thingness. It is the essence and source of all existence. To awaken into pure consciousness is to attain liberation, but I have noticed with some of the followers of the Vedanta tradition who have attended my workshops, that there is sometimes a misunderstanding about the true nature of existence. There is a tendency to dismiss manifested form as illusory in nature. That is unhelpful, for what is the point of living in a world of illusion. We might as well leave. God is both everything and nothing. Everything in physical form is the Body of God. It is God as everything. When I am at the deepest level of Presence, I am in Nothing-ness. I am nothing-ness. Nothingness is another word for full and silent Presence. It is another word for the “I AM” Presence of God. It is pure consciousness without form and without content.
The perfect balance between God as everything and God as nothing is expressed in a line from my third book, Bridging Heaven & Earth which simply states …. “When I am in nothing, God is in everything.” We have to be careful not to make “nothingness” yet another concept which the ego seizes hold of. It is a great way to make sure you never awaken. We are here to wake up into full Presence and behold the beauty of God’s creation. Who are we to dismiss the Body of God as an illusion? The illusion that we need to awaken from is the world of the thinking mind, which includes all our spiritual knowledge and concepts. Even the spiritual path will ultimately prove to be an illusion. Finally, you ask how can you focus on what is True. Just focus on what is here now. If you can see it, hear it, feel it, taste it or smell it, you can focus on it. To focus on that which is actually here now (present) with you will bring you into the truth of life. The tree or the flower in front of you has more power to bring you present than all the books in the world and all the teachers who have ever existed. All you have to do is bring yourself present with that which is present.
Awakening is Simple
When you are in the world of the thinking mind, you are somewhere in the remembered past or the imagined future. You are in a world of thought, memory, concept, idea, opinion and belief. You are not here now. What you are experiencing is not of the present moment. It is not real. You are in a world of illusion (Maya) and yet you have come to believe that it real. Almost the entire human population is lost in this illusion. It is the sole source of our suffering.
In truth, there is no life outside of the present moment. We must come to terms with this simple fact. To awaken means to awaken out of the illusory world of the thinking mind into the real world of the present moment. This does not mean that your memory of the past or your sense of the future disappears. It is just that you no longer choose to live in the past or the future. You know that only the present moment can fulfill you and so you choose to live more and more in the present.
As you awaken, your experience of yourself and the world will dramatically change. Fear, anxiety and conflict disappear as you enter into a world of love, peace and abundance. You come to know yourself as LOVE. You encounter the living Presence of God within you and within everything around you. It is as if the present moment is God. Separation dissolves as you enter into Oneness. This is what is meant by enlightenment.
The world is entering a new stage of evolution. Never before has there been such an opportunity for the awakening of human consciousness at a collective level. But collective awakening occurs at the individual level. Each one of us must make the most of this opportunity. It IS possible to awaken NOW!
You can contact Leonard Jacobson through his website: www.leonardjacobson.com