“You already are your perfect Self. It’s only a matter of recognition.
There never was, is, or will be more perfection than you are at this perfect moment.”
David Manners was an actor and writer, the author of several books and articles; including Look Through: An Evidence of Self Discovery and Awakening from the Dream of Me. David was a rising Hollywood film star in 1930s cinema when he left to spend over 30 years in the Mojave Desert in California. It was during this stay in the desert that David began to deeply inquire into his real nature and ask himself, “Who am I?” During this period he awoke to life in the truest sense of the term.
I visited David in 1996, having discovered him with the help of his close friend, Frank Cassirer. At the time of this interview David was 96 years old and spent his time in the foothills of the Santa Barbara mountains. Though he was physically confined to a wheelchair, his soaring spirit roamed free. Quiet and unassuming, he openly shared his experience of Consciousness with earnest seekers of truth.
In these beautiful surroundings, David was well looked after by a loving woman who opened her home to care for a number of elderly people. She watched over each one of them with great attention and love, a spiritual practice in itself.
IDJ: In your writings you often refer to the term “Awakening.” In fact, the title of your last book is Awakening from the Dream of Me. What is it that we need to awaken from?
David Manners: The ego, the personal “I.” There is no such thing, and the quicker you wake up to that, the better.
IDJ: How is it that we are all duped into thinking the ego is oneself?
DM: Look at the state the world is in. Isn’t it because of this (mistaken) belief? Just let it go, by golly. It would be great if there were no barriers between us and we could all see we are one. We are trained to build those barriers, first by our parents, later by our schools, and so on. So we become imprisoned. Well, I believe in breaking out of that prison and putting an end to this so-called person called “David.”
IDJ: How did you come to the understanding that the “I” or “me” is a transient idea and not our true existence?
DM: Well, I have lived over 90 years—so that’s plenty of time to come to it. If you haven’t come to it by the time you’re 90, you may never come to it.
IDJ: But it’s not a question of time, is it?
DM: No, there is no such thing as time. It is really something that we have invented, it’s that simple.
IDJ: For someone like myself, what would be the way to realize that there is no such thing as “I” or “me.” What would be the easiest way?
DM: You’re a captive, imprisoned by the idea of time. I would say break out because it’s holding you in. Be free, let it go.
IDJ: Is there a special way to help one “break out?”
DM: Well, I think the best way is to simply be oneself. We are afraid to be ourselves you know. We have been taught to be otherwise. Let it go. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me now, and I’m happy. I have a name for that place, it’s the “meadow.” You go into the “meadow” and play games and do anything you want. It’s wonderful.
IDJ: You wrote in Awakening from the Dream of Me, “When we discover the truth in the heart of the Self, where it has always been, we can then free ourselves . . . ” What is this Self that you refer to?”
DM: Well, life is full of mysteries. I think we have invented names for things we don’t know anything about. What do you think, Frank?
Frank Cassirer: I know nothing.
DM: Well, that’s darn good.
IDJ: Is there such a thing as liberation? You mention the terms liberation and freedom. Can you talk a little bit about what the state of true freedom is like?
DM: You know something, if I had known that you would one day bring that book to me and ask me those questions, I would not have written it. Do you understand? I mean you create these things and then they’re gone. I don’t claim anything that is written in that book. You think I’m nuts, don’t you?
IDJ: No, I don’t.
DM: Maybe I am.
IDJ: Maybe it’s me that’s nuts. Ramana Maharshi refers to the Self as the seat of consciousness. You refer to the Self in your book, Awakening from the Dream of Me. Is it the same?
DM: Yes, because that “me” denotes a separation, and there is really no such thing.
IDJ: Did you undergo any type of discipline or effort to come to this Awareness?
DM: On the contrary, I swept all that aside and let life be itself. I simply don’t get in the way. From the beginning, your parents tell you to draw lines about yourself; you can go this way, you can’t go that way, and you become boxed in. Now, you get to a point where either you are going to stay that way all your life (and never get out), or you are going to break out of the box. You have to break out of it to live, really live. It’s a mental box. We’ve all been there.
How to get out of it is the question. Let’s break it open, right here and now. Did you bring your ax with you?
DM: Well, let’s break it open! Heavens (to Frank), I think you have arrived at a great place when you say you know nothing, that’s wonderful. That’s a place to be envied, when you can realize that you know nothing. It’s a lovely feeling to know nothing and to be happy about it. I know so many people that know so much and it has not changed them at all. All that knowledge! A great burden.
You know, Matthew, there has been a teacher here. And the teacher is right there (pointing to a picture of the desert); the desert and the flowers blossoming from the desert, with no effort . . . just a little rain.
Frank: And it comes about so naturally and effortlessly. That’s what I have learned from David. Well, (to David) you lived in the desert for 30 years.
DM: Very close to the desert. At one time I used to know the names of all the plants.
IDJ: What made you go to the desert?
DM: Well, some friends of mine have a place they call Yucca Loma (mesa where the Yuccas grow). This was a place to go and visit, be quiet, and do nothing. There were several little houses all around. You would have your own little house and go to the main house for meals. It was a charming idea and I loved it, so I stayed there. In fact, I land to build my own little house. I built it of adobe, made of materials right from the place.
I loved the people there. There was a woman who discovered the soulful, wonderful truth, and I learned a great deal from her. Not so much through speech, but rather being with her and through understanding.
IDJ: How did you spend your time at the desert?
DM: We didn’t do anything special. Some people played tennis and swam in the pool for the purpose of recreation. I think the idea that there is a person we need to “go to” is incorrect, because it’s all present in every one of us, you only have to turn to it. Don’t you agree? It’s all there; simply dig at it and find it. There is a lot behind you that you have forgotten. All the stuff you’ve accumulated needs to be gotten rid of. And, getting rid of it gives you a chance to “see,” not to think, but to “see.” Thinking is a mechanical business, “seeing” is something else.
IDJ: Is this “seeing” done with the mind, or without the mind?
DM: It is a feeling within. I feel thinking is a sort of disorder. When we act from the “seeing,” then our actions are more spontaneous and real. Thinking is conditioned and patterned. This is so much more than any of us have ever dreamed that we are. Nobody ever really told me what this thing called life is, how it got going, and how it began. I decided one can’t think in terms of starting and ending, it’s simply beyond that. We are brought up in a world of beginnings and endings, good and evil, this and that. All this division makes things into many instead of seeing it as one.
Feeling is everything. If you felt “it,” you would probably break out laughing because it just makes everything else look so silly. The whole business of thinking is silly and I begin to laugh. I think that’s why there is much talk about being as a little child.
IDJ: Playing in the “meadow?”
DM: And children do play in the “meadow.” That’s where we are all happiest, in that meadow. It’s fun living, isn’t it? What’s the use of living if you don’t make fun of it and enjoy life. We take everything so seriously, much too somber.
Frank: Could you talk about the woman who would come to visit you in the desert?
DM: Her name was Kathryn Boynton. She was a physician and she was the happiest, most wonderful person to be with. When you saw her come driving in, there was a great feeling of joy. We would feel “thank God, mother Kathryn is home.” She had an office in Los Angeles and a stream of people went to see her there. Occasionally she would take off and came back to the desert—those were wonderful days. I was very fortunate to have known such great people. God, without any effort on my part, brought them into my life and helped show me the road.
It was an over 80-mile stretch from our mesa looking out to the west. When that sun went down it just dripped over the edge of the horizon. When I lived in New York I knew someone who used to take me to the roof of his apartment and show me the lights and the beautiful sunset. To him it was worth everything; that was his desert.
IDJ: Why did you move from New York to Los Angeles?
DM: The movies. I had been on the stage in New York and loved the theater, but movies are quite different. Many people ask me how I could have left a career like the one I had. I simply turned my back on it and walked out. I was happy, happy to get out of it all; the attention focused on the ego, the appearances, and everything.
IDJ: Do you still write these days?
DM: I write myself a lot of little notes but I don’t have a typewriter. I gave all that stuff away. If a certain kind of thought comes to me I may write it down. It sits on my table for a long time then finally gets thrown away or is lost, because it isn’t special. Everybody has it inside of them. You, Frank, all of us do, it’s all there, honestly. Sometimes reading a little snatch of something might open the door for you. I don’t even know what these notes are all about. This one says, “Have your attention on what is and see its fullness in every moment. The presence of God is everywhere, you have only to consciously embrace it with attention.”
When Frank comes to visit me I think of all the things I am going to say to him. When he gets here it’s all empty, everything is gone. It’s great. Lots of times talk will absolutely ruin that which is beyond talk. I love to think of it in the terms of the “meadow,” because there you become a child again; you run and play games and that is all there is. You are doing it, you are “being it” in the “meadow.” I love that “meadow,” but it’s no good looking at it, you have to be in it.
We dream our lives wrapped in cocoons, patterning our lives on the past, repeating old errors. Only when we awaken from the mortal dream do we discover the reality of our being.
When we have been freed of all concepts of God, Jesus, and Buddha and we stand naked with nothing to cling to, then we are open and vulnerable, ready to understand. This is when seeing truth is possible.
Now I am free, alive, and awake! I listen for the voice of the Self and find it everywhere—in the twittering of robins, the squawk of a jay.
I see its reflection in the face of a young child, in the petal of a roadside flower, and in the silence of trees in the forest.
The question, “What do I do about Self-realization?” presupposes there is someone to do something about it. This question comes from a sense of duality, which in itself makes any answer incongruous.
There is nothing to achieve or acquire within this serenity. I see an unlimited, open universe.
The common belief about liberation is that it is something difficult to attain. But it’s so utterly simple and happy beyond happiness, free beyond freedom, powerful beyond power. It’s the wonder of wonders, the very I, I am.
What is there to do about Consciousness but be it, to know the joy and light of it here and now in the present and eternal moment?
Without an open heart, without giving and receiving love, I live a death far worse than any surrender of that limited person known as David.
How many of us dare lay down the burden of the me-sense to enter the infinite wonder where there are no words? How many of us dare to see what the I really is?
Free of the me-sense, I get a glimpse of the enormousness of Awareness. Dead to the me-person, I am that principle which is Life itself.
Let go of the paraphernalia of a preoccupied mind. Become free! Clean the mind of all its rubbish. Mind is never empty. It overflows with the light of unobjectified love.
The mind is a weaving of ideas based on how we have been conditioned to think, react, and desire. Recognizing that it hides our true identity is the first step in returning to the divine wonder of our existence.
We can not use logic to define God. The sooner the reasoning mind makes way for the heart’s truth, the sooner we see the simplicity of reality present in the eternal now. It is never not present.
No books or gurus can awaken us. They are but signposts. If we study signposts, we only go in the direction pointed to. We should not, of course, ignore books, teachers, and gurus; they show us the way. Yet no matter how much we read, meditate, or study with teachers, we ourselves must experience that which is beyond words.
All knowledge is already known by us. Books simply help us recognize what is already ours.
No one can learn for someone else. No one can teach another. It is only through one’s own discovery of the transcendent Self that perfect tranquillity is experienced.
Listen to your heart. Feel from your center and know the truth. It is always there. “Be still and know.” Divine love is all around you.
When the heart opens wide to unobjectified, unpossessing love, it brings peace to others near and far.
The wearisome burden of daily judgments, when recognized, becomes a load one gratefully sets aside. What a relief it is to be finished with the me-sense. This discovery alone results in a feeling of youth, a revelation of new-found energy, time, and freedom.
We struggle to conquer nature. How ridiculous! We really struggle against ourselves, our universe, and all that is ours. We are nature. We are not separate. We are here now as consciousness.
Nothing dies or disappears. Everything is present as it always has been. Because life may move in a direction where the eyes cannot see, there is no reason to believe anything is gone. Nothing is gone. Everything is here. There is no other place to be.
Awakening from the Dream of Me is currently out of print.