130. Andrew Cohen

Andrew CohenAndrew Cohen is an internationally respected spiritual teacher, cultural visionary, and founder of the global nonprofit EnlightenNext and its award-winning publication EnlightenNext magazine. Since 1986, Cohen has been traveling the world giving public lectures and leading intensive retreats. Through his writings, teachings, and ongoing dialogues with leading philosophers, scientists, and mystics, he has become known as one of the defining voices of the new evolutionary spirituality.

Born in New York City in 1955 and raised in a secular Jewish family, Cohen had his passion for spirit unexpectedly ignited at the age of sixteen, when a spontaneous revelation of  “cosmic consciousness” opened his eyes to a new dimension of life. Some years later, as a result of that experience, he gave up aspirations to become a musician and dedicated himself wholeheartedly to its rediscovery. After several years of intensive spiritual pursuit in the United States, including the study of martial arts, Kriya Yoga, and Buddhist meditation, Cohen followed the footsteps of a generation of Western seekers to India. It was there, in the land of the sages, that he met his last teacher H.W.L. Poonja, a disciple of the revered Ramana Maharshi, in 1986. In just a few short weeks, Cohen experienced a life-changing awakening, the story of which was told in his first book, My Master Is My Self. Shortly afterwards, with his teacher’s blessing, Cohen began to teach.

Always an independent thinker, Cohen soon diverged from the traditional Eastern approach that had catalyzed his own awakening, with its emphasis on transcendence and the illusory nature of the phenomenal world. Grappling with questions and challenges that arose as he sought to bring the revelation of enlightenment to a contemporary Western audience, he gradually forged his own original spiritual teaching, Evolutionary Enlightenment. A modern-day equivalent of the ancient wisdom teachings, Cohen’s work is no footnote to tradition, but a distinct and innovative synthesis. He has brought the timeless depth of enlightened wisdom into the twenty-first century and significantly redirected its purpose and promise—calling not for transcendence of worldly attachment, or even for compassionate care and service, but for a deep and heroic responsibility for theevolution of the world. In this, he finds more in common with the great evolutionary visionaries of the last century, such as Sri Aurobindo and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, than he does with the ancient Eastern enlightenment tradition in which his own awakening occurred. To both these streams of thought he adds a further element: a rich and nuanced understanding of the practical dynamics of individual and cultural transformation at our particular moment in history.

Cohen’s interest in cultural evolution is much more than theoretical. For more than two decades he has been intensively engaged with committed individuals and groups from around the world who are striving to put his teachings into practice. This engagement has, in turn, informed his thinking, creating a dynamic and fertile interplay between vision and practice, ideal and reality. Among the many fruits of this work, perhaps the most significant has been a series of breakthroughs into collective or intersubjective higher states of consciousness, and the active translation of these insights into new values, perspectives, and principles that are enabling individuals to lay the foundations for a new cultural paradigm. The results of this living inquiry are embraced and shared by a growing global movement of “Evolutionaries.”

In addition to his work as a teacher, Cohen is also dedicated to changing the cultural conversation about the purpose and significance of spiritual enlightenment in our time. This is best seen in the magazine he founded in 1991, EnlightenNext (formerly What Is Enlightenment?), which has become the premier forum for serious discussion at the intersection of spirituality and culture. In its pages, and the live forums that have grown out of them, Cohen and his team of collaborators have engaged spiritual, religious, cultural, and scientific thought leaders in a dynamic inquiry about the nature of inner and outer evolution. Cohen’s unusual perspective and commitment to dialogue have led to invitations to speak at numerous forums over the years, including the Parliament of the World’s Religions (2004, 2009), LOHAS International Conference, International Transpersonal Conference, Integral Leadership in Action, and the International Conference on the Frontiers of Yoga and Consciousness Research, as well as universities, spiritual centers, and business settings around the world.

EnlightenNext has centers worldwide, and members in more than twenty countries. Cohen lives at the organization’s world headquarters in Lenox, Massachusetts, and spends several months of the year traveling, teaching, and leading retreats around the world.

Cohen’s new book Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path for Spiritual Awakening was released by Select Books Fall 2011. For more information about Andrew Cohen’s work and his upcoming teachings and retreats, visit www.andrewcohen.org.

Books by Andrew Cohen:

Interview conducted 7/14/2012

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

127 thoughts on “130. Andrew Cohen

  1. Hi Everyone,

    I am enjoying the discussions on BatGap. There is a lot of gentleness towards each other and a movement towards a need for clarity

    It seems to me that there is only One, ( How could there be two ? )

    There is often an amusement as why there are discussions about being and becoming as there is only One.
    And in this and as this everything plays out.
    Meaning everything, meaning everything we might call being and becoming, after all they are just words.

    Do we first have to demarcate a difference between being and becoming and come up with all kinds of ideas and concepts about them
    and then say that This includes both?

    Is that not obvious?
    Since there is only One?

    Nothing is ever excluded.
    How could it be?

    But then of course debates about being and becoming, or come
    to that, about personal and impersonal are also playing out in This and as This.

    Awareness mirroring itself in a billion ways. ;-)

  2. What’s in front of you right now is always your own Self. There is no other.

  3. Such beautiful posts – what could be better to awake to on this gorgeous summer day than truth straight from the heart..

    Chuckee – I just put in a vote to Rick for Francis for an interview..

    Brenda – could there be anything better than dancing? I don’t think so…nothing more freeing than to let the body go where it wants to go..pure joy -thanks to you and Chuckee for the reminder..

    HS – perfect – I’ll expect your book on non-duality any day now.. :D

    Ernest – You know the truth – you hear it, you recognize it, you state it beautifully, and then you doubt it…don’t do that..It’s as if one side of the brain is arguing with the other side…and this often happens until the two are made One..
    This being pulled in two different directions can get intense I know – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing…it means that we are getting closer to resolving the paradox – to allowing the mental apparatus to collapse in frustration at its inability to figure it all out
    I would only suggest that you don’t try to hold on to anything too tightly and stay in not-knowing..It’s really a heavenly place to be..this nowhere or now/here, whichever one prefers..

    Anatol – Speaking from experience, I know how difficult it can be to sustain the ambiguity that comes from being neither a saint nor a sinner..to be nothing and nobody without attributes is to truly suffer the dark night…but take heart – once we are willing to meet everything that arises with equanimity, without the spiritual spin, we are home free..

  4. Milia – Thanks for Mooji’s “Duality is not a problem”. Beautiful.

    Jill – You are part of a new breed of online line teachers, and even in this medium, it has proven to be surprisingly effective. I’ve taken your directions and nudgings to heart. They are invaluable clues. But I’ve known from the beginning, this path, I finally have to do on my own. (But I do listen very carefully what everyone has to say.)

  5. Mooji’s Charities… http://www.mooji.org/charities.html

    also someone told me that Adyashanti is doing charities… privately…

    Robert Adams… was a strong proponent of advaita… also did charitable work… to some degree… adapted several children… etc

  6. Dear Chuckee,

    thanks for you honest post.
    I can relate to what you say.
    Three years ago or so the perspective of being the watching became clear, and the unfolding of release of held concepts and believes proceeded without too much of hiccups.

    But now a dear friend is hospitalized with brain damage and i am one of his closest to take care of him, and i see the anxieties which before i could see happening in what i am, taking over the whole of the field, and it seems that that is all that is there.
    Where is the one who is watching?, Where is the space around it?. Which makes it ‘feel’ ok..

    On top of that there is the discomfort of wanting something else then what is here. Something else then the anxieties, and there is where the struggle is, in the resistance of feeling what is here right now. Suddenly it becomes big.

    So seeing this, seeing that there is a movement away from the anxieties, ( i do not want those to be there ).
    A not wanting to experience, there is suddenly a stop, where eveything which is here right now, is felt and experienced as it is, without the labels. The feelings and sensations in the body, the sadness, the hopes and fears, the resistance to wanting to feel this and sitting with this, it slowly becomes something else.
    Just holding this with almost the feeling of how Mother would take in her hurt child.

    Although there is no telling how long this will take.
    And to do this, the sitting with all that is felt as undesirable or uncomfortable, with an aim that it should go away is shooting yourself in the leg. It won’t work.

    So Chuckee to sit with all those doubts, thoughts and confusion with a feeling of eternity, with no end to it?

    Yes it can be at times overwhelming, but why not?
    Even in the darkests of nights there can be a delight even in the experience of this…

    Being brave and honest are your guides…
    You’r doing good…..

  7. Dear Chuckee and Potshots.

    I would recommend checking out and consulting with Neelam. Even for me, ultimately it’s not mind stuff that motivates me, but “life stuff”. She has a lot to say about these, in practical technical detail. And it’s done in such a way that Presence first and foremost, while honoring the process this precious human body needs to go through. It doesn’t have to be this painful with no apparent end.

    Best of wishes, as a fellow traveller in this thing called “life”.

  8. Dear Ernest,

    12 years ago i went on a whim to a meeting with Francis Lucille in Amsterdam. I had never read anything from him, nor did i know much about him. Advaita was still very abstract for me.

    Sitting in this hall with a handful of people, and this small unassuming man talking with a gentleness.
    I did not understand much of what was said, but the resonance was unmistakingly there.
    At the end a woman who had just lost her husband asked Francis how to deal with grief and loss.
    And what he said was something like: to sit with the feelings of grief and loss, unmoving.
    Not to judge, not to resist.
    To sit with it, and not with the idea to get rid of the unpleasant feeling, as then there would be again an agenda.
    A someone who wants to get rid of something.
    But to sit with this as if for eternity.

    This is now of course in my words. But this was the message, which struck home, and has been invaluable as this is how it works when something hits so deep that all the ‘normal’ band aids do not work.

    Now because of my friend in hospital with brain damage there is a deep feeling of sadness,
    an exquisite sadness,
    all the sadness of the world,
    breaking open the heart.
    Its real and authentic.
    Life, raw and deep.

    I

  9. This dew-drop world
    is just a dew-drop world
    and yet …

    This haiku (translated from Japanese into English by Gary Snyder, I believe) was written by Issa, shortly after losing a child …. the third of his children to die in infancy, along with his wife also, following her third pregnancy.

    Along with being a poet, Issa was a lay Buddhist priest, deeply steeping in the wisdom of impermanence — how all phenomena, including human bodyminds, are illusory, and fleeting — which he refers to in the poem as “this dew-drop world.” And yet, he’s also experiencing profound sadness, in the wake of so much loss (the death of not just one child, but three, along with his wife) …. and in the poem acknowledges the paradoxical perfection of that …. welcoming those feelings …. into the embrace of Pure Awareness / Buddha-Nature …. as a mother or father would welcome a child, onto their lap, for a while … until the child was ready to leave, for whatever reasons …..

  10. Dear Mila,

    So beautiful,
    Being touched and gratitude are flowing.

    Thank you

  11. Chuckee –
    Potshots and Ernest shared some beautiful pointers in the direction of non-suffering…They are basically relating what satsang is all about…sitting with the unacceptable – facing everything with Awareness…which is what Francis and Neelam all the true teachers teach…

    We find that each time we meet that which we find most objectionable, within or without, that the deeper good reveals itself to itself…until the acceptance becomes automatic and we are lifted out of separation..

    It seems from your post that you are caught in that place between knowing the Absolute Truth of the matter – that we don’t ‘ultimately have choice about acceptance or resistance or anything we do for that matter, and yet feeling that there’s a person there having a choice…This is where many get stuck..The understanding is ahead of the experience..

    Ramesh’s pointer out of this dilemma, is that as long as we feel to be a person with choices living in the world, we make the ‘apparent’ choices based on our best instincts and information and we try to choose wisely..we try to always choose in our own best interests..

    Choosing wisely in this instance, means to spend quality time – as much as is needed – in the Presence of Silent Mind – consistently – to get up close and personal with a teacher of your choice – not just on the internet – in order to let Grace burn all the vasanas – to bring the story to the forefront so it can be laid to rest – This is the most efficient way to bring the body to peace..

    I suffered for 20 years with the ups and downs of life – trying to transcend the angst instead of meeting it..There was an inner resistance to reaching out for help although I sure looked like I was asking for it….I wanted to do this myself – or through the programs I was attached to – not knowing that the mind will never willingly commit suicide on it’s own..so round and round we went…

    What’s true, is many of us resist bliss although we say we’re working toward it..Suffering is familiar – duality is familiar – bliss is not…and often we’d rather have a suffering identity than none at all…This was hard for me to face until Pamela pointed it out..

    That being said, it’s true that some nervous systems are more difficult to bring to rest – the soul is willing but but the body won’t cooperate physiologically.. However, that Silence – which is the Supreme Yoga – the only power that is greater than the mind – brings every soul to peace…

    Much love and blessings to you…

  12. My dear Chuckee –
    I love your honesty and it’s all true – we can’t make it happen – but sometimes we get too into a head trip – which can be as much an avoidance as a clarification –

    We can become paralyzed by thinking that we can’t do anything toward our salvation..but we can…we make decisions every day – what to eat – where to go – who to see..and going to sit with a teacher is just one of those..

    Indeed, the Absolute is not separate from the relative – they are seamless as you say – but that has to be known and lived on a deep level for it to be workable..and not cause confusion or suffering..

    If there is truly no one there and we are fully conscious, there would be no need of teachers..and no confusion..I don’t believe we can be fully conscious and create suffering for ourselves or anyone else..

    So yes – we all surrender when we surrender…not a minute before – but I will still maintain that not words but the transmission of Silence did me and scores of others that I know, in..wiped out the suffering..

    It can happen anywhere but Grace comes through powerfully in the Presence of one who is empty…it’s the true meaning of alchemy – it does the work of burning up the vasanas….

    Pamela’s pointing out that I was holding on – pointing out my deeper resistance – was a part of it – but it was her Presence – the Grace coming through her – that helped me to ‘allow’ that Love to penetrate..

    Unconditional Love melts resistance and fear..The ‘allowing’ of myself to be with her – the ‘willingness’ to just go for it – was my only contribution to the cosmic event..but it was a necessary one…we do play a part in this…

    The Vedas say that ‘all it takes for freedom is a true teacher and a willing disciple’..If either component is missing – nothing gets resolved…Papaji used to say – ‘I can’t give you anything you’re not willing to receive..or take anything from you you’re not willing to give’…The Universe won’t impose anything on you..

    So although there’s nobody here as you noted, to wrestle with any decisions – paradoxically – it’s still up to us..

  13. Well good – Chuckee – if the nervous system insight resonates – then go with that and throw out all the rest of my blather…All those who care, just want you, and all beings to be at peace..

  14. Re- The dialogue with Chuckee – This is truly the nitty gritty, and there is much to be learned here.

    Most of my suffering takes place in the mind, in the form of old stuff which keeps returning. It is just as real and difficult for me as what what you describe as happening with you Chuckee. There is a certain helpless feeling at knowing that at any time I could just give up, surrender, stop the struggle, let it go and just be with what is. And yet, I have not done that . Is there something wrong with me? Am I really that obstinate, bull-headed, dumb that I can’t just LET IT GO???

    Well there are days when that happens. The Light floods in, all is Love and beauty and acceptance. But then this thinking mind kicks back in again, trying to figure everything out, control what’s going on around me, wanting to finally get it right. It just seems endless.

    Having Jill and Pamela as guides gives strength to be OK with this stuff, and accept it. All of it. And soon I hope to let go of it. All of it… It’s really just one small step…

  15. P.S. Actually, no – I don’t want to let go of all of it SOON. I want to let it all go RIGHT NOW. This instant.

    Really sick of it…

  16. Laurence, Appreciate your honesty… I can really feel the frustration and empathize with you…. You are sitting on a potential pot of gold..

    here’s my 2 cents.. simply an opinion..

    Re: “There is a certain helpless feeling at knowing that at any time I could just give up, surrender, stop the struggle, let it go and just be with what is. And yet, I have not done that . Is there something wrong with me?”
    ——— Be patient and sit with that question… ‘Is there something wrong with me?’… Focus on your body and emotions, your breath.. How does your heart respond to that question? Do any other past emotions, memories, stories come up?

    Also don’t let go of that ‘helpless feeling’…. there’s lots of wisdom and insight if you go deeper into it…

    Re: “Am I really that obstinate, bull-headed, dumb that I can’t just LET IT GO???”
    ———There’s a lot of implied assumptions in here… How do you know it is only about ‘Letting it go’?? What are the reasons that you seem to be in such a hurry and rush to change things? Why do you feel & think the present moment is not OK? If your assumption is that you’re not letting go, therefore you assume you’re HOLDING ON… Why and what do you think you are holding onto?

    ….. Adyashanti’s recent book Falling Into Grace has a chapter titled “Experiencing the Raw Energy of Emotion”… there may be helpful pointers in that for you… I’ll quote some parts:

    Allow your suffering to speak:
    Our suffering consists of two components: a mental component and an emotional component. We usually think of these 2 aspects as separate, but in fact, when we’re in deep states of suffering, we’re usually so overwhelmed by the experience of emotion that we forget and become unconscious of the story in our minds that is creating and maintaining it. So one of the most vital steps in addressing our suffering and moving beyond it is first to summon the courage and willingness to truly experience what we’re feeling and to no longer try to edit what we feel.
    …… Once you touch a particular emotion, allow yourself to begin to hear the voice of suffering. To do this, you cannot stand outside the suffering, trying to explain or solve it; you must really sink into the pain, even relax into the suffering so that you can allow the suffering to speak.
    ….. It’s important that we open all the emotions and all of the thoughts in order to fully experience what is there.
    ….. What you’re looking for is how your suffering, how the particular emotion you are experiencing, actually views your life, views what happened, and views what’s happening now. To do this, you need to get in touch with the story of your suffering. It is through these stories that we maintain our suffering, so we need to speak or write these stories down — even if the stories sound outrageously judgmental or blaming or condemning.

    — Having a complete experience
    In the face of a difficult emotion, we often turn away from the experience by either repressing it or impulsively acting it out; we do not in fact experience what is there all the way through. We have learned to do this over many years as a way to cope with unpleasant emotions and thoughts as they flow through our lives.
    …. As soon as we go unconscious, whatever emotion that happened at that time will be locked in our system. It will stay there and regenerate itself over and over again until we find the capacity to experience that emotion without going unconscious in any way.

    … Even though our stories about what happened may seem very justified, the important thing to remember is that they actually cause us to go unconscious and lock suffering into our bodies. Instead, what we need to do is to find the capacity to feel what we feel without creating more thoughts about it. When you start to experience a difficult feeling, you see that it’s often associated with a memory. As you replay that memory in your mind, if you allow it to be there without a story or conclusion, you start to feel the emotion releasing itself from your system. It may not do this immediately; in fact for a time the experience of suffering may even intensify. But this is only because you’re now experiencing it in a conscious way, not a numbed or a disassociated way. You are becoming very intimate with the moment-to-moment experience of your suffering.

  17. @ Chuckee and Laurence..

    Not sure if anything which will be written will make any difference as you both seem pretty well versed in all the texts, versions and quotes on the subject.
    Grinding at it for long it seems.
    Of course as i have been there i recognize where you are.
    I know when it was just around the corner so to speak, i was often in the conundrum of what Chuckee is speaking. The sense of a person, and the sense of identity being blurred and confused. Is all sense of identity ego?, is it always the person?
    Until it dawned, that all sense of I, is always awareness.
    It is the Ultimate Subject.
    So whenever, which is always, you feel I.
    Say YES I.
    This I is awareness.
    Then in a split second you might see habitually thoughts coming, claiming, thinking, but always on this, your basic true Nature, I.

    The simplicity is staggering.
    Not in some mind stuff figuring out.
    But just your sense of I.
    This is IT.

    As there is only One
    how could it be otherwise.
    You are That already
    I
    Always present in all your experience
    I

  18. Ramana – “If the longing is there, realisation will be forced on you even if you do not want it”

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