Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer and my guest today is Leonard Jacobson. I interviewed Leonard about three years ago and we had audio and visual technical problems, and so, we decided not to air it and we finally got around to doing another one. And I’m glad that sort of that happened because I think that this will probably be a better interview, and I’ve had a lot of chance to prepare for this run. I read his book, Journey into Now, cover to cover and listened to many hours of recordings, and enjoyed very much what I was hearing. Oh, and incidentally, Leonard was really the most requested guest on our list of potential guests. He had more votes than anybody else, so I think a lot of people have been looking forward to this interview. I’ll read a short bio here. Leonard Jacobson is an awakened spiritual teacher, healer, and mystic, who is deeply committed to guiding, and supporting others in their journey towards wholeness. In 1981, he experienced the first of a series of spontaneous mystical awakenings, that profoundly altered his perception of life, truth, and reality. Each of these enlightenment experiences revealed deeper and deeper levels of consciousness, filling his teachings and his writings with profound wisdom, clarity, love, and compassion. He has been running workshops, seminars, and retreats for over 30 years now, offering inspiration and guidance to those on a path of awakening. He shares a simple and direct two-step path to awakening. The first step leads to the awakened state of presence. The second step leads to mastery of the mind and ego. He lives near Santa Cruz, California and is the founder of the Conscious Living Foundation, a registered non-profit organization. He is the author of five books, Words from Silence, Embracing the Present, Bridging Heaven and Earth, Journey Into Now and his latest, a children’s picture book, In Search of the Light. His books have been published in many countries, including the US, Japan, China, Taiwan, Holland, Denmark, Poland, and Lithuania. And you can learn more about Leonard at LeonardJacobson.com. And incidentally, Buddha at the Gas Pump is also a non-profit organization. and we rely on people’s support in order to be able to do this. So, if you appreciate this interview and others, feel free to click the donate button on Batgap.com. Okay, great. So, in Leonard’s book, in the whole last section of it, he describes this series of awakenings that I just alluded to in introducing him. And Leonard and I thought that maybe we’d start this interview by having him go through those in some detail. and then we’ll get into the substance of his teaching. Thanks again, Leonard, for joining us.
Leonard: Thank you, Rick, and thanks for inviting me to be here.
Rick: It’s good to have you. I’ll just let you take it away in terms of this series of awakenings. Maybe I’ll throw in a question now and then, but I’m sure you’ve told this story many times, but there may be many people listening who never heard of you and would like to hear this stuff. And it kind of provides a foundation for the rest of our discussion, like, “Who is this guy who’s saying all this stuff?” It gives us an idea of what you’ve gone through.
Leonard: Well, that makes sense. So, it began in 1981. I think it was Christmas of 1981. And strangely enough, I’d just begun on a path of personal growth, meditation. I’d been reading Krishnamurti. I read a few other books. And one Christmas vacation time in Australia, I decided that I wanted to do something different. So, I did a little research and discovered that there was a seven-day retreat occurring in northern New South Wales. I didn’t know the retreat leader or the group leader. I didn’t know any of the people there, but I thought, “Oh, I might as well go. Something different.” And while I was there, I was very, very honest, very, very open about my humanness. I shared so much about myself. I was so vulnerable. But at the same time, I was becoming more present, even though at the time I didn’t really know what that was. I was beginning to see auras around trees, and everything was kind of taking on a heightened consciousness. And at the end of that seven-day retreat, something very interesting happened to me. I really experienced the first of what was to be a series of spontaneous spiritual awakenings. I wasn’t expecting this. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know what was happening. I had no preparation for it, and yet it happened, and it felt so good that I just let it happen. I didn’t resist it. But basically, I could go into the whole story of how the first awakening occurred. It’s a little bit of a long story, but do you want me to do that or not?
Rick: Well, I’ll tell you what, let’s reserve enough time to cover the whole series of awakenings, and invest as much time in each one as you feel is appropriate. But let’s not eat up all the time on any one of them, because there was this whole progression that took place that’s quite fascinating.
Leonard: Okay, well, at the end of the retreat I walked down to this beautiful river. It was an aboriginal sacred spot. I walked down to the river. I looked up at the trees. There was a bank of trees opposite the river, on the other side of the river. I just found myself spontaneously, without planning this, without thinking about it, I just found myself spontaneously opening my arms, and for about ten minutes I just stood there, becoming one with the trees on the other side of the river. Again, I really wasn’t planning this. It was as if it was being done to me. I can’t explain it beyond that. Then, after about ten minutes, I stepped into the river, walked into the river, and in the center of the river there were very fast-flowing rapids. Under normal circumstances you couldn’t really stand against the rapids. They were too strong. But I had the trees in me, and so again this was happening to me and not me doing it. But I found myself standing against the river and defying the power of the river. I really felt like I could do it because the trees were in me. This went on for about ten minutes. Then I took three or four strokes, maybe a little more, across the rapids into this dark, deep swimming hole. I found myself diving deep into this dark swimming hole and emerging like the creature from the Black Lagoon with this primal roar that was heard way, way downriver. That repeated itself three times. Again, me not doing it. It was happening. I just surrendered to whatever was happening. Then I took a few strokes and went back into the rapids, but this time I surrendered to the river. I was face down and I just let go. I was swept way downstream, head down. I could have so easily hit my head on a rock. It was a pretty stupid thing to do, but I was just going with the flow as it were. Anyway, the river eventually slowed down. I stood up, opened my eyes, and I was quite literally in another world. It was the same world that I’d lived in before this experience, but it looked entirely different. It was as if everything was illuminated from within and illuminated with the presence of God. It was totally overwhelming. It was totally intoxicating. I found myself in another dimension. I went for a long, long walk after that, and I was completely intoxicated with love. I was singing spontaneous songs of love to the trees and the cows that were grazing by the road. It was a totally exhilarating, ecstatic experience. Anyway, this eventually settled down, and the whole experience lasted about three weeks, I think it was. I was taken through a whole process, which in the beginning of this process involved my own healing of the past. It was as if my past and how I’d become dysfunctional was revealed to me, and all the ways I was dysfunctional or neurotic or whatever, just normally neurotic like everyone else. But it was all being revealed to me, and it was as if I was being healed. I don’t know how that happened, but it’s as everything came to consciousness that’s what occurred. Then the energy shifted, and I started to get all sorts of communications. I don’t know where it was coming from, from another dimension, about what has happened not just to me but to the whole of humanity. How have we gone so far astray? What is the journey that we’re really on? Who are we really? What’s the point of our existence? All these things were being revealed to me, which really formed the basis of my teaching even today. What was revealed to me during this first awakening. Then again, the energy changed. A very noticeable shift in energy and consciousness, and suddenly I felt the energy of God in everything, including myself. Now prior to this moment, Rick, I was somewhere between atheist and agnostic. I had no interest whatsoever in God, no interest in Jesus, the Bible, Christianity, or any religion. I rejected all of it. But here’s God, unmistakable in everything, overwhelmingly. I just knew instantly this was God. I don’t know how I knew, but then God spoke to me. I didn’t know where the voice was coming from. This is all very strange, I realize. But God asked a very strange thing of me, which was, “God asked me to tell the truth about Jesus.” My response to God was, “I don’t know what you’re speaking about.” And if I did, I wouldn’t tell anyway. And I didn’t know what that meant either. Anyway, this went on for some time. As I said, this awakening lasted about three weeks, in this radically altered state. A lot of very interesting things happened. But after about three weeks I began the process of integrating back into a more normal level of consciousness. I felt during this experience I was in the company of saints and sages. I felt like I was being guided, instructed. I felt like I was very connected to other dimensions. And yet I still have my feet firmly in this dimension here. So, it was a very multi-dimensional experience, and truthfully quite difficult. I wouldn’t really recommend it for anyone. It could have been very, very confusing if it didn’t feel so good. Anyway, after this experience it took me about three years to integrate what had happened. I also began teaching during this three-year period. And then this time I was running a retreat. Three years later I was running a retreat at the same retreat center. Beautiful, beautiful center. And at the end of the retreat, I had my second awakening. I won’t go into all the details, but it’s enough to say that I was definitely in an eternal dimension, a timeless dimension. It felt to me like heaven on earth. There’s no other way to describe it. It was so beautiful, so full of oneness. I felt so immersed into the moment, one with everything around me. And I was pretty tired, so I lay down on the grass and just stretched my arms out. And before I knew it, I was on the cross, experiencing the crucifixion in perfect detail, incredible detail. I could see the people; the sun was shining in my eyes. It was a very realistic experience. It felt like I was experiencing what Jesus experienced on the cross. And it really led up to that point where he cried out, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” At that point I opened to another level somehow, and I was given information to give to Jesus in that moment on the cross. Now don’t ask me to explain why or how all this happened, although later on it did seem to have a lot of purpose as the years progressed. It started to make a lot more sense to me.
Rick: Do you feel that whatever that information was, was actually conveyed to him through some kind of like …?
Leonard: Most definitely, yeah. I really feel that.
Rick: Like Jesus on the cross 2000 years ago actually received some information from some guy 2000 years in the future.
Leonard: I really suspect that could be true, but how could I know for sure?
Rick: I’m open to the possibility, it’s just like a pretty far out idea.
Leonard: That’s what it felt like to me. And it felt like a deep, deep healing occurring at a level of collective consciousness that needs to be healed.
Rick: Do you care to say what that information was in a nutshell?
Leonard: It’s a huge amount of information. Many years later I wrote a play called Liberating Jesus, which we did a three camera shoot and we have it on DVD. But essentially, it’s pretty radical. In my view, it elevates Jesus to a level beyond where the Christians have him, but it would also upset the majority of Christians to read what I wrote about it. Essentially, he’s saying, if I boil it down to a complete nutshell, he’s saying, “I’m not your savior. You have to save yourself. And I’m here to reflect to you who you really are. If you feel love in my presence, it’s because you are love. If you feel God in my presence, it’s because God is within you. Please don’t project the source of these things onto me. I have no desire to stand between you and God.” In fact, from what I could gather and realize, Jesus would be absolutely horrified by what has happened to his simple teaching. But that’s another story. It’s a long story. So anyway, I had so many revelations about the life of Jesus, the true meaning of his words, the true message that he was sharing. It all came through while I’m in this altered state on the cross, and all these revelations flowing through. I was afraid to speak of it for many years, Rick, because I was afraid of what they’d do to me, because it was so different. Anyway, it took probably three months for that awakening to subside, and during those three months I was just in a profoundly altered state of oneness, a very pure state of oneness. There was no sense of time. There was no sense of me outside of this moment. And it went on and on. I was in a friend’s little cabin in the forest for about three months, and eventually the words arose within me, “No one will come,” which was true in Australia at that time, “No one will come.” So, I began a process which took some time to slowly come down to a more normal level of consciousness where I could integrate what I’d awakened to.
Rick: So “No one will come” meant nobody’s going to show up here to guide you through this, you’re just going to have to integrate it on your own? Is that what that meant?
Leonard: No, somehow that meant no one will come to hear or receive what had opened up within me. So, if they won’t come to me, I’d better come down from this mountain and come to them.
Rick: I see.
Leonard: And that was the beginning of my journey, really.
Rick: Yeah, it’s not like they’re going to go seek you out in the forest. You needed to integrate enough to get back in the world and talk to people.
Leonard: Exactly. Then the third awakening, I can just very, very briefly describe it as an awakening into God-consciousness. There’s no way to describe that. It was a total immersion in God-consciousness, a total immersion into Oneness. It almost feels silly to speak about it because there’s no way that words can convey it. I experienced the beginning of time; I experienced the end of time and everything in between. without being able to rationally tell you what that means. There was so much opening up at a mystical level. Essentially, these are mystical experiences and if you try to understand them, you’ll get crazy. You can’t understand them, but you can relax and allow them to integrate within you. And that’s really what I did. So, I see the first awakening as a very profound opening into love. I see the second awakening as a profound opening into Christ-consciousness. And the third opening was into God-consciousness. And then after that there were a number of smaller awakenings, kind of fine-tuning the whole thing and helping me to integrate everything. I don’t need to go into all the details of the other ones, although they’re pretty interesting.
Rick: Yeah, and it’s detailed more in your book also.
Leonard: It is. The other thing is these are just my experiences. And I don’t like people to think that awakening is about these peak experiences. That’s what happened to me. They were sudden, they were powerful, they were profound, they were spontaneous. I never invited any of them. I didn’t want any of them. But I had to surrender to them as they occurred. The danger is that people start to hear stories like this or stories from other people and think, “Oh, that’s what awakening is.” In my view, it’s not. These are peak experiences that pass.
Rick: Yeah, well the peak aspects pass, but you did integrate them and your life was radically transformed. So, something didn’t pass, just sort of the flashy, unintegrated phase of it passed, right?
Rick: I think one thing that sometimes people feel, I think people have heard experiences like that from various people, and I think there’s a tendency for a little bit of envy to come up. “God, I’ve been sitting on this meditation cushion for 10 years, and I don’t seem to be getting anywhere, and this guy doesn’t do anything, and all of a sudden he’s zapped by cosmic forces.” And it’s all this profound transformation. It’s like, “Hey, what’s the matter with me?” In an esoteric sense, do you have any sense that you had done a lot of the groundwork in previous lifetimes or something, and it was just coming to fruition?
Leonard: Yeah, I have no doubt that I was more or less destined to go through these experiences, and that was one of the reasons I’m here, is to go through these experiences and unravel the mystery of my own journey and my own life, and how I’d gone astray, and is there a simple and clear way of awakening? That’s really the question we all need to really find answers to. Is there a simple and clear way of awakening? Because we humans have been on this path for thousands of years, and without a whole lot of success. But my sense of it is the timing has changed. There’s something significant about the timing now that wasn’t available to us before. And in my sense of it is, there is such an opportunity for awakening for anyone who truly, truly wants it.
Rick: Yeah, I have that sense too from the perspective of this show, talking to so many people and all, it’s just there’s some kind of epidemic taking place, in a good sense. And if you want to get infected, now’s the time. There’s a real opportunity for making great spiritual progress if you put yourself in that stream.
Leonard: Right, and if you’re willing to release the past, the old ways that have tempted to guide us for so long, we really need to surrender the past, including past spiritual practices, religions, all of it, if we’re going to fully immerse ourselves into the present.
Rick: Yeah, and so in just a second let’s get into your teaching. But I just want to make a wrap-up point, which is it does seem that you had a destiny or a mission, which you were unaware of up until stuff like that started to happen. But you said in the first awakening that you felt like there were kind of beings around you, and God was speaking to you, and also it would almost seem that on subtler dimensions, there were some intelligences pulling strings and saying, “Okay, Leonard is ready, let’s give him some juice and get him going on his mission.”
Leonard: I think that’s really exactly right. Some strange, very strange things occurred during the first and second awakening. I’ll just give you one example, and again, I’m not doing it and I don’t understand it, but suddenly there were a whole series of what are known as mudras, where you’re in different positioning of the hands. I had about 40 positions that I had to go through and get right, and that was a communication with another dimension. And I can’t explain that rationally, but I knew it, and it took me a while to just spontaneously open up to those mudras. And I’ve never done a mudra before in my life.
Rick:I think another good point to throw in is that some people tend to dismiss all this kind of stuff as distraction or superfluous, or you’re dabbling in illusory realms or something like that, and they tend to dumb down awakening to, in my opinion, something. I mean, it should and is, it’s a very simple thing in its essence, but sometimes this kind of stuff comes along with it, and it should be honored and recognized for what validity it has, and we should never dismiss anybody else’s experience or belittle it because it’s not our experience. At least that’s my opinion.
Leonard: Well, I agree with that, Rick, but the flip side of it is that, after all my profound experiences of the past, whether if we look at Buddha, if we look at Jesus, Ramana, any of the awakened beings on this planet today, after all their powerful awakenings and enlightenment experiences of the past, we’re all left in the same place, and I’ll guarantee they would agree with this if they were sitting here with us. And that same place is so simple… it’s here now. And all the lights have gone off � we’re still here. But peak experiences are like all experiences � they come, they go, they pass. “This too shall pass.” So, the question is, what doesn’t pass? What remains after all experience has passed? And the answer is the one who is experiencing.
Rick: And that segues us into a discussion of your teaching, so let’s get into that – the two phases you describe.
Leonard: Yeah, well, what I share is a two-step path of awakening. I sometimes call it a two-step dance of awakening, which is less steps than the waltz. Pretty simple. And step one is also remarkably simple. I just pray that people can recognize how simple and easy and available it is. Step one is learning the art of being present. And I share such a simple way of coming out of the past and future world of the mind into the world of now. See, when you’re in the mind, you’re in the past or future. There’s no way around that. Whenever you think, all thought is past or future. You can’t think about the present moment. You can only think about something in the past or something in the future. So, in order for you, for me, for any of us to come out of the past and future world of the mind, we just bring ourselves present with something that’s actually here in the moment with us. So, if you can see it, hear it, feel it, taste it, touch it, or smell it in this moment, it means it’s really here. You’re not imagining it. You’re not remembering it. It’s here. And the moment you’re truly present with something that’s here, you must come out of the mind, because mind is past/future. Thoughts must stop without you even intending them to stop, because thoughts are past/future. It’s as simple as you coming out of the past and future by being present with what is here. So, for example, you could close your eyes, and when your eyes are closed, the closest thing for you to be present with is your body breathing. Just bring yourself present with your body breathing. Then I could ask you, “Who is present, aware of the body breathing in this moment?” The answer is so simple. I am. It’s such an important declaration. Who is here now? I am. I am here. Who is here? I am. You can be present with the sound you hear. You can be present with what you see if your eyes are open. You can be present with what you feel, smell, taste, touch. So, there are so many opportunities and so many ways to be present through the senses. It’s essentially being present through the senses. And if you’re truly present, I can guarantee you your thoughts will stop. Even if it’s for three seconds, they will stop if you’re truly present, and you’re not trying to stop them. To try and stop thoughts reinforces the thinking process. It just strengthens the thoughts. So, you have to really just let the thoughts be what they are and just bring yourself present in the way that I’m describing. And then, once you know the way…
Rick: Before you get to step two, are you going to do step two now?
Leonard: I was going to continue with step one.
Rick: Okay, go ahead, and then I’ll have a question when you finish step one.
Leonard: Okay, all right. So, what I say to people is, once you know the way, how simple it is to be present, then it’s up to you to, as often as you like, remember to be present throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be all the time. Every now and then, just notice you’re in the mind, notice your thinking, and then very gently, but very clearly, become very deeply present, even if it’s just for a few moments. Then what will happen is the presence will start to get fuller and fuller within you. It’s as if you’re building up your presence muscle, or presence is opening within you. You’re becoming more and more present. Essentially, that’s step one. So, you can ask your question.
Rick: good. A couple of questions. One is, as you were speaking, I was listening to you. I was present with what you were saying. I wasn’t thinking about what you were going to say or what you had said. I was just listening. But I understood your words, which is in a way a kind of thinking. I’m interpreting sounds and giving them meaning based upon my understanding of what sounds mean and what the English language means. So, in a way, there were some thoughts there. And also, occasionally, some little question would come to mind. I think I’ll ask him about this. I was having thoughts, even though I was present with what you were saying. My mind hadn’t completely shut down. I hadn’t gone into a state of transcendence or anything in which I wasn’t hearing anything. So that’s question one. Go ahead and respond to that.
Leonard: so first of all, I cannot tell you anything that you don’t already know. So, if I’m speaking from presence and you’re hearing from presence, the truth that I’m speaking resonates with the truth that exists within you and exists within everyone. The truth doesn’t belong to me. You can’t know it with your mind. It’s a transcendent state. You’re just hearing me in presence, and you just know. Now of course your mind is involved. When I’m speaking to you, my mind is an instrument of expression, but the words are not coming from within the mind. I don’t know what I’m saying, what comes next. I don’t remember what I said a moment ago. I’m in the present moment. The words are expressing from the source, from presence, but my mind is an instrument of expression. So, as you’re listening, your mind can still be an instrument of hearing, but you’re hearing from another level. The more present you are, the more the truth will be known in silence, as if you know, but you don’t know how you know, you just know.
Rick: Good. The second question I have is, being present with whatever is here, the camera or a tree, or whatever you’re experiencing in the moment, you’re present with a sensory perception, but in spiritual circles there’s discussion of the idea that sensory experiences, even if you’re in the moment, tend to overshadow pure consciousness, like the movie screen analogy where the movie overshadows the screen, you don’t actually see the undifferentiated white screen, you just see the moving, changing pictures. So, there’s this idea in spirituality of getting down to the essence of presence, pure consciousness without an object, so as to experience it in its unadulterated purity and fullness, and then somehow integrating that into activity. So how does that juxtapose with the technique you’re presenting, where throughout the day you would just be present with a sensory experience? How would it be that those sensory experiences do not overshadow pure consciousness as all sensory experiences tend to do in the average person?
Leonard: Okay, so first of all, by being present through the senses, by being present with what I see, that’s how I come out of the mind and know I’m present. But then that presence, I am that presence, presence is, I am, presence is, thou art. Then the whole being is involved, and at the center of the being, at the center of presence, is pure consciousness. So, if I say to you, “I am present in this moment,” you could say to me, you could ask me, “Well, who is present?” I would answer, “I am.” But if you really can meet me in that “I am,” we’ll both become completely silent. Then I could say, “Who is I am?” I am. And without using words to define it, that “I am” is pure consciousness. It’s at the very source of who we are. It’s at the very center of everything. It’s the center of your being. It’s pure consciousness itself. And pure consciousness, there’s only one pure consciousness. It’s the one pure consciousness in me, in you, and in the tree. So, I don’t go along with this idea that somehow we need to transcend the object. God is as much in the tree as God is in me. Presence and pure consciousness is as much in the tree, or the clouds, or the sky, or the mountain, as it is in me or you. Pure consciousness is the essence that is in everything. Now of course, awakening means awakening into that pure state of consciousness. It’s really like being full of nothing or nothingness. But to open into a state of nothingness, even if you’re experiencing nothingness in this moment, who is experiencing nothingness? I am. That’s Christ consciousness as far as I’m concerned. I am, God is. I am, silence is. I am experiencing nothingness. Everything is just dissolving into pure light or pure energy. I’ve experienced that many times. Now the next step beyond that is I have disappeared and only God is. But I can’t think about that. To think about it, to define it, to understand it brings me back. So, at best it’s a momentary experience. It might be a momentary experience that lasts a few days, although that’s highly unlikely. So, from my perspective, at the very deepest level we open into God consciousness, which is pure consciousness, eternal infinite silence, eternal infinite peace, eternal infinite nothingness. But then I would go further than that and say, beyond everything and nothing, I am and God is. You see, too many people are getting caught up in the duality of everything and nothing. You’ve got many people on the spiritual path seeking God as everything or seeking everything. Then you’ve got other people on the path of awakening seeking to eliminate themselves from existence by opening into nothingness. Why would we want to open into nothingness? We need to be fully here, fully present in the purest way with what is here. Then I can meet you, Rick. You can meet me. We can meet each other. We can really experience the true nature of the tree or the flower or the ocean. There’s no need to eliminate ourselves from this existence. If I was to speak as a mystic, I would say, “God’s gone to an awful lot of trouble to get you here. Why do you want to disappear yourself into nothingness?” That’s just a spiritual concept that many people are caught up in. Even though it’s true, even though there is a dimension where nothingness opens up completely and magnificently, but it’s momentary. But then the mind and the ego will get hold of it, turn it into an Advaita Vedanta principle, and then we will get lost in principles and concepts again.
Rick: Yeah, I tend to agree. And I’ve talked with and run into a number of people who are just so fixated on this idea that they don’t exist, there is no person, there’s nobody here, nobody’s choosing, nobody’s doing anything.
Leonard: Well if anybody said that to me I’d ask them, “Why am I talking to you? You’re not here.”
Rick: Yeah, and they would probably say, “Well it’s just this, you know, that is kind of….” It’s hard to talk to such people for me. There’s this sort of obliteration of any, at least conceptually or the way they talk, obliteration of any sense of individual ego, which I can’t imagine would hold up if I hit their finger with a hammer, or if something really intense happened in their experience. There’s still somebody, to some extent, that’s living life.
Leonard: In fact, that reminds me, after my first or second awakening, I can’t remember which one, I hit my finger with a hammer. And boy, did a nice expletive come out of me at that moment.
Rick: Yeah, it wasn’t like the tree got hurt over there, it was like Leonard.
Leonard: I really understand, I don’t want to be disrespectful to that position either, because I really get it and it really is an experience that you can open into, this profound experience of transcendent nothingness. Everything is just energy, pure energy. I get that, but don’t turn it into a concept and find a balance. Nothing doesn’t extinguish everything.
Rick: And isn’t there a paradoxical simultaneity in people’s experience or in your experience, where there is that dimension of nothingness and no one and so on, and that’s there on a silent level, but simultaneously there is the dimension of stuff and people and you and God. There’s a both/and situation that’s always going on?
Leonard: Right, and you know how I describe that in my teaching, Rick, is I describe presence as being on a vertical axis. The world of experience within time is a horizontal axis and presence is a vertical axis. You can become more and more and more deeply present. On this vertical axis, there’s a point on this vertical axis that you go beyond time, time disappears. Now you’re in the eternal dimension. Now you’re in oneness. All separation is dissolved. You’ve transcended the world of the mind and the world of illusion. You’re in the oneness, and at the very core and very center of that, the very deepest level of that, of course, is the nothingness. And that’s what most people are afraid of, strangely enough. Everyone is afraid of the nothingness. That’s another story we can get into. But for me, the model that we need for humanity at this stage is to open up into this deep transcendent timeless state, absolutely, and to know that that’s the truth of who you are. But to be able to move up and down this vertical axis where you can play in the world of time, where you can use your mind, you can enjoy your relationships, you can go to work, but you don’t get identified with that story unfolding within the world of time. Your feet are still firmly planted in the present moment, but you can move up and down this vertical axis of presence. You can tell jokes, you can sit in the coffee shop, you can talk to your friends, but in any moment, if you want, in any moment, you can become instantly, immediately present. Your mind is silent. So, you can literally play in those two dimensions without getting caught in the world of time.
Rick: I like that. And even then, when you’re telling jokes or maybe running through an airport trying to catch a plane or something, at the foundation of all that busyness, there’s the silence, right? It’s not an either/or, this or that kind of situation.
Leonard: That’s right, and I think many people do regard it as this or that. In other words, when I’m present, I can’t participate in the world, in the world of time, I can’t really speak with others. I have to go into my mind to accomplish that. I have to go back into that world of the past and future, and that’s a mistake in my view. You can master the art of playing in the world of time and yet remaining present. And at any given moment you become profoundly present and time disappears. If you can play between those two dimensions, life becomes remarkably easy, because you don’t take anything too seriously within the world of time. You don’t take your enlightenment seriously, you don’t take awakening seriously. It’s all too simple.
Rick: I’ve heard it suggested, perhaps by you, but maybe it was by somebody else, that this vertical and horizontal dimension thing that you just discussed is actually what the cross symbolizes. You can comment on that, but this also, what we’ve just been discussing maybe leads us into step two of your teaching, which is the integration of this presence into active life, so that it’s not an either/or, this or that situation.
Leonard: Right, well, you know what I say to people is, being present is remarkably simple, but remaining present as you live your life, as you enter into your relationships, as you go to work, is not so simple. And that’s why we need step two. Step one leads to presence, but step two leads to mastery of the mind and ego. And step two really involves bringing conscious awareness to all the ways that you’re pulled out of the present moment. How does that happen? Why does that happen? Step two involves bringing to conscious awareness all those aspects of yourself that have been until now unconscious. And so, step two is a process that occurs over time, but you can’t even begin step two unless step one is well and truly in place. They kind of go together.
Rick: And you’re never finished with step one either, are you? Because there’s always opportunities to be more deeply in presence in each moment.
Leonard: Well, yes, but once you’re present, you’re present. I’m never not present. I’m not saying I’m always at that very deep level of presence, although it’s available to me, but I’m playing in the world of time like everyone else. But I never, ever get caught up in the story anymore. And the reason I say that is not to blow my own trumpet here, but to really reflect that to your audience that that’s so available to us. We don’t have to be lost in the mind functioning as egos in the world, functioning unconsciously. It’s really possible to awaken into this transcendent state and then master the mind and ego, so you’re really never, ever pulled out again, out of presence in any permanent sense. In fact, my view of true awakening is both those elements together. In other words, I’m fundamentally and deeply present, deeply grounded in presence, but I’m also a master of the mind and ego, and I can no longer be pulled involuntarily out of presence.
Rick: Even under the most extreme circumstances? Is there ever a time when you’re pulled out momentarily, maybe a hammer on the finger or somebody totally loses it and starts screaming at you about something, or is it really unshakable at this point?
Leonard: Well, I think it’s fairly unshakable, but I don’t want that to sound too special. It’s just how it is. It’s not that difficult. The last time someone really yelled and screamed at me was at one of my retreats in Provence, and boy, did he go for it!
Rick: In French? Maybe you didn’t understand it because it was French.
Leonard: In American, actually. But he really, really lost it. If I was capable of being scared, I would have been very scared, but I was able to remain present throughout it, not to take it on, which was actually very, very healing for him to be allowed to express at such a deep level and not have a reaction come your way.
Rick: When he was yelling at you like that, despite the fact that presence wasn’t lost, was there still a gut reaction or an adrenaline thing going on with you? Was it sort of hitting your heart?
Rick: You could still be upset by something or be sad or be angry or whatever, but you’re just saying that those things no longer usurp or disrupt presence.
Leonard: Pretty much, pretty much. I’m capable of getting angry or feeling hurt, but it doesn’t last more than a few moments. And if I get angry, I’ll apologize immediately, because I realize that something got triggered, that’s all. But it really doesn’t happen very much, I can assure you. But I don’t want to present being present or being awake as some kind of perfect state. That would be so misleading. I think the perfect outcome is a beautiful blending between the godly dimension of you and the human dimension of you. It’s a coming together into oneness. And for me, that’s what Christ signifies. Christ is a state of consciousness where you as an individual come into perfect alignment, balance, integration with that awakened, eternal, infinite dimension within you, which at the deepest level is God anyway.
Rick: I think this kind of discussion is useful for people because there are so many ideas about what awakening might be or what it might be like, and I think the more clarity that can be brought to it in terms of what it actually is like to live, the less people will be inclined to have fanciful or fantastic notions about it that they’re never going to achieve, and that will keep them forever looking for something that’s like a unicorn or unrealistic.
Leonard: I don’t want to make it sound too ordinary either, because when you were just speaking, Rick, I have to tell you, your face completely transformed, and you had a very long beard. So, I don’t know who the heck was talking.
Rick: I think it was Lao Tzu. You think you were flashing on some past life thing of me or something?
Leonard: Probably, yes. So, it’s both ordinary and extraordinary, and what I say to people is, if you won’t accept the present moment as ordinary, it will not reveal its extraordinary nature. And so, it’s a balance between the ordinary and the extraordinary, neither this nor that. We find a balance within the world of duality. Not everything, not nothing. This brings us into the center. Not joy, not pain. This brings us into the center. But when I say “not,” they’re equal, everything is equal. Joy and pain are equal. Happy and sad are equal. Life and death are equal. That brings us to the center, which then opens us up into that vertical dimension of presence.
Rick: I just experienced a wave of goosebumps as you were saying that, because I appreciated it so much, and I appreciate so much in your book this balance between the ordinary and the extraordinary. You make it so down to earth and simple, and at the same time you’re not afraid to talk about past lives or subtle dimensions or God, all this stuff which is real. And people do eventually experience this stuff, and it needs to be part of the equation without having the whole thing seem so fantastical that the simplicity of it is overlooked.
Leonard: Right, and I know that some people who have experienced different teachers who have come to see me, they don’t quite like when I start speaking about God. It’s not that “in,” if you get my drift, right? But when I speak of God, I’d really like to share what I mean by that, when I speak of God, because it’s not a religious God. I’m not using the term “God” in a religious sense at all. But for me, and God opened up in me and to me in that first awakening, it’s so simple. God is the silent presence at the very heart of all things present. God is real. God is here now, but we are not. If we want to experience the living presence of God in all things present, we have to come to where God is, which is in the present moment. And at the deeper levels of presence, you might begin to experience, sense, feel, recognize the living presence of God in all things present, including you and me at the very center of our being. For me, God and pure consciousness are virtually interchangeable terms, but I love the word “God.” It just adds such a dimension, such a beauty to the whole experience. It seems to add something to me.
Rick: Yeah, for me the word “pure consciousness” has a kind of a flat connotation, but “God” has more of a rich, kind of nuanced connotation. When you think about it, if you look at a fruit fly or something, microscopically, there is such a vast intelligence involved in that little entity on every level, from the subatomic to the molecular to the biological. What a miracle, what a marvel. And the entire universe is equally marvelous in every speck of its existence, this vast universe. So, when I start thinking about that, it really evokes the sense of just an infinite intelligence that’s orchestrating something really marvelous and miraculous, and that to me is God.
Leonard: Yeah, and beyond our capacity to understand with a rational mind.
Rick: Right. God is the silent presence at the very heart of all things present.
Leonard: Essentially, it’s really a mystical experience. To experience God is essentially a mystical experience, and it’s a direct experience. And it’s available to anyone who is at a deep enough level of presence, but here’s the catch. If you want it, you won’t get it. If you look for it, you won’t find it. There can’t be an agenda. If there’s an agenda, that’s the ego coming in very subtly, and as long as the ego is coming in into your experience of presence, it keeps that door closed.
Rick: Yeah, I heard you say that on a recording, and I thought of examples of great devotees like Mirabai or Saint Teresa or someone who just kind of had this ardent yearning and longing for God and love for God and so on, and they were eventually rewarded with that union with God. So, I kind of questioned whether the longing and the wanting is really an obstacle or whether it sometimes goes with the territory of someone who has that kind of makeup and destiny.
Leonard: You know Rick, that’s a really good point, and for me the distinction is between the longing that arises from the soul, and my guess is those examples you mentioned, that’s all very, very deep, deep longing that arises from the soul. The soul is longing for a return home. The soul is longing for a return to oneness. That’s the soul’s ultimate destiny; is a return to oneness. The soul’s journey began in oneness. Then the beginning of the journey was entering into duality, separation, and ultimately after many, many lifetimes and incarnations, a return to oneness. So that longing can arise from the soul, in which case it will definitely bring that outcome that you mentioned, that opening into God. But the longing can also come from the mind and the ego, and the ego is looking for enlightenment. The ego is wanting longing for escape from this mundane world, or escape from the pain, or seeking the ultimate accomplishment. And it can feel like a longing, it can be like almost a driving force, but there’s a huge distinction between the longing that arises from the ego and the mind, and longing of the soul. And many of us feel that longing of the soul. I know I did, and I’m sure you did.
Rick: And do. And there could be even greater degrees of intensity for it, but I understand the distinction, and I’ve kind of been in both places. There’s the sort of “life sucks, get me out of here” phase, and then there’s more of a mature phase, I think, where one just is enamored of the mystery and the beauty of God that one senses and wants to experience more fully.
Leonard: I think it’s important to realize and remember that to be fully awakened beings is our natural state. It’s completely unnatural to be lost in the mind as the whole of humanity is, governed and driven by the ego. That’s completely unnatural, but it’s normal. Our natural state is to be present, to be awakened beings, eternal beings. That’s who we really are. But we’ve become so distracted by the story unfolding within the world of time, so identified with it, that we’ve disconnected from the truth that is ever-present within us.
Rick: And it’s been going on this way throughout recorded history.
Leonard: Correct. Right. But there’s a shift happening. I’m so delighted with the shift that’s occurring, both as I see other teachers sharing what they’re sharing, and the people that come to see me, I just see that shift. What I had to do to wake people up after my first awakening, like back in the 1980s, is so radically different than what is necessary now. It’s so easy now. People are so ready, it’s astonishing. I can walk into a room and people are present almost instantly, and they get it.
Rick: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that. We have a lot more to still talk about with step 2 of your teaching, but I’m wondering, you’ve been teaching for 30 years or something now, and what’s your track record? And how has that track record improved, as you were just alluding, over time? And what, it may be trivial or silly to speak of percentages, but typically among the people who have been following you or working with you for some time, how are they doing? And to what extent do you feel like they’ve become established in a stable state of presence as you have?
Leonard: Well, would say quite a few. I haven’t counted them, but quite a few. And I have people coming to be with me, to sit with me and come to the retreats, who have been coming for 20 years. Now, they’re not coming because they’re looking for anything anymore. They’re coming because they like to sit in presence, and their contribution is so valuable for new people who are attending, because with a bunch of mature students who are all deeply in presence, it really creates a powerful field of presence. And I’m very clear about not encouraging any kind of projection. The presence, what happens when I am very, very present, or there are other mature students with me who are very present, it’s an invitation for the presence in others to awaken. You can’t get anything from outside of yourself, but by being in a very strong field of presence, it invites the presence within you or within those who are attending the retreat to basically open up and to come into play.
Rick: Yeah, and I’ve seen a lot of that, a lot of teachers do talk about that. It’s as if there’s a kind of a subtle field that we immerse ourselves in in such a gathering, and it’s very conducive to waking up, as opposed to let’s say, hanging out in a bar with a bunch of drunks or something. That might too have its value, but there’s something about being in a community of like-minded awakened people that is really conducive to awakening.
Leonard: I agree with that, Rick. And for me it’s about the invitation. When people come to one of my retreats, or one of someone else’s retreats, it doesn’t matter, there’s an invitation into presence. Whereas in our normal life, no one is inviting you into presence. Everyone’s inviting you into their story or into their illusory world, and they want you to get involved and believe in their story and get emotionally involved in it. Whereas at a retreat, or in this situation, even watching this video, there’s an invitation into presence. It’s so simple, it’s so available to us. Just be present, just be here in this moment. No past, no future, just this moment. Your body is breathing. You’re present with the sound you hear. You’re present with what you see if your eyes are open. You can feel the air upon your face. It’s so simple. And then you can be present anywhere, that’s the beautiful thing about it. You can be present washing the dishes. You can be present as you wash the dishes with the warmth of the water, with the smell of the soap, with the look of the plate as you place it into the water. There are so many opportunities every day to be present. What I say to people is, “If there’s no need to be thinking, then be present. If there is a need to be thinking, then think clearly and think well.” That’s it.
Rick: Do you ever do things like you’re driving your car and you’ll listen to music on the radio or something like that, or would you consider that to be an unnecessary distraction and not conducive to being fully present?
Leonard: Well, of course I love to listen to the radio. I might switch from music to CNN, who knows, while I’m driving along. For me, none of this is serious. You don’t want to, again I’ll stress, awakening is our natural state. We don’t want to make it special. If we make it special, we put it beyond our reach. So, one who is awake, essentially if they’re really honest, lives a fairly ordinary life. I do what I used to do. It’s like that old saying, “What did you do before enlightenment? I chopped wood and carried water.” What did you do after enlightenment? And now we bring that into our current time. What did you do before enlightenment? I answered my emails and did my tax returns. What did you do after enlightenment? I answered my emails and did my tax returns. Things don’t have to change. You continue with your life. Although naturally change happens, it can’t not happen. It’s a very organic process. As you transcend your story and become present, you transform your story. You’re not even trying to transform your story, the world you live in. It’s happening just by being present. That’s the beautiful thing about presence. It really doesn’t require a whole lot of effort. There’s a law that I share, a law of awakening, which is the outer world manifests as a reflection of your inner world. So, if your inner world is the world of presence, which is love, peace, silence, acceptance, compassion, realization of oneness, if that’s your inner world, gratitude, generosity, if that’s your inner world and that’s the world that’s fundamentally the world you’re living in, in your inner world, well what kind of outer world will manifest as a reflection of that? On the other hand, if you’re caught in the mind, you believe in conflict, in separation, in achievement, in outcome, and all of those things that go along with life, that kind of life, well what kind of world is going to manifest? I think it’s a pretty simple law that works.
Rick: Yeah, look at the kind of world that manifests these days.
Leonard: Well, it’s the result of human unconsciousness.
Rick: Y eah, the vast majority.
Rick: Let me probe into this presence thing a little bit more by referring to my own experience a little bit. I have decades of spiritual practice under my belt and so on, but my mind still isn’t as silent as I hear you describing it. Sometimes I’ll get a song stuck in my head and it’ll be there for a few days. I’ll get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and boom, there’s that song coming in, completely unnecessary and inappropriate to the circumstances, but nonetheless it happens. Or when I sit to meditate, I have a friend who just focuses on presence for a few moments and next thing you know he’s in samadhi for two hours with no thoughts whatsoever. That’s not my experience. For me, despite the fact that there’s an underlying silence that seems to be imperturbable, there’s always some level of mental agitation going on. So, what would you say to me with regard to your teaching?
Leonard: I would say that you need a little bit of step 2 to go along with step 1. That’s the first thing I’d say.
Rick: Let’s talk more about step 2.
Leonard: Okay, so there are four aspects to step 2 which I’ll very briefly describe. The first is, and I think one of the most important, the resistance of the ego. The ego has become so prominent in our world, in our lives, it’s so dominant that it’s very, very difficult to get past the resistance of the ego, particularly if it’s the ego driving you to become enlightened in the first place. And the ego is very, very interested in enlightenment, but it doesn’t know anything about presence. The ego’s world is the world of the past and future, the world of thought. So, when you become present and your mind is silent, the ego literally freaks out. Initially it thinks it’s dying or it’s disappearing because it exists in a framework of thought. So, you have to reassure the ego that it’s not dying, but then it’ll still resist. It’s not disappearing, it will still resist. Then if you go deeper with the ego, it will say, “Well, if I let you be present then I’m not in control and I need to be in control,” says the ego. Well, what would happen if you’re not in control? Well, he’ll get hurt. I’ve been protecting him all his life. My job is to protect him. Then you point out to the ego, “Well the catch with that ego is you have to keep him in that painful world where all the pain is, where all the hurt can occur, in order for you to continue your role. So, you’re the one preventing him from being present.” So, in other words, it’s possible to come into right relationship with the ego from presence in a way that will bring the ego to a point of surrender. It will take a little time and you have to know how to come into right relationship with the ego. There are many spiritual paths that are teaching that with enlightenment or awakening the ego is annihilated. In my view that is extremely unhelpful and not true. With awakening the ego is transformed, not annihilated. Its role in your life is transformed. So, from my perspective, we really at this stage of human evolution and human awakening, we need very clear and precise answers to the following questions. What is the ego? How does it function? Why does it function? What is its role in your life? Why does it resist presence? And how can we overcome its resistance? These as far as I’m concerned are essential questions we have to come to grips with. And once we know all the answers to these questions and once we awaken to a certain level into presence, we can begin the process of coming into right relationship with the ego, then everything changes.
Rick: Okay. So how does that relate to the experience that I was describing of my own noise in the mind kind of thing that’s still kind of a continuum?
Leonard: Well let me speak to your ego.
Leonard: So, I’m speaking now to Rick’s ego. I’m not speaking to you Rick, I’m speaking to the ego. So, ego, why do you keep all these thoughts coming in?
Rick: They just come.
Leonard: Well, they don’t just come, ego. What would happen if you allowed Rick to be so present that his mind was perfectly silent, no thoughts whatsoever, just utterly immersed in the moment of now? How would that be for you, ego, if you allowed that deep level of silence? Just tell me the truth.
Rick: I’m not sure whether this is the ego or Rick speaking, but it sounds appealing to me. I like the sound of that. L
Leonard: Okay, well …
Rick:I’m not sure of the distinction between Rick and the ego actually, because
Leonard: Well, that’s also fundamentally important. You need to recognize that distinction. That distinction needs to be realized within you. And what I would say to you to assist you in recognizing that distinction, and it’s a very extreme test. The test of presence is very simple. It’s silence. When your mind is silent, you’re utterly present with what is here. Your mind is silent, there are no thoughts. That is the only thing that passes the test of presence. Everything else is your mind and ego. I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m not saying it should stop, or you should get rid of it, but it’s important to recognize the distinction. Then you start to recognize when you’re really functioning at that level of mind and ego, because in order to overcome the resistance of the ego, you have to first be present, and deeply present, and deeply silent, so you can easily recognize the ego when it pops in. The ego has a bag of tricks. It’s very skilled at pulling you out of the present moment. I’m not speaking to you; I’m speaking to whoever’s interested. It’s very skilled at pulling you out of the present moment. It’s so skilled at pulling you back into the past, or into the future. And one of the main ways it keeps us imprisoned in the future, which is the world of the mind, is so simple. It’s such a great trick. We should give the ego a round of applause for this great trick, because it has the whole of humanity enslaved in the world of the mind, imprisoned. Such a simple trick, the promise of future fulfillment, that’s the ego’s trick to keep us in the future. Even the promise of enlightenment in the future is a great trick to keep us in the mind. Whereas it can’t happen in the future. There is no life in the past, there is no life in the future. The only life available to us is life lived now. So, at this stage you would need to recognize more clearly the distinction between when you are present and when you are in the mind and the ego is available or is there, so that you can come into right relationship with it. It’s definitely the ego bringing in those thoughts. So, the question is why? What are you up to ego? Most egos will tell me the truth.
Rick: Well, in reading your book this week and listening to you, I’ve actually been practicing that more and it does work. There is this kind of silencing that takes place when you just intentionally come into the moment and come into the now and the presence. But there’s a “but.” I’m sure you’ve heard the word “vasanas” in spiritual terminology. It’s said to be that there are many latent impressions that are ingrained in our nervous systems and our brains and so on through many, many past experiences. And with those vasanas lodged there, those deep impressions, there’s a limit to the extent to which we can at any given moment settle completely into silence and stay there, because the vasanas tend to be, the nervous system is just not, with all that clutter stuck in it, the nervous system is just not in a state where it can maintain complete perfect presence perpetually. So how do you deal with the whole neurophysiological component and this whole idea that the physiology actually has to undergo a transformation as well as the way we operate with the ego and so on?
Leonard: Okay, well for me I think what you’re speaking of is all wound up with step two, so, I really should cover the other aspects of step two. So, the first is the resistance of the ego. If we want to awaken fully and become fundamentally established in presence, we have to come into right relationship with the ego, which is only possible from presence, because from presence, when you are present, you are love, you are acceptance, you are compassion, you are allowing. That’s who you are. There is no judgment. That’s who you are when you are present and there is nothing you can do about it. You can’t add to it, you can’t subtract from it. It’s who you are. You can’t create it. It’s already here. So, it’s that energy of love, acceptance and compassion and allowing that you engage with the ego. And in a very strange way, at first the ego will not trust that, but it will come to a point where it does trust that, and at that point the ego will relax and surrender to the true master arising from within. So that’s how you overcome the resistance of the ego. And the ego’s role in your life changes dramatically. From your protector in a painful world where no one is present, and it’s a difficult job I can tell you, for the ego; it will transform into your loving and devoted servant and partner in the world of time, because in truth, you are an eternal being and you don’t know your name without the ego. You don’t even know what your name is. So, the ego is an essential part of our life within the world of time, but it’s no longer involved in spiritual matters, enlightenment or matters of identity. It’s just doing its job as your faithful servant in the world of time, keeping appointments, doing whatever the ego is well trained to do, including working the computer and so many different things. I mean I’ve been at levels of awakenedness in my past where I couldn’t possibly function. I couldn’t have turned on this computer. Time is so not available to me.
Rick: You had to have people bring you food and stuff.
Leonard: What’s that?
Rick: Yeah, I see you had to have people bring you food and stuff. You couldn’t even cook a meal or something.
Leonard: Absolutely. Well, it wouldn’t have even occurred to me to cook a meal. So, people would bring me food and suggest I eat a little bit, and I did. And they’d say, “Drink a little bit.” They couldn’t have a conversation with me because I quite literally didn’t know who they were talking to. There was no me from the past or future. So that’s possible at the very deepest level, but I didn’t need to hang out at that deepest level all the time. I couldn’t function in the world. I’d have to find a cave in India and a begging bowl. That’s the beauty of India. You can do that there. So, the other aspects, very briefly, the other aspects of the second step which will explain when you put them all together why those thoughts persist, and those intrusions persist. What did you call them?
Rick: Vasanas is the word in Sanskrit, which means kind of like a seed or a latent impression that’s stored in the nervous system. Like let’s say something happened to you when you were five and it had a deep impression on you. There’s some kind of neurophysiological impression that you might have 40, 50 years later that you’re not even aware of, but that’s still actually constricting you in some way and influencing your behavior.
Leonard: Right. Okay. So, I use different language. I don’t know what vasanas are. But step two definitely attends to that. So, the second aspect of step two. Most of us are so, well, let me say this. There’s a huge distinction between the truth of who you really are, which I’ve already described. When you’re present, you’re in the truth of who you are. You are love, acceptance, compassion, etc. You exist in the realization of oneness. That’s the truth of who you are. It’s who you’ve always been and it’s who you will always be. That cannot go away. It’s never not been here, and it can’t go away. It’s not possible. But you can disconnect from that as you venture into that world and live and become absorbed into that world of the mind, the world of time, the story unfolding within the world of time. So, we have to ask the second question, not in truth who are you, but the second question is who have you become on this long journey through time and separation. Who have you become? Because the truth is we’ve all become something much less than the truth of who we are. Who have you become? Are you unworthy? Do you feel unloved? Are you not good enough? Are you angry? Are you a blamer? Are you guilty? We could go on and on about this long list of who you’ve become. And again, I’ll speak of another, what I call one of God’s laws, which is this – to the extent that you deny who you’ve become, you will be denied the truth of who you are. But if you allow yourself to acknowledge, express, confess and reveal who you’ve become, then that will slowly open the door to the truth of who you are. Most of us are either trying to fix who we’ve become, hide who we’ve become, we project who we’ve become, we don’t want to own, acknowledge and confess who we’ve become, and yet it’s such an important step in releasing those vasanas’ that you’re speaking of. It really loosens everything up as you own, acknowledge, confess and reveal these things, with love, acceptance and compassion that arises from presence. In other words, there are these two dimensions of you, and the dimension of you that is who you’ve become, encounters the dimension of you in presence, and it is absolutely transformative and healing. So, that’s the second aspect of the second step.
Rick: Yeah, there’s some remarkable stories in your book about people releasing stuff that had been buried, even getting over brain tumors and everything, when they finally confronted stuff that they had been bottling up. It seems like that kind of stuff happens quite commonly in your Retreats, but are you able to … can people who don’t come to your retreats or who just read your book and so on, apply this stuff in their daily lives, without a context or an atmosphere in which to make it more conducive?
Leonard: I often get emails from people that describe just that, that reading the book made a big difference for them. In fact, you said yourself reading the book was quite impactful. It can set you on the right path in the context of this second step, but it’s also very, very helpful to be in a community of people who are present and who know what the second step is and who can support us as we go through that second step. It can be very powerful, very emotional, or not. It’s not always. Sometimes it’s as simple as recognizing who you’ve become, owning, acknowledging, confessing. I love the words of Jesus, these particular words, when he said, “All that is hidden, shall be revealed.” In a sense, that’s what I’m talking about. Bring everything out of hiding. Hide nothing from yourself, hide nothing from others. Now when I say hide nothing from others, I mean hide nothing from others who are present. If you can’t find any present people to share who you’ve become with, then share it with the trees. It’s a much safer bet.
Rick: And I don’t suppose that means you don’t like somebody at work, so you go up to them and say, “Hey, I’m not hiding anything anymore, I really don’t like you.” You’re not suggesting that kind of thing.
Leonard: Definitely. You act out who you’ve become by bringing into consciousness who you’ve become with the energy of love and acceptance and compassion. Who you’ve become relaxes you. It relaxes and it releases you, because it’s not the truth of who you are. But if we deny who we’ve become, we’ll be denied the truth of who we are. It’s really quite a simple formula, and in my experience over 30 years, it works. It makes a big difference.
Rick: What’s the next component of it?
Leonard: The next component is, to the extent that you have feelings repressed within you from the past, you can’t be fundamentally established in presence, because there will always be someone who will come into your life and who will say or do something that will trigger these repressed feelings. And then you get caught up in that story. You think it’s him or it’s her that upset you or hurt you or made you angry. Then you’re just lost in the story. And in a sense, the past is projecting through onto the person that hurt you or made you angry. Now what I say is that no one can make you angry unless anger is repressed within you and it’s already there. They can trigger the anger that’s there. But once you’ve released all the anger that’s buried within you from the past, mostly from childhood, sometimes from other lifetimes, sometimes from experiences during your lifetime, but once you’ve released all of that anger, and it’s not that difficult, once you’ve released it, basically no one can make you angry. You find you’re not getting angry. It’s the same with hurt. Once you’ve released all the hurt, it’s almost impossible for anyone to hurt you. You don’t feel hurt. You don’t feel it because it’s not in you. And you’re empowered. So, if somebody says something that’s really unconscious and hurtful, even though you don’t feel hurt, you still can say, “Well look, that’s not acceptable. I don’t want you to speak to me in that way.” You’re still an empowered being, but you’re not driven and triggered. All those emotions are not triggered.
Rick: I can imagine a few people raising their eyebrows when they heard you say, “it’s not that difficult to release all your anger.” And actually, in your book I think you say that it might take between 3 and 12 months to completely eliminate or resolve all your accumulated emotional stuff. And so, I can hear people thinking, “Well, it hasn’t been that easy for me, and how in the heck do you accomplish that?”
Leonard: Well, I’ll tell you why it hasn’t been easy for them. Two reasons. Number one, they may not have had a sufficient level of presence awake in them at the time that these things surfaced, because presence is the healing element.
Rick: It’s like a solvent. You really have to have that for the stuff to dissolve in.
Leonard: Exactly. The part of you that’s disturbed, that is part of that who you have become, the reason you’re disturbed in the first place, the reason you’re wounded or hurt or angry, the reason you have these “masanas” or whatever they are, is because no one was ever present with you. And you never received the love and acceptance that you needed as a child. That’s still unresolved and unhealed within you. And you can spend the rest of your life looking for that outside of you from others, in which case you’re probably not going to find it. And if you do, you’re not meant to awaken in this lifetime. You’re not meant to find it outside of yourself. But I think that little aside…
Rick: You lost the train of thought.
Rick: We were talking about really dissolving once and for all the accumulated emotional baggage, and you were saying that you really need to have enough presence to enable it to dissolve, and without that then you could be stuck with it for a long, long time.
Leonard: Right. What I’m really saying is, when who you have become encounters the truth that you are, it relaxes. It just relaxes. It literally relaxes. I don’t like the word “dissolves” too much because I don’t want that part of me, who I’ve become, to think it’s going to dissolve. I’d be more loving than that. I’d be more generous than that. It’s about bringing love to every aspect of yourself, including every aspect that you’ve become � love, acceptance- and that’s possible from presence. When you’re present, you are this extraordinary being of love, and there’s no reason why you can’t send love from presence in silence, just silently send it the ego’s way, silently send it the way of the inner child that you once were. That love emanates in so many directions, we don’t realize what’s happening when we’re present. We can’t realize. We can’t know. But when you’re present, it’s as if there are hidden waves going out through human unconsciousness, waves of light, ripples of light going out through human unconsciousness, bringing light to the unconsciousness. If enough of us awaken into a deep enough level of presence, then suddenly human consciousness will be illuminated and everyone will be awake. That’s the best outcome for humanity. Whether it will happen or not, I can’t say, but that’s our best outcome, our best hope. Sharing this is such an important … sharing with all these teachers, sharing these teachings from different teachers, you’re doing a fantastic job to contribute towards that outcome.
Rick: Oh, thank you. I’m doing my bit. And I really resonate with what you just said, because there are so many dire problems in the world with … oh man, how many … you listen to CNN sometimes, right? So, you well know what they are, global warming and racism and violence and yada, yada. I just see all these things as symptomatic of insufficient presence in the collective consciousness and really the wakening up of that presence to be the only solution that’s actually going to solve all these things….ultimately
Leonard: Yeah, but it’s a tremendous challenge because here’s the truth of it – if you want to awaken into truth, you have to let go of your beliefs. Now how many people on this planet are willing to surrender their beliefs, including belief in God? If you want to know God, you have to surrender your belief in God.
Rick: I had a discussion about this the other day with a fellow who interviewed me and he was very skeptical that spirituality could change the world, because he just felt like everything is just so heavy and so entrenched. And I just kept arguing that, “yeah, but what we’re talking about in terms of true spiritual awakening is so influential because it’s so fundamental, and that if even a small percentage of people, relatively speaking, awaken to this, it really could bring about a cultural shift.”
Leonard: Absolutely, it’s like a critical mass has reached with unconsciousness, absolutely.
RICK: So really the key to what you’re saying is, somehow or other, we really have to amp up the presence in our experience and just really become accustomed to being present and not getting carried off and distracted.
Leonard: What I’m saying is this – those of us who are ready to awaken into presence at a deep level, it’s time to move into that settled, deep, grounded level of presence, because, that will affect human consciousness in ways that we’re not aware of. It’s beyond enlightenment. Enlightenment is a funny word. If somebody says to me, “I am enlightened,” I would say immediately, “Who is enlightened?” And then the answer is, “I am.” I am takes us beyond everything including enlightenment. And I can tell you this, Rick, as far as I’m concerned, everyone on this planet is longing at such a deep level for presence. That’s what’s missing in everyone’s life, but it’s so painful to live in a world where no one is present. We’ve developed so many ways of escaping the pain of no one really being here that we’ve become lost in those many, many ways of escaping. The result is we’ve all become imprisoned in an illusory world of the mind, which is, an illusory world of separation. And the more we try and escape the pain, the more we become lost in that escape. So, the thing that everyone is longing for is presence, but not so many people recognize that. Very few recognize that’s what they’re longing for.
Rick: But it’s spreading.
Leonard: It’s spreading. Even the desire for love, most people are lost in the pursuit of love and acceptance, acknowledgement and approval. I call those substitute needs for the true and original need. We only need to be loved because we’ve forgotten who we are, and that’s very painful because no one is present. What the true and original need is, “I just need you to be here. I just need you to be present. I don’t need you to love me. If you’re here, you are love. If I’m here, I am love. Why do I need you to love me? Why do you need me to love you? I am acceptance. I don’t need you to accept me. I am acceptance. I’m the energy of acceptance, as you are.” But we all get lost in the pursuit of these substitute needs.
Rick: I saw a nice quote from Eckhart Tolle the other day, I just get his little email, it said, “True love has nothing to do with wanting.” It’s a good one. So, have we done justice to step two? There were several components of it, you covered a couple of them. Is there more that you want to say to make it more complete?
Leonard: No, we were in step three. The third … no, we haven’t finished step two yet.
Rick: No, I think we did the first two aspects of four or something.
Leonard: Which is you have to go through a process of liberating the repressed feelings within you. We were talking about anger and hurt. We carry these feelings from our childhood, sometimes from other lifetimes, but I’ve seen it happen. We can release lifetimes of repressed anger in a few seconds if we hit the right note. Anger, strangely enough, anger has its right note, and very few of us know how to be in right relationship with anger. We don’t know what anger is. Anger is always a response to hurt, and if you’re willing to go deeply enough into anger and really allow anger to be all that it is and all that it wants to be and all that it can be, you’ll discover that anger is completely and utterly ridiculous. It wants to kill for the slightest harm. You didn’t say hello to me nicely at the beginning of this interview, Rick. You die! Now if you can play with anger in that way and ham it up and really take it over the top, exaggerate it, ham it up, recognize it for how ridiculous it is, it’s completely unreasonable. It wants to punish anyone that hurts you, only so much more. It’s not interested in punishment that fits the crime. It wants to kill, maim, torture anyone that hurts you, even a little bit. Once you recognize that, you can play with anger, and then anger will receive the one thing it’s never received, which is unconditional love and acceptance. That’s the alchemy. It’s allowed to be itself. Then it will relax. It will say goodbye to you and go looking for someone else to disturb. Seriously.
Rick: It also sounds like you get to a place where you just can’t take it seriously anymore. It seems absurd. It’s like, “This is so silly. I can’t act this way.”
Leonard: “I’m a completely insane man in this way.” And it is really funny. I teach the anger meditation, and it’s a very short meditation where you express the anger aloud so you can hear what you’re saying. If you don’t finish up laughing at the end of the meditation, which shouldn’t last more than three minutes, you don’t finish up laughing, you’re not reading the right note. Because it’s funny, and when you recognize how funny anger is, it stops controlling you. You’re the master of anger. It’s not your master. And then it opens you up to the hurt, which you can then begin healing the hurt, which mostly originates in childhood. And hurt is really easy. Anger is the only difficult one. With hurt, you just cry. No big deal. Cry. If you cry for two days, who cares? You probably won’t, but if you did, who cares? You cry. If you’re meant to know what you’re crying about, it will be revealed. But there’s a tremendous healing that occurs as you allow the hurt feelings to surface into consciousness. Sometimes that hurt will surface with a story, and sometimes it will just be,…..you won’t know what the hurt is about, and it doesn’t matter. And the other feelings that we have to liberate, notice I say liberate, not get rid of, we allow the feelings to complete their journey through us, because feelings are meant to arise and pass through us within moments. They’re not meant to be stuck in us and become part of us, but because we were very young, we didn’t know how to deal with these feelings, we learned to repress the feelings. We were taught to repress the feelings, so they become a part of us, and we interrupted their journey through us. So, the approach I take to liberation of feelings is allow those feelings to complete their journey through you. They’ll be so happy. They’ll be done with you.
Rick: And how do you allow them?
Leonard: Well, I have a number of different meditations and ways to encourage people to allow these feelings to surface. And they surface in a very real way. People can really get very caught up in that past hurt or that past wound or whatever it is. I thought I had a pretty difficult childhood, but when I hear the stories of what so many people have been through, my gosh, my parents were saints compared to so many people. And it’s just shocking to me what some of us have had to endure, the level of abuse. But it’s possible to heal all of that. I’ll give you one example. I’m not sure if this is in the book or not, I don’t know. But many years ago, I was working with a German doctor, very, very nice man, really looked very together guy. But I did a couple of sessions with him and what came up, what he shared with me, which was very surprising to me, he shared that he always lives with this vague feeling of something not being safe. Someone’s out to get him. It’s been with him all his life and he couldn’t understand where it came from. There’s no reason for it that he couldn’t think of. And as he got more and more into the feelings, because the feelings, when you feel the feelings it opens the door to healing. Most of us don’t want to feel the feelings, we want to think our feelings. We want to understand our feelings. But if you’re willing to feel the feelings, it opens the door to healing. So, what happened for him, as he was feeling his feelings, it opened the door to a deeper level and he recognized that his mother was trying to abort him while he was in the womb.
Rick: Yeah, that was in the book.
Leonard:Oh, okay. So, he recognized that and all the pain of that, all the fear of that, all the anger about that. I had him dialogue with his mother, “How dare you do that to me?” Whatever, to really complete that whole experience and allow whatever needs to be expressed to be expressed. And after that, that feeling of unease that he’d lived with all his life had disappeared completely. The same with people with migraine headaches. Now I don’t want to say this is true for everyone with a migraine headache, but when somebody at one of my retreats presents with a headache and tells me, “I’ve had this headache all my life or for the last 10 years,” I’ll have a five-minute dialogue or maybe a three-minute dialogue with their headache, which makes incredible sense why the headache is there. We give the headache an opportunity to express itself, which usually involves feelings, and after that the headache’s gone. It’s really amazing. We are amazing beings and what we’re capable of is way beyond anything we can imagine.
Rick: Yeah, speaking of the word “amazing,” what I find cool is that you’re able to affect such radical change or facilitate such radical change in people so quickly, whereas in some cases people might be in therapy for years and years and not undergo this kind of change. I can only attribute it to the component of presence, which you keep emphasizing, that that component actually enables you to accomplish so much more with less effort.
Leonard: Absolutely. I think it’s essential and I think future therapies will become more and more presence-centered and presence based. I hope that’s the way that it goes, because psychology, although it can be very useful, is still a function of the mind, and true healing occurs when we can transcend the mind by becoming present. We literally transcend the story. If you want to free yourself from the story, then you have to first know what is the story, and secondly you have to be able to identify who you are in the story. By bringing those things to consciousness, it enables a relaxation to occur. You see the story for what it is. You recognize who you are in the story with compassion, with love, and suddenly you find yourself more and more deeply present. It’s just an organic process. The fourth aspect of the second step, or the final aspect, is I”f I’m truly present, I am me. If you’re present, you are you. In other words, we have to get out of each other. The truth is, we humans are so hopelessly lost in each other, we’re so caught up in each other, we’re so entangled in each other. How can I know who I am if you’re mixed up in me? If you’re mixed up in me, then your mother and your father are mixed up in me,” and so it goes on and on. It’s so complex. As a part of the awakening process, we have to free ourselves from becoming lost in others, entangled, caught up in others. I’ll give you an example of how I might get lost in you. Very simple examples. If I want you to agree with what I’m saying right now, Rick, I’m getting caught up in you. You’re a free being. You can agree or not agree. It has nothing to do with me. If I need you to believe what I’m saying, same thing. If I need you to love me, I’m actually getting caught up in you. I’m getting lost in you, and I’m literally moving energetically. I’m moving away from me to you and getting caught up in you. It’s energetic. If I want you to accept me or approve of me, same thing. If I fear your judgment or I fear your rejection, I’m getting caught up in you. Of course, if you’re doing the same to me, you’re getting caught up in me. So, we have to bring to consciousness how we’ve been doing this all our lives and how it’s affected us. It’s not difficult. It’s not something you practice. It’s something you recognize as you live your life. In other words, now that I know that me wanting you to love me or accept me or agree with me causes me to be lost in you and lose myself, the next time I notice that happening, I’ll recognize it. I’m not going to stop it. I’m just going to recognize it, acknowledge it, confess it. “Wow, I’m losing myself.” It’s very gentle. There’s no effort to change anything. There’s no effort to fix anything. It all happens organically as presence recognizes what’s going on at that other dimension within the world of time.
Rick: Yeah, that’s really good. I’ve gone through phases in my life where I’ve been really an obnoxious proselytizer And just wanting to turn people on to my trip in order to perhaps compensate for my own lack of confidence in myself or in what I was trying to do in my own life. I needed their collaboration in order to justify or reinforce it. And hopefully I’ve moved beyond that tendency, but I can see it in religious proselytizers and political proselytizers and everybody else who just really is trying to get others to agree with them because they’re not so certain of themselves. It’s like a way of compensating for your own doubt.
Leonard: It’s your own self-doubt, right? Insecurity – it’s out of control in America at the moment, completely out of control. We mentioned CNN. I can’t watch CNN anymore really because it’s one talking head against another talking head.
Rick: Yelling at each other, yeah.
Leonard: But yes, who cares what their opinions are?
Rick: Good point.
Leonard: It would be much better if people would just give an objective, honest view without taking a position. This country would go a lot further.
Rick: Yeah, or taking a position. I have positions on certain things, you know. Maybe I have an opinion about climate change or gun control or whatever, but recognizing that I’m just one blind man feeling the elephant and there may be other perspectives that have their own validity based upon what that person has experienced.
Leonard: Well there’s a deeper level, Rick, which is when you and I become silent, present and silent, all our ideas, opinions and beliefs have disappeared. And that’s what really would guide us through life. That’s what informs us about what’s conscious and what’s unconscious. We need to move from what’s right and wrong to what’s conscious and what’s unconscious. And anyone who’s present, truly present, is not going to harm anyone, is not going to be dishonest, is not going to chop down a tree without deep prayer and seeking the tree’s permission to chop down a tree. And so, you know what I’m saying, there’s a tremendous respect for the oneness of everything. For me, in fact, this came up on Facebook just the other day, in presence there’s no need for morality. In presence there’s no need for the Ten Commandments. If you’re present, you’re not going to steal from anyone, you’re not going to be committing adultery, you’re not going to be chopping down forests. I don’t know how anyone who’s truly present is going to go hunting, I really don’t. I don’t know how you do that.
Rick: Are you a vegetarian?
Leonard: I’m not vegetarian- I go in and out of vegetarianism, but the answer is no, not entirely. But I still wouldn’t go hunting, I might eat something that’s on the supermarket shelf, but I don’t know how I could go hunting.
Rick: I couldn’t either, but if I lived in Alaska and I depended upon something, shooting an elk to live through the winter or something, then that gives it some justification. But here in Iowa they’ve passed a law that makes it legal to shoot doves, because they’re like targets, and that’s so abhorrent to my way of thinking.
Leonard: Yeah, well that’s really what I’m trying to say. So essentially that’s step 2, and the 2 steps together lead to awakening, because they’re interdependent these 2 steps. It’s not like you’re doing one step and then doing the other. Each day you’re remembering presence, you’re deepening into presence, and at the same time each day you’re taking responsibility for all the many ways you’re pulled out of the present moment, all the obstacles to you being present, whether it’s the ego’s resistance, whether it’s who you’ve become, you’re judging who you’ve become or denying it, whether you’re not in right relationship with feelings that are arising, or whether you’re losing yourself in others, or at the end of all of that, whether judgment more than any other energy will keep us in the separation. So, we have to take responsibility for judgment as it arises within us and go beyond judgment. I don’t see how anyone awakens with the energy of judgment, because I know for a fact that God is without judgment and presence is without judgment. I know that. So, you can’t come to God with judgment.
Rick: It’s ironic how often God is portrayed in scriptures as being judgmental, you know, this jealous, wrathful, petty kind of entity.
Leonard: Well that’s not the God I know.
Rick: Yeah, well good point. So, I would say in conclusion that you’ve really done justice to this calling for which you were zapped 30 something years ago, you know, quite unexpectedly. You’re really doing a good job with it and really helping a lot of people, and it’s heartening to see that. And I think perhaps a lot of people who have listened to this interview who haven’t been familiar with you will want to read your book or perhaps come on a retreat or something. I hear that from people that, “Oh, I’m so glad that you interviewed so-and-so, that person, she has really become my teacher now, it’s a perfect fit.” So maybe some people who have listened to this will find that you’re the guy they’ve been looking for in terms of helping to…
Leonard: Well that sometimes happens.
Rick: Yeah, great. Are there any concluding remarks you feel like making?
Leonard: No, not really. I feel like I’ve said what I want to say. I tend to answer questions more than just speak.
Rick: Yeah, someone sent in some questions but they’re a little bit tangential from the discussion we’ve been having, and I think you’re going to have a personal consultation with this person in a week, so I think maybe I’ll leave it at that. She can ask you those then.
Leonard: Try me out on one of the questions.
Rick: Okay, well she’s been going through some rather intense experiences of awakening to the point where she feels so dissolved sometimes, that she can’t even remember what she did earlier in the day or what day she did something on, and it’s getting harder and harder to remember things. And it’s a concern, she’s trying to find a job and she’s wondering if she’ll become non-functional the way things are going.
Leonard: Okay, I think that’s actually a really important question, a good question, and I’ve been through that experience myself. And I can tell you that many times I’ve been at a level of presence where I can’t function in the world of time. There’s no way I could have got a job or done anything really in the world of time. So, you have to be a little bit aware of that. If she’s going into that deep level, then maybe it’s appropriate to take time off and give yourself that gift of just being present. Maybe make sure she has one or two people who can care take for her and take care of her. Because if you go into those very deep levels of presence, you need a caretaker. You really do need a caretaker, and most caretakers don’t know how to take care of you. It’s rather tricky, but you need someone to oversee you and watch you, because you can do pretty strange things at that very exalted state of presence. So, the next step for her would be, I think, step 2 – to start to master the art of bringing presence into day-to-day living and slowly come down from that mountain that she’s experiencing. Or stay up at the top of the mountain and stop trying to fit into the world. Basically, they’re your only choices, really.
Rick: If you have the luxury of having someone take care of you and not starving to death or something. She also, in a related question, said that she’s finding a lack of motivation. It’s like there’s this void or emptiness, or there’s not a lot of … things seem kind of empty and without any kind of impetus to do anything.
Leonard: Well, Rick, I would say that almost comes with the territory in the initial stages of awakening, because what used to motivate you and drive you within the world of the mind and the ego is radically different after awakening. You really have to ask yourself, “What motivates me? What drives me?” For me, I just have an inherent, almost natural shift into sharing this teaching. It’s not something I chose, it’s something that happened. I can’t tell you how often I say to God, “God, can I stop this now? Can I give this up now?” And the next day someone will show up who goes through a powerful healing and I say, “Okay, I get it.” It’s really not my choice, but I think people who awaken, it’s not coming from the ego. There’s a natural … I don’t know what the right word is, it’s not urge, but there’s a natural movement towards sharing what is awakened within you. You probably have to go through that proselytizing stage to get past that as well and realize that so few people are interested in what you have to say. Then you come to terms with that and slowly, slowly more and more people become interested. It’s quite a journey. The ego goes through a big journey as you go through this process of awakening because it’s being displaced from its position of authority in your life and position of power.
Rick: Yeah, it’s an interesting thing as the shifting takes place. There’s kind of like this, “Who’s in the driver’s seat here?” and the ratio kind of shifts as you go along.
Leonard: Can I tell you a story about that? It’s exactly the same thing. This is again one of the stories I tell in my groups. So, imagine this, or picture this. You’re in a car and the ego is driving the car. The ego has been driving the car all your life and it knows exactly which roads to avoid, where the potholes are, where dangerous situations are, what to pursue, what not to pursue, what will get you accepted and loved. So, it’s worked out the entire thing. Then one day the true master in presence appears in the driver’s seat and the true master says to the ego, “I’m here now. I’ll take the steering wheel. I’m in charge now.” So, the ego hands, very happily, hands the steering wheel over to the true master and the ego can relax, “Oh wow, this is great. I’ve been waiting for the true master forever. Finally, the true master is here.” Then the ego looks to the left, “The true master has disappeared.” In other words, you’re no longer present. “Give me that steering wheel again. Give it back to me. I’m not letting go so easily again.” In other words, the ego won’t relax and surrender the reins of control until it can trust the flowering of presence from within. It needs to be able to trust that it can’t trick you and it can’t pull you out of the present moment, that it can depend on you remaining fundamentally present and not falling for its tricks. And it will trick you. It will test you. And the ego’s favorite test to see if you’re the true master or not the true master is the test of judgment. Can it get you to judge anything and believe in judgment? Can it get you to judge the ego itself? Can it get you to judge anything about your life, the death of a loved one? Because if judgment arises, you’re not the true master, because the ego is programmed to know that the true master is without judgment. The ego is programmed to wait and surrender to the true master arising from within, not the external true master, not the guru sitting on the big stage, but the true master arising from within. And that’s the next step in our human evolution, is to recognize that you don’t get it from outside of yourself. The true master is within you. The question is how can you stir this true master into awakening and realizing, “I am that true master.”? Who is the true master? I am. Who is I am? I am. End of story.
Rick: That’s a good point. I like the metaphor of the car and the driver and the true master. And there is a sort of proviso here, which is that I’ve seen cases in which people just start to listen to whims and inner promptings, which may not exactly be the true master, but they feel justified in going this way or that, based upon some impulse that arises which they perhaps take a little too seriously.
Leonard: Sometimes we have to go down the wrong path to recognize the true path.
Rick: There’s one more question from this woman which I think would be valuable, and I know I run into a lot of people who go through this stuff, and cut me off if you feel like this is something you don’t want to address, but it’s regarding Kundalini awakening that she’s going through. And she’s having a bunch of symptoms and experiences that are kind of disconcerting. She says, “Sometimes the sound in the head is so loud I cannot hear people talking to me. Sometimes it seems to lock my brain, no thoughts in, no thoughts out, and I seem to feel almost drugged. Other times I can walk for miles and never tire. Sometimes I’m filled with love and bliss, a definite slowing of the mind occurs. Other times the creative outpouring is magical. Recently I was woken or became aware in the middle of the night, and almost every night,” I think she’s talking about being awake during sleep, “but this time the energy was so strong it was as if a hollow tube was in my body, sourcing a most powerful electrical energy to the point of a vibrating metallic feel to it, as if my whole body was this tube-like structure. And I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is really strong and strange,’ and then I fell back asleep. I’m wondering, since this energy is not noticed by me in deep sleep, unless awakened to it, is this just mind stuff? How does one respond to or deal with what’s going on with this energy?”
Leonard: Okay, well, just very briefly, kundalini energy can be very difficult for people. It’s a real process that they have to go through and it’s difficult. She might need guidance from someone who’s familiar with that process. All I can say is that this too shall pass and all these experiences ultimately shall pass and don’t get too identified with these spectacular experiences or difficult experiences as they arise. Just ride the wild horse but don’t become identified with it. She’s on a journey, there’s nothing much she can do about it, you can’t stop that stuff.
Rick: Yeah, and maybe also recognize that other people do go through these things and something good is happening. Don’t go running to your local psychiatrist for Thorazine or something. There are people in mental hospitals, I think, who have had kundalini awakenings and they were misdiagnosed.
LEONARD: That’s exactly right, very, very true. But it’s good to be with people who won’t try and understand you, who won’t try and judge you, who won’t try and understand what’s happening, but who are willing to be present with you and support you and allow you to go through this process. Maybe it’s not the right time to be looking for a job. I couldn’t have done a job during those times.
Rick: Good, all right, well we’ve really covered a lot. I really appreciate having had the opportunity, and this one’s a keeper, we’ll put this one up on the web.
Leonard: Okay, that sounds good.
Rick: Let me make some wrap-up points. I’ve been speaking with Leonard Jacobson and his website is LeonardJacobson.com. I will be putting up his own page on BatGap.com and linking to his website, linking to his books on Amazon, anything else he wants me to link to, and have a little bio of him and everything. So, go to BatGap.com and you’ll find Leonard’s page and you can find all that stuff. You’ll also find a donate button, as I mentioned in the beginning, a link to be notified by email each time a new interview is posted, you can sign up for that. There is a past interviews menu, which if you click on that, things pop down and you can search them alphabetically or categorically or chronologically. There’s also an audio podcast of this show, if you don’t want to just sit in front of your computer and watch a video, you can subscribe on iTunes and listen to it on your iPod while you’re commuting or something. So go to BatGap.com, B-A-T-G-A-P, check out all the menus, you’ll see all that stuff. And thanks for listening or watching, and thank you, Leonard.
Leonard: Thank you, Rick. It’s been great.
Rick: Great, see you all next week.