I'm running a bit short of time today, so here's an entry from my web site, mindfutures.com. It contains a common message found in many of my posts, but provides a very simple process to help relieve a large degree of human suffering...
It was 1993, and I was wondering along the “main” street of Byron Bay, in northern New South Wales, Australia. Byron Bay is a beautiful little coastal town in one of the most scenic parts of Australia. It is well known as a center of alternative culture, and the streets were (and still are) lined with veggie restaurants, Thai dye shops, and alternative folks offering all kinds of new age therapies.
On that sunny winter’s day, I spotted a little book shop, and wandered in. There, amidst the plentiful supply of spiritual literature, I spotted a little tome called Words from Silence, by Leonard Jacobson. Something about the book grabbed me, so I picked it up and began to flick through the pages.
I bought the book. Later, when I returned to the backpackers’ hostel where I was staying, I began to read. I found the volume to be rather peculiar. Instead of containing arguments, or some kind of logical, narrative, it was more a selection of free form verse. Each page contained few or many words, arranged in poetic style. As I casually examined the contents, at the back of the book I found a note about the author. To my surprise, I found he lived right there in Byron Bay. I decided to ring him. After a little talk I decided to visit him. Like many Byron Bay “teachers”, he did personal consultations.
So it was that the very next day I walked out of the town centre and up onto a small hilly road. There I met Leonard Jacobson for the first time.
The most remarkable thing about Leonard was that he was completely unremarkable. He was a man of early middle age, slightly greying hair, with a simple, relaxed demenour. We sat down on a mat on a wooden floor, and began to chat.
Leonard related his understanding that the essence of the spiritual journey was the development of the right relationship between spirit and ego. Without bringing the mind into the silence of presence, spirit was unable to find its way into the heart.
So nothing astonishing happened that day. There was no New Age chanting, no revelations from ascended masters, or guidance from the angels. Yet that meeting stayed with me for years. Something about it left a deep impression within y psyche. There was a disturbance of the mind.
There had been something disconcerting about the encounter. As Leonard looked at me, I felt slightly uncomfortable. I wanted to shift. Perhaps part of me wanted to run. Though Leonard made no attempt to teach or manipulate in any way, it was as if something was happening that was against my will, as if this was all too intimate. It felt like parts of me were in danger of being stripped away. Despite the ostensibly mundane event - a young man and an older man sitting chatting in a room - it was ever so slightly frightening.
That unsettled feeling never quite left me. And so it was that five years later I found myself sitting with Leonard again. This time it was in Santa Cruz, California, Leonard’s new place of residence. In a visit to the US, I had tracked him down. Again, we settled into a conversation. I told him about our previous meeting. He said he did not remember me. In his teaching, he had met many thousands of people.
That day, after discussing my own spiritual journey, we meditated. I allowed myself to fall into silence. A light opened up before my inner eye, an experience I had had many times, but never quite relaxed into. I allowed it to fill me, and I felt the boundaries of self dissolving into something greater, as if I was moving outwards and filling the room, the town, everything.
Somehow the simple act of sitting with a man fully in presence had permitted me to become more deeply present than I had ever been before. It was a spiritual experience.
After the meditation, I left. That was the last time I ever saw Leonard. Sometimes, though, I see him in my dreams, reminding me that there is nothing so important as being fully present in the moment, allowing the truth of what God has given us to simply be, whatever that is.
Many times - most of the time to be truthful - I have run away from the simple truth of presence. Then, not so long ago, the realisation finally dawned upon me that it was time to finally embrace the lesson that had been taught at that first meeting with Leonard Jacobson some 17 years ago.
As is often the case, it all came after an ego fall. I had had an interview for a postdoctoral position at a prestigious university in Asia. At the level of mind I had become attached to the idea of getting that job. It was not an unreasonable expectation. There were only two people being interviewed, and I was extremely well-qualified. I had done everything one could possibly do for a recently-graduated PhD. Indeed I had excelled myself in terms of publication and writing, having some thirty publications in the two and a half years since I was awarded the degree, an almost unheard of amount of work.
I spent a month preparing a 45 minute presentation on Deep Futures, arguing that it was time to move beyond materialistic “money and machines” development to embrace futures which honour a deeper experience of life (you can see that paper in the Futures Studies section of the main web site).
The morning of the interview I woke up in my hotel room, and as usual, I received a message from spirit in the form of lyrics from a song. The words were from an Eagles song: “I don't know when I realised the dream was over”.
The meaning was obvious. This wasn’t going to happen. Still, I resisted (which Spirit always allows). I decided to give it my best shot.
A few hours later I gave my presentation to the interviewing committee. After I had finished, several committee members were openly disdainful, even hostile towards me. I did my best to answer their tough questions, yet as a recently graduated PhD, with relatively little experience in university settings, I probably didn’t satisfy some of them.
I didn't get the job.
For about a week I felt great despair. I had failed yet again to attain what I had wanted. I reverted to a victim mentality, (which is what I refer to as a “soul issue” for me). I did an awful lot of soul searching. Then, the next Sunday, sitting by myself and feeling depressed and hopeless as I went through the interview in my mind for the hundredth time, I saw something clearly. No amount of thinking was going to change anything. No amount of analysis, no amount of reflection, no amount of visualisation or mediation was going to make the slightest difference. The only way out of the whole mental mess I had gotten myself into was to bring myself fully present, into the real world of the living room where I was then sitting by myself. It was time to do the thing I “knew”, to turn an intellectualism into an actuality.
I began to focus upon my breath, feeling it moving in and out. As thoughts came to my mind, dragging me back into the ego’s world of blame and guilt, I didn’t fight them. I just observed them. Then I moved my right arm slowly, paying full attention to it (like a baby moving a limb for the first time). I then ever-so gently slapped my left forearm at the wrist. I paid complete attention to the slight sensation of pain that moved through me. I then repeated this several times, moving the place of impact of the slap further up towards the elbow each time. Then I did the same for the right arm, using the left to slap it.
After doing this, my consciousness had returned to my body. I had achieved right relationship with the illusory world of mind.
I got it. I did not return to the victim state, nor the depression. The lesson had been learned.
Not long after, I ordered Leonard Jacobson’s latest book, Journey into Now, from Amazon.com. I made a commitment to make presence not just important, but central to my life. I highly recommend Leonard’s book. His teachings are so simple that many miss the message. The ego likes to move onto the next message, the next teacher, the next healing, constantly delaying awakening in a never-ending search for enlightenment, and ensuring that it never truly arrives. Such is the nature of ego.
Presence is a choice that has to be made with each moment, again and again, forever and ever.
The truth is that the student has to be ready before the teacher can teach. It took me seventeen years to get it. But better late than never, as they say in the classics.
Also, see www.leonardjacobson.com