Chapter 24 – A Deeper Awakening

   During the first couple of years of living in Mt. Shasta, Karen and I decided to engage in a period of intensified meditation practice. I worked mainly doing carpentry, but also doing some individual counseling. This allowed some flexibility in my schedule so that, although our finances were not very strong during this period, we benefited from deepened inner practice especially for about the first year. During this period of time I often meditated five to six hours a day. Karen also extended her daily sittings as well. After about a year we reduced our sitting practice, though still maintaining two to three hours a day, and I began focusing more on writing.

     This deepened practice, combined with the spiritual influence of living at the base of Mt. Shasta, stimulated an enhanced period of new openings and deepening for us both. The single most impactful experience for me during this time arose sometime in 1993. Our meditation practice was in a more intensive period than usual, and I had been reading a book about the life and teachings of Ramana Maharshi. Though I had been exploring nondual teachings for over a decade (particular Zen, but also Advaita Vedanta, Hua-Yen Buddhism, Taoism and other sources), reading Ramana, especially in a state of more heightened intuition from more intensive practice, continued to deepen my resonance with nondual mysticism.

     One day during this period of more intensive practice I was using the method of Self-Inquiry advocated by Ramana Maharshi – repeating the question Who Am I? During this meditation my consciousness entered a particularly deepened state in which I felt a strong sensation of penetrating some invisible veil deep within my being. This was more a ‘veil of knowing’ rather than some sort of substance, though it had a little of the feeling of the latter as well. As my consciousness shifted deeper and deeper, I pierced this veil and exploded into a state I can only describe as ‘realization’. It was an extremely vivid shift into a radical sense of freedom, clarity and especially of realization of my true nature.

     With this explosive awakening came an enormous feeling of relief as I experienced all sense of ordinary selfhood falling away, particularly a sense of self-evaluation and judgment – any sense of concern or preoccupation with whether “I” was okay, of whether my actions were good, appropriate or moral. This realization came with a tremendous sense of freedom of Being and Self-expression in which I felt that from the radical wholesomeness of my Being no negativity could possibly arise. And not because I was discriminating between good and bad, wholesome and unwholesome, and controlling my self-expression. Rather, I entered a state of liberated Being in which mind, judgment and a sense of good and bad did not condition or filter my sense of myself, or my freedom of expression. This state was one of such natural wholeness and truth that it was not possible to act unwholesomely. From this state of pure Selfhood seemed to emanate effortless expression and action that was pure and free – arising from a place beyond concern about being good, and unconditioned by the illusion of a separate self, and of the allied experiences of personal desires and aversions. The realization of this level of my nature, my essential or true nature, brought a great sense of liberation, joy and bliss.

     Although this sudden and comprehensive realization was most powerful and complete upon first arising, I continued in a state of peaceful, liberated Being for some time after this. Even as I regained some of my ordinary awareness and got up from the meditation cushion, the power of this awakening remained, although in a somewhat reduced level of intensity. But in the days and weeks that followed, although the clarity and intensity was no longer as strong as the initial experience of awakening, a strong afterglow remained, and I was fascinated to find that as soon as I sat down to meditate each day the essence of this realization was still available to me.

     In the weeks that followed my meditations most often took the form of ‘just sitting’, a style of practice like the shikan-taza of Zen or what I often now call ‘awakened presence meditation’. In this practice there is no attempt to control the content of awareness or move away from mind and body. One just sits in open presence, aware of whatever arises. In these sittings I was now not only much more deeply immersed in a more nondual state of presence, but this state would also include a greatly enhanced flow of intuitive or superconscious understanding in which deeper realities became effortlessly and steadily unveiled. Especially for a period of two or three months after the initial experience of realization my meditative states were unusually open, liberated, effortless and superconscious. I would just sit for two or three hours a day in a state of intuitive revelation. In some sense it was as if my consciousness became a clear mirror upon which a constant flow of intuitive insight would arise. All kinds of themes arose of their own in a state of illuminated understanding.

     This went on for a couple of months until is gradually shifted closer to the state I was in before the experience, while retaining a noticeable deepening of both essential presence and regular flow of intuitive illumination. Since that time, I have continued to be able to access a state of heightened intuition, especially in meditation, in which a regular flow of intuitive understanding naturally arises. Sometimes it is guided by a theme that I intentionally focus on, but most of the time I ‘just sit’ and open to the fullness of essential presence in which spontaneous intuitive insight into many themes just flows through my being effortlessly. The core intuition is always the same – a deepening sense of spiritual beingness and wholeness. But on a more relative level there is often this flow of intuition as well, a constant unveiling of insight into many themes that mostly arise naturally.

     Of course, when I say that they arise naturally I mean that I do not usually consciously intend to focus on a particular theme that arises. I usually ‘just sit’. But I do often have the underlying feeling that there is a greater Intelligence at work, often guiding the themes of my meditations. So, at times I consciously attune to a theme, but more often they arise of their own, either with a feeling that they are arising very organically, or sometimes with an underlying feeling that they are inspired by another source.

     Now, over twenty-five years since that state of realization, both my meditations and ordinary state of consciousness continue to deepen, integrating more and more of both the spirit of the initial awakening and access to the superconscious intuition that became much more available immediately afterward.